All it took was a fourth down conversion on TCU’s first possession of the season to not only send a message that the game against FCS opponent Duquesne was already over, but also that the Frogs’ offense will be willing to take and capitalize on risks in 2021.
Facing a fourth-and-5 from deep in Duquesne territory, quarterback Max Duggan hit wide receiver Quentin Johnston on a 10-yard pass to move the chains and keep the opening drive alive.
Three plays later, Duggan burst up the middle for an eight-yard touchdown that would start a 35-0 scoring run for the Frogs that would put the Dukes away by halftime.
TCU would go on to win the game 45-3 to start its season on a high note and take victory in a season opener for the 16th time in 21 seasons under head coach Gary Patterson.
Duggan played every snap for TCU in the first half, finishing 14-for-19 with 207 yards and a late touchdown pass to wide receiver JD Spielman to end the first half.
Despite missing a read over the top in the second quarter that led to his first interception of the year, the third-year quarterback looked in control and in sync with his wide receivers for the majority of the game, which is all that you can ask of a starting quarterback in the season opener.
When asked about Duggan’s performance in the postgame press conference, all Patterson had to say was, “We won.”
Ten different receivers caught passes in the contest for the Frogs, with senior Derius Davis leading the way with 57 receiving yards on two catches.
Sophomore Kendre Miller led TCU on the ground, finishing with eight carries for 70 yards and a touchdown.
The Frogs’ first four touchdowns came on the ground, each of which was scored by a different player. Following Duggan’s initial score, senior Emari Demercado punched it in from two yards out to make it 14-0.
Following his two-drive suspension, sophomore Zach Evans got in on the action with a two-yard rushing touchdown on his own, following an interception by cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson.
A score from Miller and Spielman each came for TCU before the end of the first half in what would be the curtain call for the majority of the offensive starters for the rest of the night.
Spielman’s touchdown showed off the speed and agility he has developed over six years of being on a college football roster, and it earned him high praise from his quarterback after the game.
“He [Spielman] makes everyone’s job easy when he has the ball in his hands,” Duggan said.
Feeling the weight of injuries and the scorching Texas sun, Duquesne requested for 12-minute quarters in the second half and a running clock.
Backup quarterbacks Matthew Downing and University of Oklahoma-transfer Chandler Morris both saw action for the Frogs in the last 24 minutes, as TCU primarily ran the ball to juice the clock.
Morris did connect with redshirt freshman Blake Nowell on a 20-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter for both players’ first career touchdown in the purple and white.
Despite the four rushing touchdowns on the night, the Frogs only collected 178 yards on the ground in the game, something Patterson saw as an opportunity to improve going forward.
“The biggest thing I thought of was we still need to run the ball better,” Patterson said. “Which will have to be better going forward. Especially this group next week [California]–they’ll probably be one of the best defenses we play.”
Defensively, the Frogs were strong all night, holding the Dukes to a measly 137 yards of total offense and only six first downs.
Junior Dee Winters and sophomore Jamoi Hodge both looked strong at linebacker in the game, combing for 11 tackles while recording one tackle for loss each.
Things only get tougher from here for TCU, as Pac-12 opponent California comes to town. Kickoff against the Golden Bears is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
“We got to 1-0, and now we have Cal-Berkeley,” Patterson said. “So, here we go.”