November 23, 2016
I hope you all will take a few minutes and relax from the track meet that has been the last several months. Seems like I was just in California on vacation or in Omaha for the College World Series … and BAM! Here we are at the kickoff to the holiday season. Football season seems to do that; it pulls you at warp speed through the fall. One day I’m driving home from a muggy, hot morning scrimmage at Amon G. Carter Stadium, and the next thing I know, it’s the day before Thanksgiving … and time to give thanks. A lot of thanks.
I’m thankful for my memory and the ability to recall Thanksgivings past with family and those on the road with friends, maybe working a football game on radio. Making a road trip. Picking up my dad at the airport. Driving down I-35 on Wednesday night, gazing at the clear Texas sky, anticipating a weekend with my cousins. The aroma of my grandmother’s house in Austin at 3904 Cherrywood Road – it was a cornucopia of appetite-tantalizing splendor. Hit you like a wall as you walked in the door. I can still see the scene there: Adults around the big round table in the dining room, kids at the four-top in the kitchen. Loud conversations bouncing off the plaster walls of the house my grandfather built. Trying to stifle a giggle during the prayer. EVERYONE was there. I’ll be in Austin on Thursday. I think I’ll take a drive down Cherrywood Road.
I’m writing these as they come to me over a cup of coffee. What are your Thanksgiving memories? Take time to let them and the things you’re thankful for come to you. And give thanks. It’s the day to do it.
Once you’re done and the tryptophan coma has worn off, there’s work to do on Friday in Austin. The Frogs and the Longhorns both have their sights set on a bowl, and a win punches the ticket for both. The difference is the Frogs have two games to get it done. For the Horns, this is it.
Texas will be running on a lot of emotion as they play for head coach Charlie Strong amid a difficult week in Austin. No matter the outcome or the decision by UT, it’s the players that it’s toughest on in this situation. I remember playing the last week of the season in 1982 at Texas A&M with our fired head coach F. A. Dry, who was let go the weekend before after a loss to Texas. It was a strange, emotional week, and the trip to A&M was just weird. We tried to play for our coach and send him out in style, but the truth was that the emotional and psychological toll of the week affected our play, and we just plain ran out of gas in the second half.
That being said, the Frogs have to be ready for anything Friday in Austin. Texas will come to play, and they’ll pull out the stops. Why not?
Aside from a few gadget plays, the Frogs’ biggest concern will be running back D’Onta Foreman, the Heisman Trophy candidate who has run for 1,863 yards and has 250-plus in three of his last four games. Texas has the offensive line to give him the room he needs. The Frogs will need the run-stopping effort they had three weeks ago at Baylor. That means better tackling. Coach P said yesterday in his press conference that the Frogs missed 20 tackles in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State.
Offensively, the Frogs will have to reestablish the run game and get physical. Texas will likely employ much the same strategy that Oklahoma State did, jamming the box and making running difficult. Creativity will be the key for TCU.
Once again, the Frogs go into their second-straight road game in which the attention is centered as much off of the field as it is on it.
The good news is that the Frogs are getting good at playing in interesting environments.
On another note: It’s time to congratulate (again!) TCU’s quarterback Sonny Gibbs and offensive end (that’s what they used to call receivers back in the day) Buddy Iles on the 55th anniversary of TCU’s version of “The Catch” in 1961. It was a “flea-flicker” that caught the Horns by surprise just before halftime when Gibbs hit Iles for 50 yards and a touchdown. TCU upset No. 1 Texas that day 6-0. It happened in Austin 55 years ago this month. If you see them, tell them thanks. Darrell Royal never got over it.
Kick ‘Em High!
November 18, 2016
Happy Friday! It finally feels like football season! Bundle up when you head to the game tomorrow. It’s going to be a cool 48 degrees at kickoff.
No. 13 Oklahoma State comes to visit Saturday. This is just the second time at “The Carter” for Oklahoma State since TCU joined the Big 12. They’re riding a six-game winning streak, and they have lots of weapons.
OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph is the hottest QB in college football right now. He has been ablaze the last three games, and no quarterback in college football has more deep completions (34) or yards on deep throws (1,342). Last year, he lit up the Frogs for 352 yards and five touchdowns. Doing most of the damage on the receiving end was James Washington, #28. He’s a speedster from a little town north of Abilene called Stamford, Texas (check the note below for an interesting fact on this tiny town). Washington had huge games recently, including 82-yard scoring catches in each of the last two games. Last year against TCU, he was stealthy, running through the Frog secondary with five receptions and 184 yards, including scoring grabs of 48, 50 and 74 yards. Additional wideouts with large claws include Jalen Mccluskey, #1 (62 catches on the year) and Jhajuan Seales, #81. The Cowboys worked hard to improve their running game, which last year was pitiful. This year, they are averaging 148 yards per game, most of it on the legs of freshman Justice Hill, #27. One area of interest for TCU’s defense should be Oklahoma State’s offensive line. No group in the Big 12 has given up more sacks this year.
On the other side, Cowboy defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is a crafty one. The wily veteran put together a great game plan last year, with his defense seemingly moving at the snap to exactly where the ball was going, forcing four interceptions. His scheme features lots of looks and has defenders moving all over the field. The key is to take the space that they give you. The defensive line was hit hard by graduation and has been rebuilt. Linebacker Devante Everette, #40, is very active. Free safety Jordan Sterns, #13, leads the team in tackles. The Frogs’ newly-found power running game will be a great counter to some of OSU’s antics. I like the screen game as well, with short passes short-circuiting the Cowboys’ penchant for jumping routes and playing aggressively in the secondary.
After last year’s loss to OSU, which took the Frogs out of the College Football Playoff picture, TCU should be hyped and ready for this one.
Oklahoma State is off next Saturday. They’ll finish up the season at Oklahoma on December 3. The Frogs head to Austin next Friday to take on Texas (but I bet you knew that!)
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. OSU’s James Washington hails from Stamford, Texas, which also happens to be the hometown of TCU alum and 1971 Masters Champion Charles Coody, who was a standout quarterback for Stamford High School back in the 1950s.
November 17, 2016
Thirty-two years ago today, No. 12 TCU hosted No. 10 Texas in a Southwest Conference showdown. It was a cold, gray and misty November day, and I remember the waterfall of noise in the stadium as I teed up the ball to kick off. You could feel it.
The Frogs trailed at the half, 10-9, before the Horns broke the game open in the second half, winning 44-23. Still, for the Frogs, it was a landmark day representing TCU football’s climb out of a 20-year ditch. The sellout crowd of 47,000-plus was the largest in Amon G. Carter Stadium history. Check out the photo – they even parked cars on the track! Unbeleeevable!
I knew it was a big game when I saw legendary writer and TCU alumnus Dan Jenkins walk by the locker room on his way to Friday’s practice. Dan didn’t live in Fort Worth back then and was usually off somewhere covering some world championship.
We’re about to get into the thick of basketball season. The Frogs play six games in the next 16 days. Your next chance to see Jamie Dixon’s group is Friday night at 6 p.m. when Jacksonville State comes to visit Schollmaier Arena. Trivia question for you: What is the Jacksonville State mascot?
Lady Frogs are off to a hot start. They’re 2-0 after a win over Sam Houston State, 81-37. Stat for you: The Lady Frogs led by six at the half, then outscored SHSU 38-5 in the third quarter! Hello, defense! Next up is SMU on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Schollmaier Arena.
More congrats to the TCU Women’s Soccer team and head coach Eric Bell on the program’s first NCAA tournament berth. Great job by TCU Athletics in hosting the first-round game as well.
Just a reminder for you that Thanksgiving Day is a week from today. Better get shopping.
