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Will Kansas Give TCU a Homecoming Headache?

October 20, 2017

Happy Homecoming!

The Frogs welcome Kansas in a game that will be interesting for a number of reasons:

  • The Frogs want to keep this march up the polls going by getting to 7-0.
  • Kansas always seems to give the Frogs headaches.
  • The weather could play a factor late in the game.
  • A chess match will be waged between Gary Patterson (and the TCU defense) and former TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, who now directs the air raid at Rock Chalk.
Doug Meacham, TCU OC
Former TCU co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham on the Frogs’ sideline in 2016. Meacham is now the offensive coordinator at Kansas. (photo by Leo Wesson)

KU is led by offensively by quarterback Peyton Bender, who’s thrown for 1,391 yards on the year and mostly looks for wide receiver Steven Sims, Jr. Sims has become a major weapon in this offense since the dismissal of the Jayhawks’ best player, LaQuvionte Gonzalez, just one day before the team opened fall camp. Gonzalez played his first two years of college football at Texas A&M. Last year, he caught 62 passes for 729 yards and was considered the go-to guy in the air raid. When KU runs the ball, they like to go to #10 Khalil Herbert and his 84 yards per game, but he’s been injured. Without Herbert, a running game that put up 367 yards a month ago vs. West Virginia suffers.

TCU’s defensive line will be a stern test for the KU offensive line, which is still trying to get center Mesa Ribordy back in the lineup.

The KU Defense is led by linebacker Joe Dineen, Jr. He has 77 tackles on the year and is an old-school player who seems to find his way to the ball on every play. Defensive end Dorance Armstrong, a Texan from Houston’s North Shore Senior High, says he wasn’t recruited by TCU, and that’s reason enough to make the Frogs pay. Kansas has 37 players from Texas, proof that KU Coach David Beaty’s promise to bring players from the Lone Star State to KU has been fulfilled.


The Jayhawks, losers of five in a row, will need emotion and all the stops pulled out for this one. Last week in a 45-0 loss to Iowa State, Kansas had 106 yards of total offense and were never in the game.

Tomorrow’s primetime game on Fox is KU’s first on the network since the 2008 Orange Bowl. It’s also its first night game on a major network since a 2009 loss at Texas.

We’ll talk to you on the TCU Sports Network at 6 p.m. tomorrow.

 

Until then,

Kick ‘Em High!

Coming Home to the Undefeated Frogs

October 19, 2017

TCU Homecoming
Thurman Morgan, Alice Taylow Nowlin, and an unidentified woman next to the vintage 1925 car they rode in the 1975 Homecoming parade. (photo courtesy of TCU Library’s Digital Repository)

Happy Homecoming Week.

Man, do we have the events on campus this week!!!! Lettermen’s Hall of Fame Dinner, National Alumni Board Meetings, Homecoming Parade, Pep Rally and I’m sure there’s more. Seems we decided to stack everything into one weekend at TCU. Oh, and then there’s the Frogs vs. Kansas on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Homecoming brings Horned Frogs back together. It’s a special time on campus with a special feel to it.

Question: Do college students buy mums for their dates anymore?


One of my Homecoming memories is from 1981. We were playing Bill Yoeman’s Houston Cougars. It was a 2 p.m. game on Halloween afternoon. I remember it for three reasons:

1. We were on ABC as the regional television game (a big deal for TCU back then). The great Verne Lundquist did play-by-play on the telecast with the help of Darrell Royal as the color analyst. They hung out at practice most of the week. I whipped Royal with all kinds of questions.

2. The crowd was small for a homecoming game. Official announced attendance was 13,257. You can look it up.

The Rolling Stones were at the Cotton Bowl that day at the exact same time, accounting for an extreme vacuum in the student section. Start Me Up!

