Know Your Opponent: The TCU Horned Frogs

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(Graphic by Marshall Sunner | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State has another opportunity to reach bowl eligibility this week when TCU (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) comes to Manhattan for Homecoming on Saturday.

TCU has struggled out of the gate in Big 12 play and still has some tough match-ups to go after a visit to Manhattan. The Horned Frogs’ schedule boasts wins against a pair of power 5 opponents in California and Texas Tech and losses to SMU, Texas, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Head coach Gary Patterson, a former Wildcat defensive back and Rozel, Kansas, native, is in his 22nd season at the helm and has guided the Horned Frogs from the WAC, to Conference USA, to the Mountain West and finally to the Big 12.

OFFENSE

Offensive coordinator Doug Meacham was brought in during the offseason to replace Sonnie Cumbie, who moved across the state to Texas Tech and is now the interim head coach for the Red Raiders.

Meacham should be familiar to K-State fans — he was the offensive coordinator under David Beaty in Lawrence for two seasons before being fired by Beaty. He also spent time under Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State as a position coach.

The Horned Frogs run a fairly generic version of the spread/air raid offense that has been prevalent in the Big 12 behind junior quarterback Max Duggan, who K-State head coach Chris Klieman is very complimentary of.

Duggan fits in the middle-tier of Big 12 quarterbacks. He’s a good runner and an accurate thrower with a 64.5 completion percentage this year. He has only thrown four interceptions this year and is not going to make a ton of mistakes. However, he also is not going to go out and win a ton of games.

The Horned Frog offense is in its best shape when Duggan can take a back seat to the run game. Their best offensive performance featured only 10 pass attempts from Duggan while attempting 47 rushes in a 52-point outburst against Texas Tech.

DEFENSE

Patterson is a defensive-minded coach known for his 4-2-5 defense that puts an interesting spin on the new wave of five-defensive back defenses in the Big 12 recently. Patterson’s teams have been base-nickel for a long time.

That four-man front represents a different challenge for Big 12 offensive lines used to the more prevalent three-man fronts.

Running back Deuce Vaughn said that the four-man front changes the reads on zone blocking schemes and changes the way that the team accounts for the safeties when blocking for run plays.

“I would say it’s tougher to run on the three-down because the three-down — the 3-3-5 — is a defense made to limit explosive plays,” Vaughn said at weekly media availability. “You can get a jack safety in the box quite a bit more — almost a seventh guy in the box.”

The stats seem to back that up. Teams are running for 212.7 yards per game and 5.4 yards per attempt on TCU this season, ninth in the Big 12.

That extra safety also hasn’t helped them in the passing game. The Horned Frogs give up the third-most pass yards in the league, with 238.4 yards per game.

KEY MATCH-UPS:

Get off the field:

K-State did a great job getting the Texas Tech offense off the field on third down, but TCU will be another major test for the Wildcat defense. They convert third downs at a league-leading 52.2 percent clip.

To win, K-State will once again need to control the ball by getting TCU into third and long situations and forcing punts.

Mistake-free football:

The Wildcats are actually middle of the pack in the Big 12 when it comes to penalty yards per game. The problem is, K-State seems to commit penalties at precisely the wrong time. The Wildcats couldn’t get out of their own way this past week. They also turn the ball over too much, especially in big moments.

Frankly, K-State has spotted its opponent a lot of momentum and even early points too often this season because of untimely turnovers. The Wildcats overcame it against the Red Raiders, but it would be a lot easier if they didn’t start the game down multiple scores.

More Skylar:

Quarterback Skylar Thompson has been on a tear since returning from injury. He’s more patient in the pocket, smarter with the ball and does a good job of finding late-progression check downs to athletes in space.

He’s coming off an 80 percent completion percentage game in which the coaching staff put the game in his hands when Texas Tech sold out to stop the run. Thompson showed he can win a game with his arm, and K-State will need a repeat performance this week.

PREDICTION:

K-State punches TCU in the mouth out of the gate, but costly mistakes let the Horned Frogs hang around a little too long. Thompson, Vaughn and Joe Ervin manage to keep the Wildcats above water in the end. K-State wins 32-28.

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Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.