TCU football student-athlete Caylin Moore has been named a 2016 Rhodes Scholar finalist. The Rhodes Scholarship is one of the oldest and most prestigious scholarships in the world. Only 32 students from the United States are selected each year. Moore, a senior safety, is an economics major with a 3.9 grade-point average.
Frog Football takes on No. 11 Oklahoma State on Saturday morning. OSU’s Mason Rudolph (no relation to the PGA Tour golfer from the 1960s & ’70s) is the hottest quarterback in college football right now, and he’s more accurate with deep throws than short ones. Maybe the cool weather will cool him off. The temperature at kickoff is going to be in the 40s.
More on the Cowboys tomorrow.
More in: football
November 11, 2016
This is a holiday that gets buried in the headlines and bustle of everyday life. That’s a shame. Reach out to a veteran you know and say thanks today. They lay it all on the line. My dad, Joe D. Denton, is a veteran of World War II. He was a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, the forerunner of today’s Air Force. Here he is back in the day. He’s my hero.
When I was growing up in Dallas, the Dallas Morning News always badged their masthead on holidays with an alert: “Fly Your Flag.” For some reason, that practice stopped. Fly your American Flag this weekend to honor all of our veterans.
Good luck to the history-making TCU women’s soccer team. The squad will open action in the program’s first NCAA Tournament tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Garvey-Rosenthal Stadium. The Aggies are coming to visit, and that always makes for a lively atmosphere. Get there early! Hosting a NCAA tournament game is a special thing.
And it’s time for hoops! Basketball season is here – a long, interesting journey that begins now and ends on Monday of Masters Week. In between, there are always a lot of thrilling games, upsets and nail-biters. Trips to faraway places and cold venues, such as Ames, Iowa, in the dead of winter. Or Manhattan, Kan., where the howling wind and near-zero temperatures lashing you on a tarmac while waiting to board a plane will keep you honest. I’m looking forward to all of it, and I’m wishing both the women’s and men’s teams good luck and, most importantly, good health throughout the season. Winning teams are healthy teams.
Lots of big basketball news on campus. The Jamie Dixon era begins tonight at 6 p.m. against St. Thomas. Raegan Pebley (in her third season at TCU – doesn’t seem possible) and the Lady Frogs tip it off against Incarnate Word right after the men finish. It’s a rare double-header at Schollmaier Arena … take it all in. And don’t forget to claim your Jamie Dixon bobblehead.
Enjoy your historic TCU Athletics weekend.
November 9, 2016
Happy day after the election. As the old song “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” by Danny O’Keefe says:
“Some gotta win, some gotta lose …
Good time Charlie’s Got the Blues.”
Regardless of who is president, that person deserves our prayers. Such a gigantic job.
In other news … How about those Frogs?
TCU Women’s Soccer is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Great job by head coach Eric Bell and the entire staff and team. AND they get to host a first-round game! Get out and support them on Saturday when they host the Lady Aggies of Texas A&M at 7 p.m.
The matchup feels like a lucky one. We’ve done well against the Aggies in post-season play lately. #Schloss.
And, yes, the trip to Baylor last Saturday was great, with a few surprises thrown in to make the day almost perfect. The pregame chicken fried steak at George’s was superb, and the game was even better. The Frogs played their most complete game of the year. All three phases of the game dominated the Bears, and Kenny Hill was near-perfect. A healthy duo of Kyle Hicks and KaVontae Turpin made the Frogs unstoppable. Next up: Okie State and a chance to get bowl eligible.
Hey, Basketball Jones! It’s Hoops Season!
More history this weekend at Schollmaier Arena as Jamie Dixon makes his debut as head basketball coach for TCU. The Frogs take on the St. Thomas Celts Friday night at 6 p.m. Get there early; it’s bobblehead night. The Lady Frogs follow the men with a 8:30 p.m. game against Incarnate Word. Good luck to both teams – make it a great year.
Fans, your job is to be loud and “Shake ‘The Scholl!’ ”
More Friday on whatever comes to mind.
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.”
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.
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.