November 4, 2016
Time to take that 83-mile trip down I-35 to visit the Baylor Bears. Along the way, don’t forget to stop in West (known as West Station back in the old days) for some kolaches and myriad other treats. Remember the pimento cheese sandwiches.
Our crew will be making its traditional stop at George’s in Waco for a pregame meal of their famous chicken fried steak. Am I making you hungry?
Speaking of hungry, we have a matchup of two hungry teams with stomachs (and coaching staffs) growling for a win. Baylor (6-1, 3-1) lost its first game of the year at Texas last week and the Frogs (4-4, 2-3) have hit a rough patch with losses in three of their last four. This game will be interesting for a number of reasons. Baylor, amid all the other things going on in Waco, has to bounce back from a loss, something it hasn’t had to do all year. What will the Bears’ response be?
TCU has to bounce back from a heart-twister of its own after last week’s double-overtime loss to Texas Tech. The Frogs still have not put together a complete game, and they have a great opportunity to do so on Saturday in Waco. The defense is playing better, relying on a deeper rotation of players to create pressure. The offense has struggled and needs a jump. The return of KaVontae Turpin will help. Last week, the kicking game, which had been cruising along nicely through the first seven games, threw a rod at a critical time. All three phases of the team need to come together on Saturday.
While a lot has changed in Waco over the last six months, one thing hasn’t. Baylor is loaded with talent, and the Bears are playing good football. The one surprise may be how well quarterback Seth Russell has recovered from his severe neck injury. He’s as good as ever and has run for 440 yards, including a 50-yard scoring jog through Austin last week before suffering a concussion.
Running seems to be a big theme for the Bears under acting head coach Jim Grobe. Baylor is averaging 299 yards-per-game by bear tracks, outrunning the air game by an average of 38 yards each game. Watch out for #32 Shock Linwood, now Baylor’s all-time rushing leader with 4,029 career yards. He’ll be playing in his 45th game as a Bear. Baylor uses a three-back rotation, so look for Terence Williams and JaMycal Hasty as well. Receivers are still the stars at Baylor. K. D. Cannon, #9, is a deep threat who can take over a game; he has six touchdowns on the year. Ishmael Zamora, #8, is a Josh Doctson-like 6-4 and 215 pounds, and he uses his size well, especially on hitch screens, which seem to be Baylor’s favorite play this year.
Defensively, former SMU head coach Phil Bennett still runs the show. His group is No. 1 in the Big 12 in scoring defense (19.7 points-per-game), total defense (353 yards-per-game) and pass defense, surrendering an average of just 179.4 yards. You’ll see mostly a 4-3 defensive look from Baylor, but they’ve been flipping to a 3-4 as well, trying to find the right fit for the personnel. Nose tackle #97 Ira Lewis anchors the defensive line, and #48 Travon Blanchard, who plays the Bears’ hybrid position, is the best player on the field. Linebacker Taylor Young, #1, is an undersized, Mike Singletary-type who never stops, and safety Orion Stewart, #28, is a crafty veteran who will shepherd the secondary in his 44th appearance.
On special teams, kicker Chris Callahan has struggled this year, hitting just eight of his 12 field goal attempts. He’s most famous for the hit he took a couple of years ago when his field goal attempt was blocked in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State. Google it.
The Frogs are working to get bowl eligible, and the Bears are trying to stay in the race for the Big 12 Championship. The last two games have been wild, with the Frogs losing a 21-point lead in Waco in 2014 and then prevailing in double overtime last year in the cold rain in Fort Worth. This one will be no different — a long, wild battle on the Brazos River. You may need TWO chicken fried steaks.
And Happy Birthday to the late Walter Cronkite. The iconic broadcaster, who was the narrator of my youth for CBS News, would have been 100 today. He had a great signature sign-off: “… And that’s the way it is … Friday, November 4th 2016.”
Kick ‘Em High!
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November 3, 2016
Sorry I missed you yesterday, but I was waiting for the World Series to end. I got nervous last night thinking the Cubs were going to blow a lead. I’ve been conditioned to expect that after what happened to the Rangers in Game Six of the 2011 Series. Glad the Cubs got it done. Feel for the Indians — they are a class act.