3. Dark skies threatened all afternoon, and in the second half, a torrential downpour opened over Amon G. Carter Stadium. Water was pouring out of the west stands like a waterfall into the TCU bench area, and thunder cracked all around. There were no storm, lightning or weather delays that day — we just kept playing through the deluge. The artificial surface was soaked, and water stood several inches deep behind the end zones, waiting to drain. There was no way to keep the game balls dry. The Frogs fell that day in a close, wet one, 20-16. I had water standing in my Converse turf shoes (We didn’t have Nike back then).

Get geared up for a big weekend, Frog Fans. And get out to the stadium. It boggles my mind that as of Wednesday afternoon, there are still tickets available.

817-257-FROG to get yours.

They’re the No. 4 team IN THE NATION, folks! Latch on!

Friday, we talk Kansas. Until then,

 

Kick ‘Em High!

The Other Manhattan

October 13, 2017

Happy College Football Friday, everyone. It’s mid-October and we’re right in the thick of college football season. If TCU football was a race horse, the Kansas State game marks the back stretch – much done, but still a long way to go. The key is to stay ahead of the pack, not miss-step and get trapped along the rail.

TCU is No. 6 in the nation with a stout running game and an offense that’s No. 1 in the nation in third down conversions. Photo by Glen E. Ellman
TCU is No. 6 in the nation with a stout running game and an offense that’s No. 1 in the nation in third down conversions. Photo by Glen E. Ellman

I remember getting up on Friday mornings back in the 1970s. I was a kid anxious to see the sports section of The Dallas Morning News. On Fridays, the News ran college football predictions and they also ran the Associate Press’ bottom 10 poll. Ever-present on that list at the time were TCU and Kansas State, joined by Northwestern, Iowa State, Miami (FL) and Rice. Tomorrow’s game in Manhattan, Kansas reflects how things have changed. TCU is No. 6 in the nation with a stout running game and an offense that’s No. 1 in the nation in third down conversions. The team faces a battered but dangerous Kansas State squad that’s always tough at home, where only standing-room-only tickets remain for Saturday’s brunch with the Wildcats.

One of the things that makes K-State so dangerous is head coach Bill Snyder. He’s saved Kansas State football TWICE, bringing the program back from the dead each time. His teams take on his personality – quiet, hard-working and tough. Coach Snyder was treated in the off-season for throat cancer and he and the program have not missed a beat. When we heard of Coach Snyder’s battle, we were all pulling for him. The impact that he’s had on Kansas State and the walk-on-driven program that he’s master-minded since 1989 (except for the five years he was “retired”) is immeasurable. He rebuilt the program, commissioned the Power Cat logo that K-State uses, drove the effort to modernize and rebuild KSU’s stadium that now carries his family’s name. He’s made Kansas State football what it is. Sounds like another guy we know. Hint: he offices at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Coach Snyder and Coach Gary Patterson will square off in what might be called “The Respect Bowl.” Coach Snyder has nothing but great things to say about Coach P. He appreciates Patterson’s approach and emphasis on defense and details. Patterson respects everything about Snyder and what he’s done for the program that Patterson played in during the early ’80s. Combined, they bring 359 wins into Saturday’s 11 a.m. kickoff. Pretty amazing all the parallels you can draw with these coaches and programs, even right down to the color.

Kansas State’s big news on offense this week wasn’t good: quarterback Jesse Ertz would miss the game with an injury. That’s a tough blow for a Kansas State offense that has struggled at times, especially through the air. The Wildcats’ best wideout is walk-on Dalton Schoen, who had a big game at Texas last week with five catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns. With Ertz out, redshirt sophomore Alex Delton gets the call. Delton is a speedster from Hays, Kansas who played a good bit of the second half and overtime last week at Texas. While KSU will still try to throw at times, count on a steady diet of that vaunted Kansas State running game featuring the quarterback lead draw, zone read plays and draw plays feeding running backs Alex Barnes and Justin Silmon (who is closing in on 1,000 career rushing yards). Watch out for fullback Winston Dimel, especially inside the 15 yard line. Last year Dimel was the designated scorer for KSU with 12 touchdowns on 30 carries.

