Thirty days of transition from fall to the holidays and the waiting winter. A month of anticipation and decision, especially in college football.
A month full of big games, rivalries renewed and results that decide who is a champion and who is an also-ran. Four games to go. Three to win to get to a bowl game.
Such is the task ahead for your TCU Horned Frogs and it all begins with K-State tomorrow.
In my 38 years around the program, this is the worst injury epidemic I’ve seen. The Frogs lineup has been decimated by episode after episode of bad luck that has the TCU training room looking like a triage unit. Offense, defense, special teams – they’ve all taken hits and many are not going to make it back this season.
During last Saturday’s game at Kansas, I looked down at my TCU defensive game chart and realized that the Frogs had two – count ‘em – TWO starters left on the field from the original 11 first-teamers who took the field against Ohio State. And that’s just the defense. On offense, there’s only two offensive linemen who have started all 8 games: center Kellton Hollins and right tackle Lucas Niang.
The Wildcats are eerily similar to TCU. A beat-up squad that had patched up the retreads and put ice on the radiator to get to 3-5.
On offense, Kansas State players do what they’ve always done – run the ball. And take their time doing it.
A screen capture of Kansas State in a tight yardage formation against Texas A&M. Game footage is copyright ESPN.
They have maybe the best offensive line around and they’re a scrappy bunch that can pass block as well as they run block. They’re led by right tackle Dalton Risner, who has started 46 games in his career. Risner is on just about every college football award list you can think of. When he and his line mates get in that tight short-yardage formation (see photo), watch out! They’re precise and they rarely lose in situations where the battle is over six feet or less.
The Kansas State quarterback position has been a bit of a revolving door as Skyler Thompson has started 7 of 8 games this year. He’s the better passer and, when he gets pulled, Coach Snyder will go to Alex Delton who started against TCU last year in the oft-interrupted storm game in Manhattan that lasted almost seven hours.
Running back Alex Barnes is a handful, although OU shut him down last week. He averages 5.4 yards per tote. Kansas State doesn’t have the super dangerous wide receivers it’s had in the past but has #7 Isaiah Zuber and #83 Dalton Schoen.
On defense, Kansas State is struggling. They lack a pass rush and the injury bug has not been kind. Sound familiar? The best threat on the line is defensive end Reggie Walker with 5.5 sacks on the year. Linebacker Sam Sizelove has played in 47 games and the secondary is experienced but they’ll likely be missing their best player on defense in cornerback Duke Shelley, who is out with an injury. He leads the team with 3 interceptions on the year.
TCU Coach Gary Patterson and Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder chat at a 2015 football game. Courtesy of TCU Athletics
The kicking game has been rebuilt as KSU graduated everybody: snapper, holder, kicker, punter, kick returner, punt returner. They’re all new. Blake Lynch won the kicking job and he’s made 9 of 11. Punter Andrew Hicks has a big leg, averaging 44 yards per punt.
It’s going to be a beautiful day at The Carter tomorrow. Come early and get in there and give the Frogs your support. They need it and deserve it and your cheers are the one thing they need that’s not available in the training room.
Come for the opportunity to see Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder. He’s 78 now and who knows how much longer he’ll coach. He’s an all-time great. An amazing coach who saved the KSU program twice and the stadium in Manhattan is named for him and his family. He honed his philosophy as Hayden Fry’s offensive coordinator at Iowa in the Hawkeyes’ heydays of the 1980.
We’re on the air on the TCU Sports Network tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. CT. Join us!
Kick ‘Em High!