Image of Zach Evans on field
Zach Evans looks off to the sideline during the TCU vs. Texas game Oct. 2, 2021.
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Gary Patterson and Sonny Cumbie will meet on opposite sidelines for the first time this Saturday when TCU football takes on Texas Tech in its first road game of the season.

The Horned Frogs have lost two consecutive games to SMU and Texas and will be looking to get back on track against the 4-1 Red Raiders.

Texas Tech proved their worth with a quality 23-20 road win over West Virginia last week and will certainly give the struggling Frogs a run for their money.

After spending seven seasons together (2014-2020), one can expect the defensive-minded Patterson and offensive play-caller Cumbie to be a back-and-forth battle. With or without Cumbie on the Horned Frogs’ coaching staff, if history repeats itself, the odds are in TCU’s favor.

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TCU has won five of the last seven matchups against Texas Tech including three consecutive wins at Jones AT&T Stadium; 55-52 in 2015, 27-3 in 2017 and 33-31 most recently in 2019.

The last time these teams faced off, TCU came away with a 34-18 win in Fort Worth behind a career-high 154 rushing yards from quarterback Max Duggan. 

Although Duggan will still be a vital part of the Horned Frog’s offense this Saturday, Zach Evans has solidified himself as the heart and soul of their run game.

In TCU’s last three games, the former 5-star recruit has tallied a team-best 533 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Evans is also averaging an outstanding 7.7 yard per carry this season, good enough for fifth best in the country.

Although Evans is producing numbers, Head Coach Gary Patterson has received scrutiny for the small workload Evans has received this season, averaging just 14.25 carries per game.

“I would never do 35 carries a game like they did with the guy at Texas if you want to make it through four years,” said Patterson. “At the end of the day, it’s about winning ballgames and keeping Zach Evans healthy for not only the 12 games this year but the 12 games next year as a junior.”

The Red Raiders may not have a fellow 5-star recruit on the field to combat Evans, but there will be plenty of familiar faces from the 2020 matchup including quarterback Henry Colombi.

Colombi, who passed for 1,065 yards, 8 TDs and 4 INTs in four starts for Tech a year ago, was downgraded to second string during the offseason as the Red Raiders brought in a highly touted transfer, Tyler Shough.

Shough is a 6-foot-5, 225-pound Oregon transfer that has NFL draft potential, but the Raiders will be without his talents until at least November due to a broken collar bone, according to CBS Sports. 

Regardless of who is under center for Texas Tech, the Horned Frogs defense is a tough matchup for anyone; although, the Frogs’ defensive unit has had its ups and downs this year.

Excluding the week one matchup with FCS opponent Duquesne, TCU’s defense has given up 35.3 points per game. A lot of misfortune can be attributed to injuries from key players.

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Corey Bethley, George Ellis III, Soni Misi, Khari Coleman, Noah Daniels and Bud Clark have all missed significant time this season, but Patterson said they could be getting some key guys back for the Texas Tech game.

“We are going to get better as we get more guys back. The biggest thing is we need to stay healthy. We knew all these games were going to be emotional, and they are physical, so [it’s about] how do you manage to keep the people you need to keep on the field,” said Patterson.

With the Frogs’ defense fully equipped or not, Texas Tech’s offense is no walk in the park. The Red Raiders have the seventh-most yards per play in the country (6.9) and the 12th ranked passing offense, averaging 324.0 passing yards per game.

On the other side of the ball, Texas Tech has had some early-season struggles as well. The Red Raiders are allowing an average of nearly 400 yards per game to their opponents and have had a difficult time stopping teams in the red zone. Opponents are scoring a touchdown on 93.33% of red-zone trips against Texas Tech.

Texas Tech players to watch include Erik Ezukanma, Tahj Brooks, Xavier White and SaRodorick Thompson. Ezukanma leads the Red Raiders in receiving yards with 406 and one touchdown on the season, while the rest make up a three-headed backfield.

Each running back — Brooks, White and Thompson — has surpassed the 100-yard mark this season and has split the carries evenly. Each back has around 30 carries and Tech will rotate them throughout the game, so the Frogs’ defense will have to stay on their toes.

TCU will have to bring their A-game on both sides of the ball if they want to bring home the Saddle Trophy for the fourth time since the rivalry was renewed in 2017.

The Battle for the Saddle Trophy takes place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9, at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

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Ryan Bunnell is a senior sports broadcasting and journalism double major from Kennedale, Texas. When he isn't writing, Ryan enjoys watching and debating all things sports, podcasting, and eating way too much Whataburger.