Football lacks depth headed into Saturday’s must-win game

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Jalen Reagor celebrates a touchdown as he runs into the end zone. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

It’s been five seasons since TCU Football has finished a season without being bowl eligible. In head coach Gary Patterson’s 20 years in Fort Worth, the team has missed a bowl just twice.

That streak is on the line this Saturday as the 5-6 TCU Football team faces a surging Oklahoma State squad.

The team will be without quarterback Michael Collins, who is out after suffering a right leg injury during the Frogs’ 16-9 win over Baylor last week.

Grayson Muelhstein, a fifth-year senior and graduate student, will take the helm for the team on Saturday. Filling in for Collins last week, Muelhstein went 11-15 with 137 yards and a touchdown.

“He has to be the guy where he has to be in the middle of it,” said Patterson. “It’s always different being the backup than it is being the guy.”

Grayson Muehlstein will start at quarterback on Saturday for the first time in his five-year TCU career. Photo by Jack Wallace.

Although this will be Muehlstein’s first start in his five years at TCU, linebacker Ty Summers says he has been working like he’s the starter for years.

“The biggest thing that impresses me about him is his consistency despite the time that he hasn’t been in,” said Summers. “I knew if he had a chance, he would be able to help us.”

Quarterback isn’t the only limited position on offense for TCU. Emari Demercado is the last running back on scholarship with Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua out with injuries, as well.

Against Baylor, Demercado had career-bests in carries (15) and rushing yards (60).

“I had to be ready for the situation because anything can happen at any time,” said Demercado. “It just felt good to go out there and produce and do what I do.”

On offense, Muehlstein will need to rely on what weapons he has left, primarily wide receiver Jalen Reagor. With 60 receptions for 930 yards, Reagor has accounted for 29.8 percent of TCU’s receptions this season. He is also on a streak of six-straight games with a receiving touchdown.

Along with the production of Reagor, it will take TCU’s best defensive effort of the year to stop a Cowboys squad that ranks ninth in the FBS with 520 yards per game and 14th with 39.7 points per game.

“Offensively, they’re very explosive, like they always are,” said Patterson. “So, let’s get ready to play.”

Running the show for the Cowboys’ electric offense is quarterback Taylor Cornelius. The fifth-year senior ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 3,461 passing yards on the season. He’s also coming off a week in which he became the third player in Big 12 history to have 300 yards passing, 100 yards rushing, and five passing touchdowns in a single game.

“I think he’s a competitor,” said Patterson. “He’s stayed at OSU and been a guy you’d want to do anything for because he’s always been there for them.”

Alongside Cornelius is Tylan Wallace, who is a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation’s best wide receiver. Wallace has been one of the most explosive receivers this season, ranking third in the FBS with 1,344 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns.

TCU’s top-ranked defense in the Big 12 will need to continue to play well defensively to support their offense, which ranks 97th in the FBS. The Horned Frogs have allowed 204.5 passing yards per game this season.

Despite five defensive players out with injury, the Horned Frogs must force Cornelius into quick decisions, relying on senior defensive ends LJ Collier and Ben Banogu to get this done. Collier led the FBS in quarterback pressures a week ago against Baylor, while Banogu had a career-high 10 tackles (four for a loss) and won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.

Defensive end Ben Banogu had a career-high 10 tackles Saturday and was later awarded Big 12 defensive player of the week. Photo by Jack Wallace.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday in Fort Worth.