And somewhere Herm is enjoying it.
Herm Reich, that is (pronounced “Rich”). Herm was the big brother my dad never had. They met in the Army Air Corps in 1942, became lifelong friends and were closer than close until Herm died in 2009.
Herm spent his best baseball years serving his country during World War II. After the Axis Powers had been sent to the showers, he returned to pro baseball as a star in the Pacific Coast League.
Amazingly, he made the Cubs as a 31-year-old “rookie” in 1949, when he hit .280 with three home runs and 34 RBIs, appearing in 108 games. He wore #22.
He loved the Cubs and playing in Chicago. I’m sure he’s celebrating in Heaven today, telling everyone how great it is in his loud voice that began every excitable sentence with, “Ah, Hell…..!” He was a gregarious guy and had a great spirit that typifies “The Greatest Generation” and the game of baseball. He never quit. He signed all of his autographs, “Give It a Ride! … Best Wishes, Herm Reich.”
Why the focus on this obscure ball player from years gone by?? Well, I’m his namesake. My dad thought so much of Herm that Herman is my middle name. And I’m proud of that today and every day. I still think about him a lot, and I have one of his Louisville Slugger bats from his playing days.
Today, Herm and all of Chicago are partying like it’s 1908!
Speaking of Cubs and the bear family, the Frogs have some business with the Bears who roam the Brazos River Valley this weekend. More on them tomorrow.
October 27, 2016
Wow, seems like yesterday Brian Estridge and I were trying not to lose our minds while the Frogs were trying not to lose to the Red Raiders last year in Lubbock. On fourth-and-goal from the Tech 4-yard line, Trevone Boykin, Josh Doctson and Aaron Green teamed up for what’s now known as “The Divine Deflection” with 23 seconds left in the game. Not until the end of a multiple lateral play with no time left, when Jakeem Grant was pushed out of bounds at the TCU 10-yard line, was the game decided. That day, it seemed neither team had an answer for the other.
This year, TCU and Tech have both had flashes of brilliance and, at the same time, have struggled in spots. Coach P and Kliff Kingsbury are both searching for answers. The Frogs are trying to regroup after a tough trip to West Virginia. I told you the Mountaineers were closer to a Top 5 team than No. 12. They’re good. Over the last two weeks, the Mountaineers have held TCU and Tech to a combined 27 points. Tech is coming off a “basketball-on-grass” affair in Lubbock that saw Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes throw for 734 yards and five touchdowns AND LOSE!
Texas Tech begins with Patrick Mahomes … I’ve been impressed with him since last year’s game in Lubbock, when he nearly beat TCU on one leg, taking a beating all game long and still getting up and making plays. One of Mahomes’ go-to receivers in this Tech offensive juggernaut is Jonathan Giles. Entering Saturday’s game with 917 receiving yards, Giles is closing in on the 1,000-yard mark with five games remaining. He needs 182 yards to enter the top 10 in single-season school history; at that point he would match Wes Welker’s total from the 2003 season. Giles’ 917 receiving yards are the most for a Red Raider through seven games since Michael Crabtree had 1,244 during the same span in 2007. Good company. The Red Raiders like to throw it, as evidenced by their top-ranked passing offense, which spirals dangerously at 542.7 yards-per-game. They’re ranked No. 125 in the nation in rushing offense with just 98 yards per game. It’s a bright-light show.
On the dark side is the Red Raider defense, a group that’s ranked No. 127 in the nation and trying to pull itself together. The Red Raiders are trying to come up with a vaccine for the defensive virus that has plagued the program for years. Tech has had a turnstile at the defensive coordinator’s office door. When David Gibbs took over last year, he became Tech’s seventh defensive coordinator in as many years. The Red Raiders run a 4-3 that hasn’t stopped anyone yet. Aside from holding Stephen F. Austin to 17 points, Tech has given up 68, 45, 19 (to KU), 44, 48 and 66 points. Defensive end Kolin Hill, a transfer from Notre Dame, and Ondre Pipkins, a Michigan transfer, have added size to the Red Raider defensive line, but youth reigns on a defense that has yet to gel.
