Freshman Duggan shines as football wins season opener

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Max Duggan (15) celebrates the first touchdown of his career in the first quarter versus UAPB. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

Nothing was normal in TCU’s season opener.  Two quarterbacks played pretty equal time, Jalen Reagor could not hold on to the ball and almost half of TCU’s drives ended in field goals.

In the end, all that matters, at least to head coach Gary Patterson, is that TCU won 39-7, starting the season 1-0.

“I can sit here and complain, but the bottom line is we didn’t really lose anybody, we won a ball game, we know what we gotta work on, we got an off week, so here we go,” Patterson said.

As it has been for the past two seasons, the biggest thing to watch for coming into the game was what quarterback the Horned Frogs would select.  Though graduate transfer Alex Delton was the initial signal-caller to step onto the field, it was true freshman Max Duggan that shined brightest under the new and impressive lights of the Carter.

“To be honest, the only time I know Max is a true freshman is when y’all guys tell me,” wide receiver Tre’Vontae Hights said.  “On the field, he plays like a junior or senior.”

Delton’s opening drive started with three consecutive completions as he marched the Horned Frogs all the way down to the Lions’ six-yard line.  Two-straight incompletions followed though, leading to TCU having to settle for a field goal. 

Alex Delton started for TCU in the contest, finishing with 119 passing yards. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

It looked like TCU was going to find the end zone for the first time on their second drive, as Delton connected with Hights in stride on a bomb.  Hights then fumbled the ball after being wrapped up at the UAPB 5-yard line, giving the ball back to the Lions.

Then, it was Duggan’s time.  Patterson had said on the Tuesday prior to the game that Duggan would enter for the “third or fourth series.”

Duggan’s first drive wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty close. He orchestrated an 11-play, 58-yard drive that was capped off by his one-yard touchdown run, putting TCU up 10-0.

The young signal caller had gone 4-for-5 with 42 yards on the drive.

TCU would be forced to punt on the next two possessions (the first by Duggan and the second by Delton).  Though they led, they were still struggling to find rhythm offensively while facing a team that gave up 475 yard and 43.2 points per game last season against FCS opponents.

Late in the half, the Lions put together a strong drive in an effort to put points on the board for the first time. Once again, the TCU defense stood strong and stoped the Lions in their tracks.  UAPB quarterback Shannon Patrick’s shot at the endzone was read perfectly by safety Trevon Moehrig, who made the play of the game and took the interception 58 yards to set up the offense at the Lions’ 36-yard line.

TCU failed to capitalize again though, and they settled for another field goal as the half ended.  This was the second of four-straight drives, dating from 3:40 left in the second quarter to 8:40 left in the third quarter, in which the Horned Frogs went into or near the red zone and were forced to settle for a field goal.

Kicker Jonathan Song finished 5-for-5 on field goals for the day, the most by a TCU kicker since Jaden Oberkrom went 6-for-6 in 2012 against Texas Tech.

“It’s huge,” Song said about his perfect field goal percentage, “After you get that first one under your belt, you feel good.  You feel confident.”

After being on the bench for seven-straight drives, Duggan finally returned and brought the Frogs out of their stale offensive spell.  His 37-yard strike to Reagor with 1:18 in the third quarter gave him TCU’s first passing touchdown of the season.

The play was also much-needed for Reagor, who had recorded three drops and two muffed punts to that point.  

His touchdown was the 18th of his career, giving him sole possession of third on TCU’s all-time list.  He needs 11 more to catch the leader, Josh Doctson, who finished his time as a Horned Frog with 29.

Receiver Jalen Reagor scored his 18th career TD, good for third on TCU’s all-time list. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

Duggan and company cruised from there, as the 2018 Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year would go on to lead two more scoring drives to put the Lions away for good. 

First-year running back Darwin Barlow saw action on TCU’s final drive, using eight carries to gain 45 yards and a touchdown.  Patterson said after the game that Barlow dedicated the score to his former coach at Newton High School, W.T. Johnson, who passed away in May.

“I thought it was a cool thing that Barlow actually scored the touchdown for his coach from Newton,” Patterson said.  “He’s a good player.”

Duggan finished 16-for-23 with 165 yards, and two touchdowns.  Delton had finished 10-for-22 with 119 yards.  Neither quarterback threw an interception.

While Reagor had caught the lone receiving touchdown, it was Hights who led the game in receiving with eight catches for 108 yards.

Graduate student Tre’Vontae Hights led the game with 108 yards receiving. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

“Just patience, man, doing my part, waiting my time, making sure I’m in the right position,” Hights said about preparing for his moment.  “I did the best that I could do.”

Hights entered the game with just six catches on his career.

On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Garret Wallow finished with 13 tackles, including eight for a loss.  Both of those totals are career highs for the junior, who also added a sack.

The Horned Frogs will get a bye next week before returning to action at Purdue on Sept. 14.  Patterson is hoping that wide receiver Taye Barber, TCU’s second-leading receiver in 2018, will be healthy and ready to play the Boilermakers. 

“All we need to do is find a way to get better that we can be one point better than Purdue,”  Patterson said.

Kickoff in West Lafayette, Indiana, is set for 6:30 p.m.