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2018 Season

TCU Rolls SMU After A Sluggish Start

The Horned Frogs did not look superb early in their first road test of 2018, but they fought through some of their own mistakes to win big in the end.

Getty Images - Ronald Martinez

The Friday night Battle for the Iron Skillet was a tight one for just over a half, before the Horned Frogs ran away with it to top the Mustangs 42-12. Not a lot went as planned for the Frogs in the first half, including when they kicked off. TCU was favored to win by double digits, but started out sluggish after a 2-hour weather delay, and found themselves trailing SMU after being held to 60 yards of offense in the first quarter.

SMU started the scoring on their initial drive, but that touchdown would end up being their last. They did manage to get a safety from Horned Frog punt miscue and a crucial field goal before halftime. Defensively, the Mustangs managed some big stops and after a handful of penalties and sloppy play for both teams, at halftime there was only a difference of two points between the Metroplex rivals.

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Their commitment to running the ball and taking advantage of SMU’s mistakes eventually swung the momentum of this one back in favor of the Horned Frogs. They put up 14 points per quarter over the last three quarters and methodically turned this game into a blowout.

TCU Can Rack Up Points Even When The Offense Is Struggling

This contest felt like a clinic on being solid in all three phases of the game. On more than one occasion, a non-offensive player was able to find the end zone for TCU.

Those plays came at pivotal moments, as two critical scores in this game were able to compensate for the lackluster play of the offense. The first time that the Horned Frogs got on the board was when returner KaVontae Turpin took a punt 78 yards for a touchdown. That score got TCU within two points of the Mustangs and kept the Horned Frogs from falling into too big of a hole early.

The other timely touchdown came from the defense in the third quarter. The Horned Frogs led 14-12 when quarterback Shawn Robinson threw an interception that appeared to give SMU a shot of momentum. Two plays later, however, the TCU defense made up for that mistake. Defensive end Ben Banogu got excellent penetration and forced a fumble which was scooped up and taken into the end zone by the Horned Frogs.

Turpin almost scored again on a 34-yard punt return later in the fourth quarter. In some ways, that special teams success for the Horned Frogs was somewhat foreseeable – SMU last week had given up a kick return for a touchdown against North Texas and did not look good covering kicks. Still, these special teams and defensive scores are a reminder that TCU is a multidimensional football team.

The Horned Frogs’ Passing Game Is A Work In Progress

This was not a great day for sophomore Shawn Robinson, and games like this one make you wonder just how far he is in his development. The evening’s weather conditions should definitely be taken into consideration when looking at Robinson’s stat line, but there are reasons for concern here as well.

One of those issues was a problem that Robinson had reading the defense and delivering the ball on target to his wide receivers. Outside of Turpin, no wideout had more than 50 yards receiving and the starting quarterback for TCU ended with only 146 passing yards. Some of that was due to the play of the offensive line, which struggled at times to hold off the SMU pass rush.

The most pivotal turnover by Shawn Robinson, however, seemed to come from the young quarterback’s own mistakes.

A bad play he made in the first half sticks out especially. Early in the second quarter, Robinson took a first down snap at the SMU 24-yard line and fixed his eyes on Jarrison Stewart. Telegraphing that he was going to go to Stewart, a reliable target for Robinson, the young quarterback threw ball right into the hands of SMU’s Shaine Hailey, who had dropped back to be their for the pick.

Of course, TCU got it together in the second half, and Robinson showcased that he is a threat to score with his legs.

Overall, the ground attack was consistently solid for the Horned Frogs, and will surely be a team strength moving forward.

This Was By Far Not A Perfect Game For The Horned Frogs

If you’re a head coach, this is the kind of game that you love – you get a comfortable win on the road, but there are plenty of areas for your team to improve.

After bad tackling led to a quick SMU touchdown, TCU also gave up a safety when an errant snap bounced off Adam Nunez’s hands and careened into the end zone. It was about as bad of a start as the Frogs could have drawn up.

Admittedly, many of these types of errors, including a bad snap that was fumbled in the first half, were due to poor field conditions. This game was delayed almost two hours because of storms, and Gerald R. Ford Stadium was soaked.

At the same time, those were mistakes that a Gary Patterson-coached team usually doesn’t make. Should the head coach of the Horned Frogs be worried? Probably not, but it will give TCU an opportunity to hone their focus as they prepare to take on Ohio State next week.

TCU’s Defense Remains Dominant, Especially Against The Pass

Rain or no rain, any time a team gives up less than three yards per pass attempt, that’s a good day. SMU Quarterback Ben Hicks threw for 111 yards against a stingy secondary that didn’t have trouble tackling Mustang wide receivers in the open field.

It also helped that the Horned Frogs defensive line was able to get constant pressure on Friday night. Against one of the better quarterbacks in the AAC, TCU had four sacks and three quarterback hurries. Ben Banogu and Corey Bethley were in the backfield all night, creating enough havoc to make the SMU signal caller uncomfortable.

Outside of SMU running back Braeden Smith’s 51 yard touchdown run in the first half, the Horned Frogs played the run solid all night as well. There were some tackling and recognition issues early that led to the Mustangs taking a 9-0 lead, but eventually TCU buckled down.

KaVontae Turpin is Fast

Turpin is a bad, bad man. Anytime he gets the ball in space, he is going to make you pay. Him and Robinson are a dangerous duo to contend with.

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