The Frogs will need to play ball-control to keep the magic of Mahomes off the field. He’s dangerous and makes most of his plays on the run. A large section of the Tech play book is labeled “Ad Lib.” This makes Tech tough to defend. The Frogs have to contain Mahomes.
Answers? They’ll come Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
Did You Know??? — The Frogs and Red Raiders will meet for the 59th time on Saturday. Tech leads the all-time series with a 30-25-3 advantage. But did you know the three series ties occurred in three straight games in Lubbock: a 3-3 finish in a snow storm in 1979, a crazy 39-39 game in 1981 and a 10-10 mess played in the mud (on artificial turf) following a huge dust storm/rain event in the Hub City in 1983.
October 21, 2016
The second half of the season kicks off tomorrow at West Virginia. And it’s a BIG challenge. Make no mistake. West Virginia is 5-0 and rolling. A win would huge for the Frogs.
The Mountaineers jumped from No. 20 in the polls to No. 12 in one week by virtue of the beat-down they put on Texas Tech last weekend in Lubbock, 48-17. WVU’s defense held Tech to a season-low 379 yards and just 17 points. Coach Dana Holgorsen‘s team is fast and physical, and they run a scheme that’s hard to unravel.
At times, WVU will play a 3-7-1 defense with seven defenders spread all across the field, five yards off the line of scrimmage. This makes reads tough for the quarterback and wide receiver. It also makes the offensive line’s job tough because delayed blitzes are coming from all angles, depending on a post-snap read by the linebackers. The system is a crafty invention from defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. It’s built to confuse and constrict … and it works. Ask Texas Tech. And Missouri. And BYU.
Holgersen’s offense has its most effective weapons since he had Geno Smith and Tavon Austin four years ago. Senior quarterback Skyler Howard is from Fort Worth, and his skills are only exceeded by his confidence to use them. He’s the kind of guy you want to run an offense. He has a great arm, and when he runs, he runs mean, stiff-arming and shoving people out of the way. West Virginia’s best running back is Rushel Shell, once the highest-rated running back in the state of Pennsylvania. He went to the same high school as Tony Dorsett, and at times he looks like T. D. Shelton Gibson is an explosive wideout who averaged 24 yards-per-catch last year (21 so far in 2016). The offensive line is big and nasty, led by center Tyler Orlovsky, who looks like every big, bad lineman to appear in your worst nightmare. The offense is a stout group that likes to run the ball and then surprise with speed here and there. Watch out for Jovon Durante, a speedy Tavon Austin-type the Mountaineers utilize on sweeps and end-arounds.
Morgantown is a tough place to play, and the weather forecast has worsened throughout the week. Plan on low 50s and rain.
Also plan on hearing WVU fans sing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver. The song has become their anthem, and the more success the Mountaineers have, the more they sing it. With the hope that you don’t hear it often on Saturday, here’s the original version from 1971:
Kick ‘Em High!
October 15, 2016
Without a game to broadcast this week, I need something to keep me on my game. So here are the games I’ll be checking out this weekend … after I’ve finished Mrs. Denton’s to-do list.
This should be interesting, as WVU has impressed me so far. Quarterback Skylar Howard has been good, but so has his Texas Tech counterpart Patrick Mahomes, who has thrown for 2,200 yards and 20 touchdowns. Lubbock is a tough place to play, and that makes this one intriguing to me.
We find out if the Wildcats are for real when mentor Bill Snyder visits understudy Bob Stoops, who worked for Snyder at KSU. The difference in this one may be OU receiver Dede Westbrook, who has 544 yards and five touchdowns. He also set the OU single-game receiving record last week against Texas with ten catches for 232 yards. Better double-cover him. K-State showed real guts on he road versus West Virginia and proved that the slow-down game is not dead in a win over Texas Tech last week.
J. T. Barrett is back at full throttle at quarterback for Ohio State, and Urban Meyer loves to take his teams on the road the same way Coach Patterson does. But don’t overlook the Badgers’ redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook, a heady lefty and a capable engineer on the Wisconsin freight train. This should be a physical battle, Saturday Night Wrestling style.
