TCU picked up a much-needed win for the team and the conference in front of a sellout crowd at Razorback Stadium. Only time will tell how good of a win this was, but it goes down as a win over a Power Five opponent, and the SEC no less.
In so many ways, this game played out exactly like Arkansas would have hoped, but the Horned Frogs beat the Razorbacks at their own game, or what their game is supposed to be: run the ball, win the time of possession battle, and play great defense.
The TCU defense opened the game with a quick three-and-out deep in Arkansas territory. A short punt gave TCU great field position, and they capitalized with an efficient touchdown drive capped off by a 1-yard run by Sewo Olonilua on a direct snap.
Arkansas answered quickly with a six play, 75-yard touchdown drive of their own. The TCU linebackers and safeties were selling out on the run early. Arkansas caught them cheating with a fake pitch to the running back followed by an Austin Allen bootleg to the opposite side of the field. Allen found a wide open Jonathan Nance for a 49-yard touchdown catch-and-run. This marked an early end to explosive plays for either team the rest of the way home.
After a three-and-out by each team, bad Kenny Hill made his first appearance of the game. He threw behind a well-covered KaVontae Turpin and was picked off by Santos Ramirez setting up Arkansas with great field position.
Arkansas, however, was unable to take advantage of the momentum swing. They moved the ball to the TCU 5-yard line, but the TCU defense stuffed the run game forcing the Razorbacks to settle for an easy field goal. Wait, never mind. The Arkansas kicker pulled the 23-yard attempt wide left leaving the home crowd befuddled.
TCU followed with an impressive 15 play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took 7:17(!) off the clock. After the Kenny Hill interception on the previous drive, it was apparent the Razorbacks were not going to blitz and risk Hill escaping the pocket. They were dropping everybody into coverage and forcing him to throw into tight windows. TCU took what the defense gave them on this drive and marched down the field on the backs of Kyle Hicks and Darius Anderson. Hicks finished the drive with a 4-yard run to give TCU a 14-7 lead.
TCU had their first chance to put a dagger in Arkansas at the end of the first half, but a Kenny Hill errant throw negated what would have been a 91-yard touchdown.
TCU opened the second half with multiple chances to put the game on ice but mistakes continued to let Arkansas hang around longer than they should have. TCU took the ball to the Arkansas 3-yard line before a bad snap from center led to a fumble recovery for the hogs. On the next TCU drive, Hill made a perfect throw to the end zone, but Jalen Reagor dropped the ball trying to make an unnecessary one-handed catch.
Arkansas blew their final chance to sneak out a victory early in the fourth quarter when Bret Bielema decided to send the field goal unit back onto the field rather than go for it on the TCU 2-yard line. And of course, the kicker missed the 20-yard attempt off the left upright leaving Razorback stadium infested with surrender cobras and boo birds.
TCU was finally able to put the game on ice with a 14-yard touchdown run from Darius Anderson with 2:18 left in the game to take a 21-7 lead. Arkansas fumbled the ensuing kickoff and TCU recovered. They scored on the very next play to cap off the 28-7 road victory.
|3rd Down Eff||10-14||4-14|
|4th Down Eff||0-0||1-2|
|Yards Per Pass||5.4||6.0|
|Yards Per Rush||4.6||4.2|
|TCU – K. Hill||21/31||166||5.4||0||1||59.9|
|ARK – A. Allen||9/23||138||6.0||1||0||36.8|
|TCU – D. Anderson||15||106||7.1||1||15|
|ARK – D. Williams||10||65||6.5||0||26|
|TCU – J. Diarse||4||36||9.0||0||14|
|ARK – J. Niance||3||75||25.0||1||49|
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK
Talk about different year, different game. Last season’s game had both teams’ quarterbacks making big play after big play in a 41-38 double overtime thriller. This year? Not so much. Kenny Hill very well could have had 3 or 4 interceptions trying to throw into the Arkansas coverage. However, I give him and the coaching staff credit for adjusting to the Arkansas defense. Hill become an effective game manager down the stretch. Still hard to believe though that he ended this game without a touchdown pass. Austin Allen could not get anything going this game either. The blame isn’t all on Allen though. Arkansas receivers could not get separation and had some costly drops.
It was great to see TCU pound the ball when Arkansas sold out on pass coverage. TCU fans must be very happy that the coaches have fulfilled their off-season promise to run the ball more this season. Shout out to RB Darius Anderson who had a career high 106 yards with 7.1 yards per rush.
Speaking of the run game, TCU had 42 rushes against only 31 pass attempts, and TCU held on to the football for 33:52. Arkansas’ switch to the 3-4 defense is not off to a great start.
Interesting decision by Gary Patterson on TCU’s first touchdown. Kenny Hill got the ball to the Arkansas 1-yard line, but he had to sit out a play because his helmet came off. I was surprised Gary Patterson did not call timeout to get Hill back on the field given the importance of scoring first on the road. Instead backup quarterback Shawn Robinson lined up at wide receiver and running back Sewo Olonilua took the snap straight from center. It worked out for TCU.
I don’t think TCU intended the pace of the game to go the way it did, but it ended up working out in their favor. The crowd was electric out of the gate, but the pace of play and sloppy mistakes all around took the crowd out of the game fairly early.
TCU defensive lineman didn’t necessarily fill up the stat sheet, but they did their job plugging the gaps and freeing up the linebackers and safeties to control the Arkansas run game. TCU run defense was huge in goal-to-go situations. They routinely stuffed the Arkansas running backs down by the goal line. In a game when the TCU offense did everything possible to let this game slip away, the defense saved the day. TCU held the Razorbacks to just 267 yards of offense and only 129 yards on the ground.
TCU defense learned from one of their earlier mistakes in the game. In the fourth quarter with TCU holding onto a 14-7 lead, Arkansas tried the same play action boot leg pass that resulted in Arkansas’ first score of the game. However, this time the TCU linebacker read the play perfectly and dropped into coverage blanketing the receiver. Austin Allen had nowhere to go with the ball and had to take off for a minimal gain.
Kicking game was bad for both teams. Kicker is a question mark for TCU, but he has yet to attempt a field goal so that remains to be answered. The punters for both teams were not very good. A lot of good field position being given to the other team.
Speaking of poor kicking. I think this pretty much sums it up for Arkansas.
— Tim England (@tengland150) September 9, 2017
This decision had Arkansas fans booing their coach for perhaps the first time since Houston Nutt was on the sidelines. Bret Bielema is in trouble in Fayetteville. The fans have definitely started to turn on the fifth year coach.