This week we get to continue our great interview series with opposing bloggers. Melissa B. Triebwasser, one of the managers at Frogs O’ War has stopped by to answer some questions about the Horned Frogs.
T-Mill: TCU had a week off and only played an FCS patsy in week one. Is rust going to be a bit of a concern or is the team going to be more fresh?
As per the norm, the Frogs are dealing with some injuries at key positions, so the early bye week might be a blessing in disguise. Starting corner Julius Lewis missed week one with a minor knee injury, and is likely out. His backup, Tony Wallace, hasn’t been healthy since arriving on campus but is a maybe. The other backup, Noah Daniels, got hurt in camp and is out for the season. Getting Lewis or Wallace would be key, especially against this passing attack. Frog fans are also thankful for the early bye because of how blah the offense looked in week one. Neither transfer Alex Delton or freshman Max Duggan did much to make folks feel like they were THE answer at quarterback, so hopefully an extra week of practice to work through some of the issues helps. Additionally, Gary Patterson has historically been very good after a bye week, and letting him game plan against the Purdue offense with two games worth of film can’t be a bad thing.
T-Mill: The last most people saw TCU was the infamous Cheez-it Bowl. How have the offensive issues from that game been fixed?
Melissa: What do you mean, fixed? That game was beautiful and perfect and you can’t convince me otherwise.
Well, the biggest difference is going to be that we don’t anticipate starting our fourth string quarterback or relying on a guy with drop foot to take sacks. TCU’s injury woes were truly something in 2018 - 40 players missed at least four games and 24 had season-ending injuries over the course of the season. The defense was a shell of itself by November but still managed to put up impressive numbers down the stretch despite playing guys out of position at more every level. From a game planning perspective, though, we don’t know if anything has been actually fixed - we didn’t see anything in week one that makes us think this will be a return to the open, explosive offense of 2014 or even show the creativity we saw early on in our entrance to the Big 12. The Frogs (certainly on purpose) showed us the most vanilla offense against UAPB, and we don’t know if there is a scoop of something fun to go with that yet or not.
T-Mill: The Horned Frogs are known for a strong defense. How do they match up with a Purdue team that has lacked any sort of rushing attack, but has Rondale Moore?
Melissa: This defense is FUN. The secondary is bigger than we have seen at TCU probably ever, the speed is truly special, and the size on the line is something to behold. The Frogs have 3-4 pros on that side of the ball; cornerback Jeff Gladney is a preseason All American pick by some publications, safety Innis Gaines (who will draw a lot of time matched up with Moore) is one of those guys who will try to knock your head off one play and then smile and help you up the next, and the interior defense line features man-child Ross Blacklock, 300+ pounds of beef that can slam dunk a basketball and clocks a 4.7 40. The lack of a run game helps the Frogs the most at linebacker, where neither player is particularly big, and both were safeties last season. Garret Wallow is the leader of the team and plays with a recklessness that can sometimes come back to bite him when he goes for the big hit, and LaKendrick Van Zandt went from safety to linebacker two weeks before opening day and started week one. Both are very very fast and should be able to bother Moore a little on shorter routes. Patterson loves to try and take away one thing from an opponent - you can’t really stop Moore, so watch for the Frogs to throw some exotic blitzes (trusting their secondary to hold up) and to make sure the run game doesn’t get rolling in week three.
It’s not infallible, and Patterson’s 4-2-5 has famously been known to give up big plays, so Purdue will be able to move the ball between the 20s. The key will be can the Frogs lock down the red zone and force a turnover or two along the way.
T-Mill: Purdue had an absolute collapse in the opener against Nevada. TCU lost to Kansas last year. Which is worse?
Melissa: Losing to Kansas is ALWAYS worse, but, last year was such a strange trip that it kind of fit with the narrative.
T-Mill: It wasn’t that long ago that TCU was a consistent top 5 team, but has leveled off. What has happened?
Melissa: I mean, I wouldn’t say that things have leveled off - the Frogs have won at least ten games in three of the past five years and have made, and won, a bowl in four of five. TCU has finished in the top five twice in GP’s 20 year tenure - both in the last decade, but has finished in the top 25 just three times since joining the Big 12 in 2012. Injuries have played a part in that - it seems, each season, TCU is hit with a handful of marquee losses before the season begins, but inconsistent quarterback play can also be blamed. Trevone Boykin was a generational talent, and while Kenny Hill was better than most fans give him credit for, they have yet to recapture the lighting in a bottle that was 2014-2015 under Boykin.
I think fans want to see a return to the explosive, creative offense that defined the best time period of the Power Five run, but that has been lacking the last three seasons and game one of this one. The defense has almost always been elite - it’s time for the offense to catch back up.
T-Mill: Do you see a low scoring game on Saturday night or more of a shootout?
Melissa: I see this as a lower scoring affair - Moore is going to get in the end zone at least once, but I think the defense does it’s job for the most part and keeps this thing in the high teens, low 20s. Nothing I have seen gives me confident that the Frogs can match shot for shot in a shootout, so I am hopeful that the offense doesn’t turn it over, Jalen Reagor (TCU’s under-appreciated wideout) shows up big, and the run game gets rolling. We just haven’t seen a lot, so it’s hard to say what we have.