Enjoy your open week, Frog fans.
October 12, 2016
With an open week for the Frogs, a lot of us outside of the TCU Football team turn our attention to catching up on things away from the field – errands, home repairs or just spending time with family.
My “To Do” list changed late Saturday night when I arrived back home from the Kansas game. I got some bad news. The kind of news that takes you way back.
You see, in 1968, I entered first grade at Mark Twain Elementary School in Dallas. In my class was a girl named Laurie Porter. We were buddies and in the same class most of the way through elementary school. She was nice. Always said “Hi” and was funny – had a great laugh. She also was the sweetest person in school.
Years later, after college, I was delighted to find out that she had married my good friend Craig Way, who was, at the time, working at KRLD Radio in Dallas. Laurie and I would send messages to each other via Craig, the Voice of the Longhorns, as we ran into each other more frequently at broadcast assignments and games over the last 30 years. In the last ten years, I saw Laurie quite often at TCU-Texas football games, baseball games and NCAA Super Regionals. I also watched as she fought a brave battle with a cancer that came out of nowhere six years ago. Out of nowhere. There is no justice in this, no explanation.
While I stewed over TCU’s narrow win over Kansas late Saturday night, Laurie was leaving us. We lost her late that night. Her journey on this earth was done. So was her pain. Laurie Porter Way raised four great kids while keeping Craig on track as he ran from event to event to event for years. She was a hero to her family and to many around the athletic department at the University of Texas.
She’s a hero to me. Her death has hit me hard.
When someone from your childhood dies, it conjures up a lot of memories that make you say, “Wow, that doesn’t seem that long ago.” Thoughts of classrooms and class pictures, school hallways and the noise of laughter and conversations on the playground. Just running around being a kid. The end seemed far away then.
Today we’ll remember the good times with Laurie. As you read this, I’m on my way to Georgetown for a memorial service that will be full of tears, memories and laughter.
And sweetness. Just like Laurie.
I have one “Do” for you on Denton’s Do’s & Don’ts for today: Hug your loved ones.
Talk to you Friday.
October 7, 2016
Good Friday to you. The rain is very nice, and cooler temps are on the way. Maybe the weather will help the Rangers wash away memories of yesterday’s 10-1 playoff loss to Toronto and the cool off the Blue Jays’ hot bats? Better luck to the Rangers today. I went to the first Rangers game in 1972 at the old stadium, and I’ve gone every year since. Yes, I’m getting old.
The Frogs make their first real road trip this weekend. When they get to Lawrence, Kan., they’ll find a team that reminds me a lot of SMU. New coach David Beaty has scoured Texas for players and has raised the program’s talent level. The Jayhawks’ defense is better and more athletic this year. KU’s offense has struggled … and has been struggling for a while. Ponder this: in its last 32 games, KU has scored more than 21 points just twice.
One of those games was this year’s 55-6 win over Rhode Island.
CAUTION: The other was the 2014 game versus TCU, when the Frogs escaped with a 34-30 score.
Offensively, Kansas has struggled. And they have a mild quarterback controversy brewing. They’ve played three QBs this year, including redshirt freshman Carter Stanley, but #2 Montell Cozart and #13 Ryan Willis have taken the most snaps. Cozart has the most experience and runs better, but Willis had a solid game last week against Texas Tech in Lubbock, so he’ll get the start against the Frogs. Willis has a great arm but is not quite as mobile. Hello, Josh Carraway, James McFarland and the TCU defensive line!
Willis’ dad was a kicker at Kansas State. I played against his Wildcat teams in 1983 and 1984. What?!! Again, I’m getting old.
KU’s skill people include running back Ke’Aun Kinner. He’s a tough kid who played all of last year with a shoulder that would pop out on a regular basis. It’s fixed now. Wide receiver threats include Texas A&M transfer LaQuivionte Gonzalez, #1, and Patrick Sims, who wears #11. Both are Texans.
Defense is where Kansas’ talent level has improved. Watch out for defensive end Durance Armstrong, #2, and linebacker Joe Dineen, #29, who is an up-and-coming player. In the secondary, one of my All-Denton Name Team selections is #2 Fish Smithson, who returns at safety. He’s fast; he’s in on just about every play and is one of the top tacklers in the nation.