On defense, Kansas State plays a base 4-3 scheme that utilizes a nickel back to create a look very similar to TCU’s 4-2-5. The defensive line features two big tackles led by No. 60 Will Geary and very active defensive end Tanner Wood. Wood is a fifth-year senior who will be playing in his 45th game. The linebackers are sound with No. 46 Jayd Kirby coming off 11 tackles last week against Texas. The secondary is very good and extremely dangerous. Its members can run and Kansas State depends on the them in coverage and to support run defense, especially. They can fly. They’re led by junior No. 21 Kendall Adams, who played in high school at All Saints’ Episcopal School in Fort Worth.

The kicking game is sound with kicker Matt McCrane being one of the best in the Big 12. He has a range of 55 yards. Punter Nick Walsh has a big leg as well. Kansas State has always been good in the return game and this year DJ Reed (who also plays corner back in that secondary I mentioned) fills the bill. He returned a 62-yard punt for a touchdown on his first career attempt earlier this year.

A fast start will be the key for TCU. The team will want to play from ahead against Kansas State, especially in Manhattan where they have 50,000 fans in its corner. The Horned Frogs should utilize the running game to control the game and the clock. Kansas State wants to play keep-away and last year against the Frogs, they did. The Frogs’ offense never got out of the blocks to develop rhythm and TCU’s final six drives all ended in punts (including five three and outs).

Get ready for a physical, old-fashioned battle. Both of these teams want to run it. The weather (rain and 74 degrees) may make the running games even more prevalent.

Did You Know?

  • TCU and Kansas State are tied at 5-5 in this series? The two teams first played in 1922, then didn’t play again until 1983. The Frogs and Wildcats played every year from 1983-1986.
  • Bill Snyder Family Stadium opened in 1968 as KSU Stadium and its original capacity was 35,000.
  • Former Kansas State defensive back Jim Colbert went on to have a great career as a professional golfer on the PGA Tour and won numerous tournaments, including the 1983 Colonial National Invitational Golf Tournament (now the Dean & DeLuca Invitational).

Brian Estridge, Landry Burdine and I are on the air on the TCU Sports Network at 10 a.m. from Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Join us for brunch in Manhattan! (Sort of like Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)

Kick ‘Em High

The Stretch Run Starts, Plus a Visit from ESPN

October 6, 2017

Rob MugglJohn Denton poses for a photo on TCU's campus as ESPN prepares for College GameDay. Photo by Rob Mugglestoneston
John Denton poses for a photo on TCU’s campus as ESPN prepares for College GameDay. Photo by Rob Muggleston

The stretch run for the Frogs starts tomorrow with No. 23 West Virginia – the Frogs will play eight games in a row. Tomorrow’s TCU-WVU matchup has become the center of the nation’s football attention. Two explosive offenses that both average nearly 500 yards per game and tons of speed on both sides. Add to it ESPN College GameDay and you have an atmosphere on campus that looks more like homecoming. It’s not just another weekend. Rece Davis and David Pollack were on-site for interviews this morning and the Campus Commons is abuzz with all kinds of activity. It’s GameDay’s first visit to TCU since 2009 and my guess is that Frogs fans and TCU students will show the GameDay crew that we know how.

But back to business on the west side of Stadium Drive. West Virginia is a tough team. Always has been – they like to come out, be physical, hit you in the mouth and see how you’ll respond. The Mountaineers rattled off three straight wins over East Carolina, Delaware State and Kansas since losing their opener to Virginia Tech. They could easily be 4-0.

Quarterback Will Grier, in his first year at WVU after transferring from Florida (where he won six games in 2015 before being suspended), is a 65 percent passer who has thrown 13 touchdown passes in four games. He can run, too. NOTE: This guy is really good and he’s given head coach Dana Holgerson everything he could have hoped for in a quarterback.

Grier throws to a talented group of wide outs led by veteran Gary Jennings, Jr. and his 29 catches. Former quarterback David Sills is a 6-4 red zone target with seven touchdown catches in the first four games. Ka’Raun White (younger brother of former WVU great Kevin White) and Marcus Simms round out the production heart of the fleet. Running back Justin Crawford must be respected at 7.4 yards per carry and 113 yards per game.

