The 2021 season hasn’t gone the way TCU football thought it would.
Regardless, the Frogs enter this weekend with two-straight losses to Big 12 opponents with hopes to get back on track, as they head to Manhattan, Kansas to take on the 4-3 Kansas State Wildcats.
TCU hasn’t beat Kansas State since Chris Klieman took over as the Wildcats’ head coach in 2019, losing both games by a touchdown. Last season, TCU forced a punt with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance to tie the game, but they couldn’t find a way to score, resulting in a 21-14 loss.
TCU is 7-7 against Kansas State since the two first played in 1922.
What to expect on Saturday:
The TCU defense has struggled all season, especially in the area of run defense. The Frogs allowed 200-plus rushing yards in each of its last three games, so expect the Wildcats to challenge the Horned Frog front seven early.
Sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn gets the majority of the carries in the Kansas State backfield. Last week, Vaughn had 120 total yards and three touchdowns in a 25-24 win over Texas Tech. He’s currently seventh in the conference with 595 total rushing yards.
Just 52 of Vaughn’s 120 yards last week came on the ground, though, as he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. Klieman credits senior quarterback Skylar Thompson for keeping the offense on track despite a less-than-stellar run game.
“He’s been everything, and we put a lot on Skylar’s plate. There’s going to be games like we had last Saturday where we have to put it in his hands,” said Klieman.
Thompson is back for his sixth start of the season, despite missing a pair of games due to a knee injury on Sept. 11 against Southern Illinois. Last week, Thompson completed 80% of his passes and threw for 296 yards. He has thrown just one interception in the three games since his return on Oct. 2.
The Kansas State defense shut out the Red Raiders in the second half last week in order to give the Wildcats a chance for a comeback. Klieman said limiting explosive plays would be a major key on Saturday against the Horned Frogs.
“The 30- to 40- to 60-yard plays that they get against people, rushing the football with two phenomenal running backs and throwing the ball and getting explosive plays with a wide receiver,” Klieman said of why TCU is effective offensively. “I’m a big Max Duggan fan.”
With all of this in mind, expect to see another close game between TCU and Kansas State. In both games Klieman has coached against the Horned Frogs, his team has come out on top by one possession. The Wildcats and Horned Frogs will fight to control the pace of the game with their running games.
The game also has close ties for Gary Patterson, who grew up in Kansas and finished his playing career with the Wildcats before his coaching career began.
“Kansas State is a fun place to play because of their crowd, the energy and all that kind of stuff. Kansas will always be (home), even though this [Fort Worth] really became my home,” said Patterson.
The Frogs will take on the Wildcats at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30 on ESPNU.