Where football’s offense stands entering conference play

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Pro Wells (81) caught his first two career touchdown passes for TCU against SMU last week. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

After TCU football fell to SMU last week 41-38, a lot of the blame was placed on the offense, offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie in particular.

Down seven with just under four minutes left in the third quarter, Cumbie called for running back Sewo Olonilua to throw a pass on 4th-and-1.  The Mustangs read it perfectly, and Olonilua, who benches 470 pounds, did not even get a throw off.

“For three years, we’ve run two plays out of that formation,” Cumbie said following the game.  “We’ve had that play for a long time, and we practice it a lot; and the one time we call it, they cover it up.”

Now, does that mean Frog fans should give up on any hope of having an effective offense this year? Absolutely not. 

Here are four things to know about the TCU offense heading into Big 12 play.

  1. There is no beef between Cumbie and head coach Gary Patterson, according to Patterson

Since Cumbie joined Patterson’s coaching staff in 2014, he has called plays from the coach’s booth.  This year, Cumbie has been on the sideline for the entirety of TCU’s first three games.

After TCU’s 41-38 loss to SMU, Cumbie addressed the media about the way the offense had performed on Saturday.  As this was the first time for Cumbie to talk to the media postgame in his career at TCU, many saw this as Patterson throwing Cumbie “under the bus.”

Patterson denied any of these claims the following Tuesday.

“I was a little bit disappointed in the articles written that I’d put coach Cumbie under the bus,” Patterson said.  “I never said anything about coach Cumbie. I’ve been here a long time, and, in all those times, I’ve never thrown anyone underneath the bus to be honest with you. So, the key is, ‘Why would you start now?’”

2. Duggan has done well, but we may see other guys in the future

After he started last Saturday for the first time in his young career, it seemed like quarterback Max Duggan would be the Frogs’ quarterback for the foreseeable future.  Then, he completed just one pass for 22 yards in a first half that included bad decisions, overthrows and struggles in the red zone from the young signal caller.

Though Duggan would improve significantly in the second half, finishing 16-for-36 with 188 yards and three touchdowns, his efforts were not enough to finish TCU’s comeback efforts.

With that in mind, Patterson had not ruled out the chance that other guys see time at quarterback on Saturday.  The obvious choice is Alex Delton, who started the first two games of the season for TCU.  The graduate transfer has 124 passing yards on the season.

Behind Delton, Patterson also mentioned that junior Michael Collins could see time on Saturday against the Jayhawks.

“Mike’s [Collins] gotten himself healthy, finally,” Patterson said.  “He understands the offense.  He’s a guy that played last year.”

Collins made four starts in 2018 after starting quarterback Shawn Robinson was benched then suffered a season-ending injury.

3. The Frogs can run the ball, really well

In lieu of the questions at who will play quarterback for TCU, an excellent sign for the Frogs is that they have basically been able to run the ball at will.

Senior Darius Anderson has been off to an explosive start, including back-to-back 150-plus yard games against Purdue and SMU.  The Richmond, Texas, native is headed for career-highs in yards and touchdowns, as he has totaled 368 yards and four touchdowns this season.  He is currently second behind Jalen Hurts in the Big 12 in yards per carry with 9.0.

Anderson is not alone though, as Olonilua tallied 106 yards himself in TCU’s 34-13 win over Purdue.  Olonilua has tallied 163 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown this year in just ten quarters played.

Anderson and Olonilua, paired with the occasional sweep from wide receiver Jalen Reagor (four carries for 40 yards on the season) have been almost unstoppable for TCU this season.  The Frogs have gained 260.7 yards per game on the ground, worth 59% of their total yards, so don’t expect anything different heading into Big 12 action.

4. Reagor has been limited, but the tight ends have gotten involved

After being named to watch lists for five national awards during the offseason, Reagor was expected to be the core of TCU’s offensive attack in 2019.  Through three games, the 2018 All-Big 12 second team receiver has caught just 10 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown.  Though he has been effective when used in the running game and the return game (eight punt returns for 93 yards), Reagor has been largely a non-factor for the Frogs so far this season.

While Reagor has struggled, a very unlikely position has stepped up in Cumbie’s offense—the tight ends.  Though Patterson isn’t known for using tight ends often, he turned to them in crunch time. Sophomore Pro Wells caught two crucial touchdowns to give TCU a chance at a comeback in the contest with the Mustangs.

This was the first time that a TCU tight end had caught two touchdowns in a game since the Frogs’ season opener in 2011.

The blame for Reagor’s slow start doesn’t necessarily fall on him, as he has often been overthrown or missed on his routes.  Regardless, it’s a good sign for TCU that they have gotten other weapons going in the receiving core as they work to get their star wideout the ball more often.

TCU faces Kansas at home in their conference opener before heading on the road to face Iowa State and Kansas State.