Defense is where it gets interesting for West Virginia. Injuries and youth have shown themselves often so far this season. Two weeks ago, Kansas ran for 367 yards against a beat-up unit. WVU is expected to get some of their starters back for TCU, but lost linebacker Brendan Ferns for the season. West Virginia runs an interesting 3-3-5 defense that involves lots of movement and looks to confuse with pressure coming from all angles and spots.

The "Fear the Frog" banner hangs at the west end of TCU's Campus Commons in preparation for ESPN's College GameDay. Photo by John Denton
The “Fear the Frog” banner hangs at the west end of TCU’s Campus Commons in preparation for ESPN’s College GameDay. Photo by John Denton

My suggestion for the Frogs is stick with what’s worked so far. A dominant power running game (that gets Kyle Hicks back) and a controlled passing game that eats yards and the clock will produce results similar to the first games. Darius Anderson has been a road warrior – all three of his 100-yard rushing games have come on the road (at UT last year, Arkansas and OSU). Time for Darius to put on a show for the home folks at “The Carter.”

The series is tied at 3-3. The Frogs and Mountaineers first met in the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl. Since the two schools joined the Big 12, each team has taken a turn beating the other badly at home and the other three games have been fist fights with the winning margin in the three games totaling five points.

The day starts early with ESPN GameDay and then we roll into the game from there. It’s the kind of day you’ve dreamed about, Frog Fans. Take it all in. And don’t take West Virginia for granted.

Kick ‘Em High

Tribute to a Legend: Tom Petty

October 4, 2017

It’s been a tough news week for sure. Having spent a lot of time in Las Vegas during TCU’s stay in the Mountain West Conference (some years we would travel there five times), I knew exactly where Sunday night’s mass shooting had taken place. My heart goes out to the families of all those killed and injured as well as to all citizens of Las Vegas.

Then, out of nowhere, the news comes down Monday afternoon that the great Tom Petty had suffered a heart attack. He died later that night. Petty’s death was a shock to the music world and sparked a lot of memories. I remember the first time I ever heard Tom Petty. It was the fall of 1979, I was driving in my 1972 Buick Skylark (with a dent in the roof) to Bishop Dunne High School in Dallas one morning. I was listening to “The Zoo” (98FM, KZEW) when Don’t Do Me Like That came on. I was hooked immediately by the opening guitar riff and couldn’t wait to go to Sound Warehouse and buy a cassette copy of Petty’s new album, Damn The Torpedoes.

Tom Petty performed in Dallas at the American Airlines Center in April. Photo by John Denton
Tom Petty performed in Dallas at the American Airlines Center in April. Photo by John Denton

I went to see Tom Petty in April at the American Airlines Center. Glad I did. It was a great show and Petty held the sellout crowd in the palm of his hand. Even something as simple as his, “Thank you so much!” after every song got a huge reaction from the crowd.

Over the years, from high school to TCU to life after college, marriage, kids and up until last Monday night, Tom Petty was always there. Like an old friend. He’ll be there Saturday at Amon G. Carter at the start of the fourth quarter when they play I Won’t Back Down. Stand and cheer.

It sounds cliché to say that Tom Petty sound-tracked my life, but when you look back at all his hits and there’s nothing more true that I could write. He sound-tracked your life, too. What are you favorites? Here are my top 15:

Don’t Do Me Like That
Refugee
American Girl
You Got Lucky, Baby
I Won’t Back Down
Learning to Fly
Runnin’ Down a Dream
Into the Great Wide Open
Even The Losers
Runaway Train
Yer So Bad
The Waiting
Here Comes My Girl
Listen To Her Heart
Free Fallin’

We’ll talk West Virginia on Friday.

Until then, listen to some Petty.

Kick ‘Em High

A Time to Heal

September 27, 2017

Just like that we’re four games into the season and what a month it’s been. 4-0 and more fun to come.

But this is a time to heal. TCU has a chance to go into Coach Gary Patterson’s Paint & Body to get a tune up and a few dents fixed during the off week.

