After defying odds and defeating No. 9 Texas in Austin on Saturday, TCU football feels like they made a statement.
“It gave us a lot of confidence, because Texas is a very good football team,” cornerback Noah Daniels said. “Now, we know what we need to get better on [and] continue to work on for Kansas State. [We] showed that we can compete with anybody.”
TCU entered the contest as 10.5-point underdogs, despite the fact that the Horned Frogs have now beaten the Longhorns in seven of their nine matchups since TCU joined the Big 12.
The game was part of a wild day in the Big 12, as Texas, No. 18 Oklahoma and Baylor each lost to underdog opponents.
The turmoil makes every win key for TCU. Though they have momentum, the Frogs know they cannot take their foot off the gas, especially with Kansas State traveling to Fort Worth this Saturday coming off of a 31-21 win over Texas Tech.
“They’ve [Kansas State] had two big wins the last two weekends, so you got to get ready to play,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “We have to keep getting better every week; we got to be better than we were last week.”
With that in mind, here are three things TCU will need to do to beat Kansas State this weekend.
1. Stop Deuce Vaughn
After playing two games, TCU ranks ninth in the Big 12 in rush defense. Iowa State’s Breece Hall exploded for 155 yards, scoring three touchdowns against the Frogs. Texas had three different rushers claim more than 40 yards last Saturday.
The Frogs have given up an average of 182 yards rushing per game. This needs to change if they want to beat the Wildcats this weekend.
Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn has been highly productive, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and scoring three times on the ground. The freshman from Round Rock, Texas, has rushed for 205 yards this season, more than half of which came last week against Texas Tech.
Vaughn’s 234 receiving yards also put him second in the conference. Against Oklahoma, the 5’5″, 168-pound back showed off his explosiveness, catching four passes for 129 yards.
Hal and Texas running back Keaontay Ingram have already exposed the Frogs with big plays this season (four plays of 20-plus yards between the two), so TCU will need to sharpen up before they face Vaughn Saturday.
“Well for me I’ve got to do a better job in the box,” Patterson said. “In the run plays, I’ve got to give them more help as far as leverages. Hopefully, we’ll do a better job of that this week in fixing some of those things.”
2. Get to the quarterback
TCU’s secondary has been excellent this season. After holding Brock Purdy to just 211 yards passing in their season opener, TCU allowed Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger to collect just 236 yards through the air, well under his previous season average of 344 passing yards per game.
In that game against Ehlinger, cornerbacks Noah Daniels and Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson allowed just three catches for 23 yards.
But TCU’s defensive line has struggled. The Frogs have just two sacks on the year, both against Iowa State. In the win over Texas, strong play by the secondary or penalties by the Longhorns (12 penalties for 92 yards) bailed out a weak effort by TCU to get to the quarterback.
Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson has passed for 626 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The senior has also added three scores on the ground.
“He’s a good player,” Patterson said. “You can tell he’s a good leader and he fights through things, which you like in your quarterback.”
Thompson left the Wildcats’ win over the Red Raiders last Saturday early because of an injury, but it didn’t hinder Kansas State’s success. Backup Will Howard threw for 173 yards and a touchdown.
Wildcats’ head coach Chris Klieman said Tuesday that Thompson has a “real chance to play” on Saturday. Regardless, the Frogs will need to put pressure on whoever is under center for Kansas State to back up their secondary.
3. Protect Max Duggan
TCU quarterback Max Duggan reminded everyone Saturday why he was tapped for starter as a true freshman. Duggan threw for 231 yards and no interceptions while rushing for a game-high 79 yards and two scores.
The sophomore’s performance earned him a spot on the Davey O’Brien Great 8 list on Monday, surrounding him with national buzz from the media.
To ensure that Duggan both has time to throw and stays healthy for the remainder of the season, the TCU offensive line will need to do a better job of protecting him in the pocket.
Though the line looked leaps and bounds better against Texas (just one sack allowed) than they did against Iowa State (six sacks allowed), Duggan was still hurried or rushed too many times against the Longhorns.
“We’re physical in the run game but we still have a ways to go pass wise,” Patterson said of his offensive line. “Max [Duggan] is still taking too many hits.”
Texas totaled five quarterback hurries last weekend; one forced a fumble that gave the Longhorns the ball deep in Horned Frog territory.
While Duggan has proved to be effective with his legs, TCU will want to keep those situations primarily to when it is part of the intended offensive scheme. Protecting the sophomore will give him more time to put the ball where he wants it and shred a Kansas State secondary that ranks ninth in the Big 12 in passing defense.
TCU will take on Kansas State this Saturday, Oct. 10, at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.