Head coach David Beaty has taken over the play-calling for the Jayhawks, demoting former offensive coordinator Rob Likens. In fact, Beaty made many moves after his first year at Kansas, as five of nine assistant coaches either left the program or were demoted.
Memorial Stadium has not been friendly to the Frogs in their first two trips to “Rock Chalk Land” as members of the Big 12, and I don’t think trip three will be a cakewalk, either. On the road, a fast start will help.
A bit of history for you: The Frogs and Kansas played against each other every year from 1944 through 1964, until a rift over a player broke up the football romance. As the story goes, Bert Coan had just completed his freshman season at TCU in 1958. During the offseason, he attended an all-star game, and a KU booster paid for his trip. Coan suddenly transferred to Kansas. He was a key element of the Jayhawks’ success in the early ‘60s. Once the game contracts between the two schools ran out in 1964, “Head Frog” Abe Martin looked elsewhere for non-conference opponents. In 1965, TCU opened the season against No. 1 Nebraska. The Frogs and Kansas would not play again until 1982.
Trivia: Did you know that Hallmark Cards has a huge printing facility in Lawrence? If you’ve received a Hallmark card lately, chances are it came out of the Kansas plant. You can see it on the main road as you drive into the city.
Gameday weather calls for sunny skies with a high temperature of 71.
I’ll talk to you at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
October 5, 2016
It seems that just yesterday we were talking about the beginning of TCU’s football season. I remember thinking how once that first game comes, the rest of the season goes very quickly.
Suddenly, here we are at week six — halfway done with the regular season. Time flies.
Time. That reminds me of a song. Last week we heard from Rod Stewart. Today we visit 1967. Enjoy The Chambers Brothers and their song, “Time Has Come Today.” Give it a listen. I bet you recognize it.
For the Frogs, it’s time to go on the road for real. To Lawrence, Kansas. The land of Dorothy, Toto and the yellow brick road. Rock Chalk, Allen Field House and Memorial Stadium.
Time for the stretch drive in the Big 12. And time to play a complete game.
We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from this TCU team on its way to a 3-2 start. And we saw the 2nd and 3rd quarters from last week’s game against Oklahoma. Not to take anything away from OU, as the Sooners looked like the team we’ve been expecting all season in the middle two quarters last weekend. And then a near-miracle climb out of a huge hole. Much to learn from that OUting.
My old TCU coach, Jim Wacker, used to hang a sign in the Frogs’ locker room that said simply “IT IS TIME” next to a big red dot. It was everywhere, and the reminder served as an alarm, an alert that the game was on.
Same for the Frogs this week. They need to dial it in, and as Coach P said yesterday, “Pay attention to detail.” Seven opportunities for wins await, and just like medicine, they’re to be taken one dose at a time. One at a time.
And it all starts Saturday at Kansas, just below that big Campanile (means bell tower), built to honor 277 KU alumni, students and faculty/staff who died in World War II. It stands watch over Memorial Stadium and chimes out the time of day. Time.
More on the Jayhawks on Friday. Until then,
September 30, 2016
October is here, and the cooler weather makes me think I’m in Laguna Beach, or Dana Point or Newport Beach … pick a spot. I love this time of year and the great weather telling us that it’s seriously football season.
And I mean seriously. OU’s coming to town.
The Frogs are back in the polls at #21, and they have a lot to build on coming off last week’s win against SMU. The defense looked like an old friend, shutting down SMU for 55 minutes of the game, getting sacks and creating turnovers. Kenny Hill continued putting up big numbers. In the second half, receivers made catch after catch. Wide receiver John Diarse had his second big game in a row. I like him. Diarse is a mature player who came back into the game after getting whacked with a big hit I thought would end his night. Instead, he made SMU pay with a 75-yard catch-and-run to open the second half. Talent and toughness – a deadly combination.