The team has gone at it hard for four straight weeks. Four wins have also provided some bumps and bruises along the way. Staying healthy is a key to a great year. Getting healthy during the season is another conversation altogether. It’s tough to get well on the run, which is why this week is a very important launch pad into the next eight weeks that include travel to Manhattan, Kansas; Ames, Iowa; Norman, Oklahoma and Lubbock, Texas. It’s going to be a grind. It’s very important to get running back Kyle Hicks, center Patrick Morris and several others who are dinged up extra time in the training room.

TCU has played four straight weeks and now get a break. The Horned Frogs’ back nine is EIGHT straight weeks.

It’s also a time to improve. No game breathing down the Frogs’ neck this week means time to work on “the little things” that can show up in a big way on any given Saturday in November.

Takeaways from last Saturday in Stillwater:

KaVontae Turpin, photographed in the season opener against Jackson State, showed skill and power week after week. Photo by Glen E. Ellman
KaVontae Turpin, photographed in the season opener against Jackson State, shows skill and power week after week.
Photo by Glen E. Ellman
  • It was really hot at field level. Some reports measured 140 degrees on the field. Kudos to Don Sommer, TCU’s strength and conditioning coach, and his staff for having the Frogs in such great shape. TCU wore OSU down. (See Darius Anderson’s 42-yard touchdown run as Exhibit A.)
  • The running game is for real. The Frogs offensive line can shove people around and control a game. The key now is to stay healthy.
  • Sonny Cumbie’s insertion of the screen game into the game plan and timely play calls utilizing the same were masterful. Especially on third downs. I love the screen game!
  • Kenny Hill was the most comfortable and in-control I’ve seen him since he landed at TCU. A power running game and controlled passing game will do that for a quarterback.
  • TCU’s secondary did a great job of making OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph hold the ball, giving the rush time to arrive. How many times did Rudolph just have to throw the ball away? I lost count.
  • The Frogs’ defensive line came away with two interceptions. Chris Bradley’s pick was an example of heads-up play and great coverage at the first level of the defense. L.J. Collier’s interception was a great example of what happens when you create mayhem for the opposing quarterback. The ball looked like Super Mario bouncing off helmets and shoulder pads on its way to Collier’s hands. I like it when the big guys end up with the ball, don’t you?
  • Jonathan Song finally got tested and he passed. Nice three field goal day.
  • Special teams were good, especially late in the game. Deep snapper Lucas Gravelle’s tackle on punt coverage when the Frogs had to punt deep in its own end of the field was stellar. KaVontae Turpin’s long kickoff return to set up Anderson’s 42-yard dagger was right on time. Turpin Time.
  • Safety Nick Orr has a feel for the game. Great read getting the interception on the double pass by OSU. Another thought: why did OSU run that play? No need. Thanks, anyway!
  • The Frogs got the “Stillwater Thing” off its back. Now Norman, Oklahoma is the only Big 12 road venue where TCU hasn’t won since joining the league.

So this week you Frog fans can relax and watch the rest of the Big 12 in action and take notes for future weekends. You can probably use the time off, too. After all, you’re 4-0.

Talk to you Friday. Until then,

Kick ‘Em High!

Frogs Will Have to Cowboy Up

September 22, 2017

Game four brings us to Stillwater and a spotlight matchup with the Oklahoma Aggies. That’s what they used to be called before they changed the name from OAMC to Oklahoma State and took Cowboys as their mascot.

Lewis Field, as it was known until they changed it to Boone Pickens Stadium in 2003, has not been friendly to the Frogs. A win Saturday would be the first there for TCU since 1991.

The theme for the day Saturday will be “Start Fast.” The Cowboys have outscored their opponents 59-0 in the first quarter this year. That means the offense jumps out of the gate and the defense comes out stingy.

A quick start for the Frogs, similar to the one they had at Arkansas, will be a must.

The Cowboys have not trailed in a game since they faced OU last December 2nd.

