The Horned Frogs went back to their roots against Arkansas in Fayetteville Saturday by playing stifling defense, dominating the time of possession through their run game and limiting their mistakes en route to a 28-7 win.
“Our defense definitely didn’t give anything,” TCU quarterback Kenny Hill said. “That’s what you want, to play physical like that and get a win.”
The TCU defense limited Arkansas to 267 yards after giving up only 65 yards in the season opener against Jackson State.
The Horned Frogs held on to the ball, 33:52 to 26:08. The Razorbacks were only able to extend drives on four of their 14 third downs.
“That’s the only way you can beat a team like this,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “You have to play good on first down and on third down. A lot of that has to do with us rotating four or five linebackers, eight or nine defensive linemen, three corners, and a couple safeties.”
That’s the kind of depth TCU lacked in its 41-38 double overtime loss to Arkansas in Fort Worth a year ago. Junior defensive end Ben Banogu, a transfer from University of Louisiana Monroe, shined with eight tackles. He set the tone for the game with a strip-sack of Razorback quarterback Austin Allen on Arkansas’ opening possession.
“I had watched film on 62 [right tackle Johnny Gibson] and saw how he was setting up to pass-block,” Bangou said. “So I told my teammates that if I get a chance, I’m going to get my hands on the ball and you have to find it. I didn’t know it was going to come that early, but I think our defense was feeding off it.”
Patterson was creative with his d-line rotation – there were always fresh bodies on the field.”The addition of Ben [Banogu] allowed Ty Summers and LJ to rest, Boesen as well,” Patterson said. “It really makes a difference when you have four guys who can go play that you can rotate.”
The Horned Frogs established their running game with the opening possession.
The first score of the game came with Hill on the sidelines. Per NCAA rule he had to sit out a play after his helmet popped off. Backup quarterback Shawn Robinson took a turn and lined up as a wide receiver toward the left sideline, while running back Sewo Olonilua lined up as the quarterback in the wildcat formation. Instead of a time out, Olonilua plunged into the end zone to put TCU on top, 7-0. The scoring drive traveled 45 yards in eight plays, taking 2:42 off the clock.
“That’s been something we’ve been doing since the spring, that wasn’t just an Arkansas thing, that’s an everyday thing,” Patterson said. “In the offseason we had to get back to being physical, and I thought we started that direction on offense.”
The Razorbacks responded with their only scoring drive. They went 75 yards in six plays. They finished with 267 total yards, only adding 10 to that total in the second quarter.
“They did a good job on Arkansas’ screen game and plat-action crossing game, and we worked on it, but finally we stopped the tight end screen,” Patterson said.
After the Razorbacks totaled 236 rushing yards in Week one against Florida A&M, the Horned Frogs limited them to 130 yards on the ground Saturday.
“When you stop the run, the pass rush gets you off the field,” Banogu said. “We stopped their game plan on how to beat us, so that opened up lanes for me and the rest of my teammates.”
Another element that kept the defense on the field was the Horned Frog’s bruising running game. Sophomore running back Darius Anderson ran for a career-high 106 yards and a touchdown, Olonilua ran for two touchdowns and 14 yards on his two carries and Kyle Hicks contributed 45 yards and a touchdown.
“Whenever they’re able to run the ball and chew up the clock, it means that the opposing defense is out on the field longer and that gives us more time to rest,” Banogu said. “It gives us as a defense more time to catch our breath and play at a higher level when we’re on the field.”
The running game also made Hill a better player, as he completed 21 of his 31 passes for 166 yards, in addition to chipping in 41 yards on 11 carries. The production from the running backs meant Hill didn’t need to put up gaudy numbers, he just had to take care of the ball.
“You see the way those guys were running today, it’s a quarterback’s best friend, being able to hand it off with the o-line stepping up big time,” Hill said.
Hill would have had an even better stat line had it not been for two drops, including one by freshman Jalen Reagor in the end zone and interception, as well as a botched snap from center Patrick Morris, but Hill said that’s just something the offense has to tighten up going forward.
“It felt like in some big situation we would hit the big plays, but in other spots we didn’t,” Hill said. “I want to be consistent and hit them all, all of those third downs.”
Hill and the offense converted 10 of their 14 third downs into first downs.
With the game tied at seven back in the first quarter, the TCU quarterback made his one big mistake. Hill became ambitious and attempted the hit wide receiver KaVontae Turpin over the middle through triple coverage. The ball was bobbled momentarily by Turpin and then snatched out of the air by Arkansas defensive back Santos Ramirez. Other than that play, Hill managed the game well, allowing the running backs to dictate the tempo.
“I’m pretty upset about that pick though, it just came out of my hand bad,” Hill said. “It just came out wrong but the defensive back made a great play on it. Overall I think we did pretty good today, but we still have a long way to go.”
Both Hill and his head coach were pumping the brakes on the excitement over a road win against an SEC team because it’s still just one game.
Patterson repeatedly brought up the 2005 season as a reason for TCU not to get ahead of itself. Twelve years ago, the Horned Frogs upset Oklahoma, but proceeded to drop its game the following week against SMU. Now, TCU faces SMU next week after a triumphant win in Fayetteville.
“Any game on the road, if you can get a win, you’re going to be pretty excited about that,” Hill said. “It was a nice little celebration, but it wasn’t anything too crazy. We know we’ve got a lot ahead of us.”
Patterson said that he “couldn’t wait to get on the bus and watch SMU.”
The Horned Frogs return to action at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at Amon G. Carter Stadium against the Mustangs.