Before I head down to Fort Worth for the game this weekend, I asked Melissa Triebwasser from Frogs O’ War to give us the scoop on the Horned Frogs for this weekend’s matchup.
1. Shawn Robinson played well in the Frogs’ first two games, but has struggled a bit in the last two. Texas runs a similar to scheme to Iowa State, so do Robinson’s struggles vs. Texas concern you heading into a matchup against a similar, but arguably more polished defense?
Concerned? Absolutely. The TCU offense has been shades of 2016, which was an ugly version of the Air Raid that has brought the Frogs so much success. Not only is Shawn Robinson completing a lower percentage of his passes than Kenny Hill did that year, he’s also turning it over at a higher rate. It’s absolutely concerning.
That being said, Robinson has five career starts under his belt - four on the road, three in insane weather conditions, and two against ranked opponents. For a true sophomore - who Gary Patterson likens to a redshirt freshman developmentally - he has truly seen it all. Campbell is a smart guy, so he will likely drop an extra man into coverage, lay off the blitzes, and dare Shawn Robinson to beat him with his arm. With how anemic the rush offense looked against Texas, it’s a strategy that will probably work. I think that sets them apart overall, though Saturday night could be a “first team to 20 wins!” kind of night, and the Frogs have given opponents at least 14 free points in back to back weeks... so... yeah, concerned.
2. Everyone and their grandma knows about KaVontae Turpin, Darius Anderson, and Jalen Reagor, but what other players on offense do Cyclone fans need to keep an eye on this Saturday?
Well, Darius Anderson no-showed last week. He only had eight carries and didn’t do much with them. I am not sure if he’s hurt or in the doghouse or what, but if he doesn’t return to form, the TCU run game is in trouble. Other guys to watch are Taye Barber, who is a jack of all trades in the KaVontae Turpin mold, Sewo Olonilua, a 6’3”, 250 pound RB with soft feet and a tendency to seek out contact, and Jaelan Austin, a really solid possession receiver who Robinson seems to have a comfort level with.
3. TCU’s offense has been explosive, per usual, but the defense has been up and down. What were Ohio State and Texas able to exploit against the typically-stout Frogs defense?
Well, I would somewhat disagree with that assertion and argue that it is as much the offense that has struggled in the last two games (and the first half of SMU), putting the defense in bad positions. The 7 turnovers in the last two games haven’t helped, either. That being said, TCU hasn’t forced a turnover since game two, and they have given up at least one 50 yard play in each of their first four contests. Young players at key positions (especially linebacker) has led to a lot of missed tackles, and without Ross Blacklock in the middle of the defensive line, there’s less of an ability to clog the run. Ben Banogu has received a lot of extra attention, and no one has really risen up opposite him to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. With LJ Collier’s return though, it seems the defensive line is starting to find a rhythm, and
4. Who are the primary playmakers Cyclone fans need to look out for on the TCU defense?
Ben Banogu is the guy for TCU - a rush end who is likely going to be playing on Sundays this time next year. He has been relatively quiet this season statistically, but has opened things up for other guys - namely Corey Bethley at DT and LJ Collier, who recently returned to the lineup as the end opposite Big Ben. Ty Summers is a guy who has seemingly been around forever and is on pace to break Travin Howard’s tackles record, while sophomore linebacker Garret Wallow and safety Innis Gaines have some serious thump ability. Niko Small, a senior safety who operates like a coach in the secondary, could miss this game due to injury, and would be a significant loss to the secondary.
5. Last year, David Montgomery lived up to expectation, and was able to gain solid yardage through his usual plethora of broken tackles. What do you anticipate Gary Patterson dialing up on defense to slow him down?
It all starts with the line. If the front four can maintain gap integrity and the linebackers and safeties can make tackles, then the Frogs’ should be able to keep Iowa State between the 20s. But, tackling has been, well, a problem, in 2018, and when you have a guy like Montgomery who is exceptional at slipping through defender’s grasps, it makes for a long night. I think that if Banogu, Collier, and Bethley can get penetration and make contact at or before the line of scrimmage, the rest of the D does a good job of swarming the ball. He will get his yards - but hopefully the Frogs can limit the big play and keep him from moving the chains on third down.
6. If TCU wins on Saturday, what will you be writing about on Sunday? Same question for Iowa State.
Turnovers. On both parts. This game will be a story of who has the football and who is giving it away. If the Frogs win, we will be telling everyone how Shawn Robinson learned from his mistakes the past two games and protected the football like his life, and TCU’s season, depended on it.
If TCU loses... we will be reminding people that he has six career starts and only two have been at home and he has plenty of time to figure it out.
7. Prediction time. Who do ya got?
I am now firmly in the camp where I have no idea what this team will do week to week. They have enough talent to beat Oklahoma but are just as likely to lose to Baylor (oh god why did I even put that in writing). Playing at home for the first time in 28 days, at night, with a crowd that will (hopefully) be behind them - it’s not supposed to be 100 degrees after all - I think the Frogs get a win they so desperately need. Since I fully expect this to be an ugly grind it out game, we are probably in for a Texas Tech-level shootout, but give me TCU 21-17.
8. Who’s shotgunning a beer with me on Saturday?
Not only will I gladly volunteer Jamie to do all the shot-gunning with you, he will also be paying off a bet from last year that requires him to eat a death chip. So, you are in for a show, my friend.