Cowboys’ quarterback Mason Rudolph (no relation to the pro golfer from the ’50s and ’60s with the same name) is a fifth-year senior who is as accurate as he is savvy. He’s thrown 33 touchdown passes in his last 12 games against three interceptions. He throws to four wideouts who are all dangerous: Jalen McCleskey, Dillon Stoner, Marcell Ateman and the ever-pain-in-the-neck James Washington – all four had more than 100 yards receiving last week in OSU’s walk-through at Pitt.

Defensively, OSU has a crafty defensive coordinator in Glenn Spencer. He comes up with great schemes to keep offenses reeling. In my opinion, what makes OSU good on defense is the middle of the defense. Tackle Darrion Daniels is a 300-pound handful, and the two defensive ends are rangy. Look out for defensive ends #93 Jarell Owens and #82 Cole Walterscheid (they combined for 10.5 sacks last year). Middle linebacker #45 Chad Whitener holds his ground and can run. He had two interceptions against the Frogs during the last game in Stillwater. It’s a physical group that flies around, and strong safety #7 Ramon Richards and free safety #31 Tre Flowers set the tone. They’ve been around for a while and they’re fast. Keep in mind that the Frogs will have to be secure with the ball as OSU has scored a defensive touchdown in every game this year.

Where the kicking game is concerned, keep an eye on punter Zach Sinor from Castroville, Texas, just west of San Antonio. He’s a character who has his own Heisman hype website (sinor4heisman.com) and a rap song released this week promotes him for the trophy! Gotta love the attitude.

Then there’s Coach Mike Gundy’s mullet. Much has been made about his hair, but he just shrugs. At Big 12 media days last July, he gave me the story on it. A stylist named Kathy Sweeney keeps it looking good for $17 at a place called Klip It Up Salon in Stillwater. It’s a strong mullet, but I think mine was pretty good back in the day — 1984 to be exact. What do you think? Let me know. Here’s a side-by-side.

John Denton photo by Linda Kay. Mike Gundy photo courtesy of CBSsports.com.
John Denton photo by Linda Kaye. Mike Gundy photo courtesy of CBSsports.com

Did You Know?

  • TCU Defensive Coordinator Chad Glasgow played linebacker at OSU in the early 1990s?
  • TCU Offensive Co-Coordinator Curtis Luper played at OSU from 1984-87 alongside OSU Coach Mike Gundy.
  • Lewis Field was built so that the field runs east to west. Historians say it was built that way so the stands could block the strong Oklahoma winds.

See you in Stillwater.

Kick ‘Em High!

Frogs Look for First Win at OSU Since 1991

September 20, 2017

The SMU game has come and gone. Here’s what I believe we learned:

Two children (who were not yet born the last time TCU won at OSU in 1991) root for the Horned Frogs in the season opener against Jackson State. Photo by Glen E. Ellman
Two children (who were not yet born the last time TCU won at OSU in 1991) root for the Horned Frogs in the season opener against Jackson State. Photo by Glen E. Ellman
  • TCU has a lot of team speed. Extreme speed. On both sides of the ball.
  • The TCU offensive line is getting better every game, especially in the run game. Very physical. I like that.
  • The Frogs need to find a way to start games faster than they did vs. SMU. Big 12 teams won’t wait.
  • I like the defensive line rotation. Their best games are still ahead of them. That’s good news.
  • Jonathan Song is settling is as the placekicker. Even though the 50-yarder vs. SMU was nullified by a timeout, he was in control at impact – very important.

Now, it’s time for Big 12 play and it starts with Oklahoma State.

The Frogs last victory in Stillwater came in 1991. A lot has happened in those 26 years.