Oklahoma can be deadly, too. The Sooners are unranked with a 1-2 record, and everybody wonders what’s wrong with them. Nothing is wrong with OU; they’ve played a brutal schedule. Losses to No. 6 Houston and No. 2 Ohio State are nothing to be embarrassed about. Still, OU doesn’t like losing. And the Sooners have not lost back-to-back games since 1999.
OU’s offense has lots of weapons. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is a swashbuckler. If Errol Flynn played football, this is what he’d look like. Mayfield moves fast, takes chances and keeps plays alive. He’s fearless and confident. But at times, he can be forced into mistakes. Against Ohio State, pressure caused him to throw two interceptions, and he completed just 53 percent of his passes, well off his normal 65 percent. Last year against TCU, he tried to run through traffic and was knocked out of the game. Still, he finished fourth in votes for the Heisman Trophy. He’s a classic dual-threat quarterback who has to be contained. The Frogs can’t allow him to run around the backfield and turn mayhem into touchdowns. He makes it up as he goes, and that unpredictability is what keeps defensive coaches up at night. The running back tandem of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon are the best in the nation. Power and speed. Mixon is a multi-threat who must be stopped. Giant wideout Mark Andrews, #81, is this week’s oversized route-running challenge for TCU’s defensive backs, and speedster A.D. Miller has the ability to score each time he has the ball.
Defensively, OU runs a 50 front (five on the line, with three down linemen and two standup linebacker/defensive end hybrids). The secondary is solid – maybe the best the Frogs have faced so far this year. They run well to the ball.
Defensive end Matt Dimon, #94, has experience and will be playing his 36th game. Linebacker Jordan Evans, #26, knows how to get to the ball. In the back half, cornerback Jordan Thomas, #7, doesn’t need much help in coverage, and strong safety Steven Parker, #10, can bring the lumber.
Weather won’t be a factor, as we’ll see a perfect, sunny 80 degrees.
The Frogs will unveil their new black helmets on Black Out Saturday at “The Carter.” The Frogs have done well in blackout games the past two years, with wins over Kansas State and West Virginia. Will OU be next?
We’ll know “Sooner” than later.
See you on the radio a 3 p.m. Go Frogs!
September 27, 2016
Rod Stewart’s “Maggie Mae” is one of my favorite songs. There’s a line in it that says, “It’s late September and I really should be back at school.” As I thought about where we sit on the calendar and on the football schedule, with game five coming, “late September” made me think of the song.
If you’ll allow another departure from the normal topic, what a roller coaster the past few days have been. First was the shocking loss of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, lost at 24, and then the amazing things happening to his team as they remember their young teammate.
On the other end of the age spectrum, we say goodbye to Arnold Palmer. I used to be in the golf tournament business on the Senior PGA tour, and I had the privilege to meet and spend time around “The King.” Let me tell you that everything they say is true: classy with an aura of strength. There won’t be another Arnold Palmer.
And last Sunday, Dodger broadcaster and legend Vin Scully called his last game at Dodger Stadium, ending a 67-year run. This year marks my 28th on the TCU Radio crew … kind of pales in comparison, huh? Vin has called 20 no-hitters and three perfect games. He’s the greatest ever. I had a chance to meet him at Dodger Stadium last July 3, and he, too, is everything you’ve ever heard. I asked him if I could borrow his voice when he retired … he has a great one. See the photo – think I was thrilled? You have one more chance to hear Vin this Sunday when he calls the Dodgers’ regular-season finale in San Francisco. Find it if you can … and press record.
The change in weather makes it feel like football season. For the Frogs, it’s time to step into the Big 12 grind. Conference games from here on out. Serious business.
Oklahoma is hurting, and let me tell you that there’s nothing wrong with the Sooners, except for the teams they’ve played. Their losses are to two Top 5 teams: Houston and Ohio State. They’re loaded. They’ll be ready to play.
More on the Sooners in detail on Friday. Until then,
John Denton has been the color analyst for the TCU Sports Network from IMG since 1988. A former standout for the Horned Frog football team, Denton went from walk-on to a four-year lettermen as a kicker and punter for the Purple and White from 1981-84 and completed his career at the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl. Shown here with his former coach, the late Jim Wacker, Denton currently serves as the Director of Major Gifts for TCU Athletics.