Late First Half Surge Leads TCU Past Portland State, 55-13

The TCU Horned Frogs overcame a slow start this afternoon in Fort Worth to cast away the Portland State Vikings, 55-13, thanks to some big plays on both sides of the ball and a key series of events late in the first half.

There’s no other way to put it: for the first 27 minutes of this game, TCU looked terrible. The defense was making Portland State QB Connor Kavanaugh, who threw for fewer than 50 yards last week against Northern Arizona, look like an All-American. The defensive line was giving up runs of six, seven and eight yards with alarming frequency.

On offense, QB Casey Pachall was in the midst of his worst game as the starting QB. He threw an awful interception that killed a promising drive in the second quarter and was not passing with any sort of consistency or accuracy. The Frogs were staring at a potential halftime score of 3-3 against, essentially, a cupcake opponent.

The Frogs needed a spark, something to get the crowd and sideline back into the game. It’s not a stretch to say the game depended on it. Luckily for TCU, they got one from Josh Boyce, hands down the most electrifying playmaker in the state of Texas not named Robert Griffin III.

With a little over two minutes remaining in the first half, Boyce took a quick slant from Pachall 66 yards to the house, and gave the Frogs their first touchdown of the game, along with their first lead. That play awoke the team and fans from their slumber, and helped propel them to two more touchdowns  in the final two minutes. Tank Carder, the linebacker who broke up the two point conversion in the Rose Bowl, intercepted Kavanaugh’s pass and returned it for the first touchdown, extending the lead to 17-3.

After holding the Vikings to a quick three-and-out following the score, WR Skye Dawson returned a punt deep into Portland State territory, and capped it off with a 10-yard strike from Pachall to Skye Dawson. What had looked like a potential upset in the making become a three score game in a span of minutes, all thanks to Boyce.

The Frogs started off the second half much like they ended the first, with a 65-yard scamper from Waymon James, who also had a nice kick return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. By the end of the third quarter, the Frogs had put most of their backups in on offense, and it ended up in a blowout like most expected.

The most important thing to come out of this game was the way the Frogs overcame a terrible start and avoided any thoughts of an upset by the end of the first half. Games like this are a reminder that this is very much a different TCU team than the one we’ve seen over the past few years. It’s full of young, inexperienced yet talented players, a team currently in search of an identity.

Even the best programs in the country have to rebuild when players graduate. Building a BCS team takes time. While it can be frustrating to watch at times, the team has the talent to become an elite level squad. My advice: enjoy the ride (even when you want to pull your hair out).

Notes:

  • Waymon James, even though he’s not the starter, is the most talented running back for the Frogs. He’s got the combination of power and speed that offensive coordinators dream of. His 65-yard TD to open up the second half was most impressive. Both Skye Dawson and Waymon James finished the game with two touchdowns each.
  • After a slow start from the TCU defense, the line finally began to put pressure on Kavanaugh and Portland State. While the secondary for TCU has been bad, the defensive line has to do their part and put more consistent pressure on the quarterback. Too many times the line has allowed teams to have ample time to check their third and sometimes fourth receivers. Getting that pressure will make the job of the secondary much easier.
  • Casey Pachall has become the unquestioned leader of the offense after only four games as a starter. When the team was struggling in the first half, he was trying to encourage teammates, and was paying close attention to the game at hand. He’s got the potential to be just as good, maybe even better, than Andy Dalton.
  • TCU can’t afford to have a slow start like this against SMU, a big rival. The Frogs nearly lost to SMU on the road last season, and the Mustangs always bring their "A" game against TCU. Should be a fun one next Saturday.

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