Here’s what was going on in 1991:

  • Operation Desert Storm began in January
  • The air bag was first required in U.S. cars
  • Apartheid ended
  • Average annual income in the U.S. was $29,000
  • Regular gasoline as $1.12 per gallon
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 3,000 for the first time in 1991
  • The internet is made available to unrestricted commercial use
  • The number of computers on the internet reached one million
  • Texas A&M won the Southwest Conference football championship
  • TCU finished 7-4 and did not receive a bowl bid – it was Jim Wacker’s last season as head coach.
  • TCU head coach Gary Patterson was the defensive coordinator at Sonoma State
  • On September 21, TCU Football defeats Oklahoma State 24-21 in Stillwater at Lewis Field (as it was known then)
TCU bad loss
Linebacker Ty Summers, #42, reacts to a big play from Oklahoma State on the Nov. 19, 2016, game at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Leo Wesson

Hopefully the Frogs are gonna party like it’s 1991.

Friday, we’ll take a closer look at the Cowboys. They are loaded.

Did You Know?

Yesterday was National Pirates Day. Arrrrrrgh!!! I wonder what Washington State head coach Mike Leach did to celebrate?

Oklahoma State was formerly known at Oklahoma A&M College? They changed the name in 1957.

TCU and SMU to Meet as Undefeated Teams

September 15, 2017

Ninety-seven times.

When it’s all said and done tomorrow at Amon G. Carter Stadium, that’s how many times TCU and SMU will have played football against each other. For SMU, there’s no other school they’ve played more than TCU. And no other team they’d love to beat more. This is SMU’s most talented and weapon-laden team since the death penalty put the Ponies out of business in 1987 and ’88. More on them later.

It is fun to think back on this series and ponder the history. They’ve been playing since 1915. In 1918, heavy rains in Fort Worth and Dallas left the roads impassable. TCU had to forfeit because the team’s bus got stuck in the mud before reaching Dallas. TCU’s own Dan Jenkins ’53 is still not over the heartbreak of that 20-14 SMU victory in the 1935 “Game of the Century,” as it was known. Facing fourth and seven, SMU punter Bobby Finely dropped back as if to punt, but threw a long pass to running back Bobby Wilson between two Horned Frogs at the goal line. The “$85,000 Pass” as it became known, sent the Mustangs to the Rose Bowl. Frog fans were stunned. SMU’s Doak Walker won the Heisman Trophy in 1948 – he’s the reason they put upper decks on the Cotton Bowl stadium. Then there’s “Mustang Mania” (the brain child of marketing guru Brad Thomas) from the late 1970s and early ’80s, when SMU moved to Texas Stadium in Irving to give the program some “splash.” Head coach Ron Meyer built a power house that featured Craig James and Eric Dickerson in the backfield. SMU nearly won the national championship before the wheels came off in the mid-’80s

Then there’s the 1997 TCU-SMU game. A 21-18 TCU win that didn’t decide anything other than SMU wouldn’t be going to a bowl and the Frogs wouldn’t end the season without a win. Freshman running back LaDainian Tomlinson ’05 popped onto the scene in that game. I point to that game because it was a pivotal point in the divergent paths that these programs would take over the next 20 years. The next year, Dennis Franchione showed up at TCU and brought a defensive coordinator named Gary Patterson with him. The Frogs beat the University of Southern California in the 1998 Sun Bowl. TCU was launched on a trajectory that, years later, landed the Frogs in the Big 12. SMU went 5-7 and won just 14 games over the next five years, including 0-12 in 2003.

Chad Morris is SMU’s fifth head coach since that 1997 game and his third edition looks like the best SMU squad in quite some time. They’ve scored 112 points in their first two wins.

On SMU’s offense, the one guy you need to keep an eye on is wide receiver #16 Courtland Sutton. He’s a tall, rangy wideout who is SMU’s version of Josh Doctson ’15. And a projected first-rounder in next year’s National Football League draft. Last week, Sutton passed SMU legend Jerry Levias on the all-time SMU receiving touchdown list. SMU’s other weapons include wideouts #15 Alex Honey (another 6-4 receiver) and #3 James Proche. Running backs #6 Braeden West and #5 Xavier Jones are capable, but the offensive line has not opened holes consistently for them in the first two games.

Defensively, SMU leads with its defensive line. Ends #40 Dimarya Mixon and #99 Jason Lawler anchor the defense and give SMU a pressure component. The linebackers are led by #11 Kyran Mitchell who plays the STAR position (hybrid linebacker/safety) in SMU’s 4-3 scheme. The secondary is young with just two upperclassmen in the depth chart.

Quarterback Kenny Hill prepares for another play in the season opener against Jackson State. Photo by Glen E. Ellman
Quarterback Kenny Hill prepares for another play in the season opener against Jackson State. Photo by Glen E. Ellman

The Frogs will need to control SMU’s defensive line and allow Kenny Hill to get off to another good start. Hill settled in last week at Arkansas and the Frog offense took over the game in the second quarter, allowing Arkansas to run just six plays in the quarter. Six! A continuation of the power running game will offset the SMU edge rush.

On defense, the Frogs need to pressure Ponies’ quarterback Ben Hicks and make him uncomfortable early. Courtland Sutton is a great wide receiver who can take over a game. Rest assured he will have a lot of passes aimed his way. He’s strong with the ball. Great coverage will be key as Hicks will work to get rid of the ball in a hurry to counter the Frogs’ pressure. Sacks will have to come as a result of great coverage in the back half that forces Hicks to hold the ball. I remind you that SMU has multiple playmakers that bear watching as well.

Did You Know:

  • SMU’s head coach in that 1935 game was Matty Bell, who was in his first season at SMU. He was head coach at TCU from 1923-28.
  • In 1994, TCU running back Andre Davis ran for 179 yards vs SMU– a TCU record vs. SMU. Current Frog running back Darius Anderson reminds me a lot of Andre Davis– a back who runs larger than his size, finds a way to get up field and loves to break tackles and outrun defenders.
  • This is the first time since 1985 that TCU and SMU meet as undefeated teams.
  • The “$85,000 Pass” was named so because that’s the payout SMU received for playing in the 1936 Rose Bowl.

See you at “The Carter.” Don’t forget to wear white.

Kick ‘Em High!

TCU is Heating Up, Just in Time for the Iron Skillet

September 13, 2017

The Horned Frogs treated us all to a delicious afternoon last Saturday in Fayetteville with a 28-7 win. TCU controlled the game throughout and did what they had to do to win on the road: they got off to a hot start, played great on third down on both sides of the ball, dominated time of possession and were more physical than their opponent. The running game was especially impressive. The Frogs wore down Arkansas and finished them off in the fourth quarter. Textbook road win.

I loved CBS’ Brad Nessler’s comment about Sewo Olonilua’s touchdown run at the end of the game: “That’s 13 yards of carnage right there.” I wish I’d said it.

What I left Arkansas thinking:

  • This TCU team is very physical.
  • Kenny Hill’s vision up-field is improved. His third down throw to Shawn Nixon in the second half was perfect.
  • The offensive line was impressive in sparking the Frog’s power running game last Saturday. You have to knock people off the ball. They did.
  • This defensive unit has the size and speed to be really good. And they’re physical.
  • Defenders Ben Banogu, Innis Gaines and Travin Howard were especially physical against Arkansas.
  • This team knows it has work to do.
Travin Howard and Coach Gary Patterson discuss a play on the sidelines during TCU's season opener against Jackson State. Photo by Glen E. Ellman
Travin Howard and Coach Gary Patterson discuss a play on the sidelines during TCU’s season opener against Jackson State.
Photo by Glen E. Ellman

Games come quickly and this week it’s the Iron Skillet. SMU-TCU will play for the 97th time. There’s a lot of history in this series and this is probably the most intriguing match-up in quite some time. SMU is improved and can score points. It’s the first time since 1985 that the Frogs and Mustangs meet as undefeated teams.

Coach Gary Patterson confirmed that he has told the Frogs the story of the 2005 game, a 21-10 SMU upset of a TCU team that has just beaten Oklahoma the week before. It was the Frogs’ only loss in that 11-1 season.

This is game three of what Coach Patterson calls the “Four Game Season” which is how he describes this first segment of the schedule. An in-depth look at SMU is coming Friday.

Until then,

Kick ‘Em High