Win or lose the mood on Sunday mornings is one of analysis and examination in order to best review the previous performance with the players to endorse and emphasize the positive and encourage it to be repeated and explain and correct the negative in order to eliminate it and put players on the path to better making plays.
As Glenn Spencer watches the video from Saturday's 42-9 loss to TCU he will realize -- as he did watching live during the game from the sidelines in Amon Carter Stadium -- that a fear of his was realized.
For the third game in a row cornerback Ashton Lampkin was sidelined. He suited up but was unable to play. Larry Stephens had a relapse on his injury and the senior safety did not make the trip to Fort Worth. That meant that again a youthful trio of freshman cornerback Ramon Richards, strong safety and redshirt freshman Tre Flowers, and sophomore strong safety Jordan Sterns would be on the field for a lot of snaps, most of the snaps, okay all of the relevant snaps on defense.
Iowa State and Kansas were not able to take advantage of the inexperience of those three, but TCU had more than enough firepower to do so.
The warm up came on TCU's short scoring drive, after the sudden change after Cowboys quarterback Daxx Garman missed a peaking cornerback (see offensive analysis) and was intercepted just inside the 50 on the Cowboys side. Talented TCU running back B.J. Catalon used a huge hole where Sterns was sealed on one side of it to scoot into the middle of the OSU defense. Ramon Richards missed a tackle opportunity and also partially helped to take out safety Tre Flowers that came in on a high approach. Catalon spun through and completed the 34-yard touchdown run.
Then after a three-and-out by the Cowboys, the Frogs went to work. Former Cowboys assistant and now TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham wanted to get the ball to speedster Kolby Listenbee, who had four catches for 146 yards last week in the 61-58 offensive monstrosity loss by the Frogs at Baylor. Listenbee was covered by Cowboys shutdown corner Kevin Peterson and he was shut down and rarely targeted on Saturday, only touching the ball on a 14-yard reverse.
Ramon Richards is a true freshman who is very smart and very athletic, having played quarterback at San Antonio Brackenridge. Richards is mature beyond his years and was desired by a lot of programs including the top Ivy League schools. Spencer, in every meeting we have had this season, has said Richards will be a very good player. In this game he became the mark, primarily for his inexperience.
On the first play of the possession, 6-4, 190-pound wide receiver (Z) Josh Doctson was singled by Richards and Boykin saw it. Doctson got a step on the post and Boykin hit him in stride and TCU had a 77-yard touchdown.
Following an OSU field goal drive, TCU again went to Doctson and this time Richards was beat a couple of steps on a vertical route but the Cowboys were in some variation of a two high safety coverage and Sterns was the help. He came over and fronted Doctson then mistimed his leap and Doctson came down with the ball behind the two Cowboys and sprinted for the purple painted end zone and another monster play, this one 84 yards for a TD.
Spencer's worst fear was playing out before his eyes. Too many plays, too little depth, and an opposing team that was focusing on attacking the younger OSU defenders. Sterns played some last season and has been good this year, but he's a very aggressive player. Sterns still can see aggressive moves he might reconsider with experience.
The TCU explosive plays weren't done. Neither were the missed opportunities as Flowers early in the second quarter had a TCU pass thrown right into his hands but the tall redshirt safety that the Cowboys staff feels will be a tremendous player because of the athleticism he packs into a 6-3 frame missed the pass, perhaps his eyes glanced downfield for a return approach. It was a play that could have helped turn fortunes around with the score 21-9.
A touchdown that head coach Mike Gundy felt was really damaging came just before the half when on a fourth-and-one Catalon took a wide handoff going left and Sterns came through untouched and could have had the TCU back for a loss and the ball back, but after the miss he turned the corner and went 35 yards for the touchdown on the play.
Big plays made in the face of young players really hurt now, but after analysis will hopefully make those young players better, smarter, and more ready to make plays.
In the second half, TCU successfully changed modes from explosive to time consuming and suffocating and by then a growing tired and likely frustrated OSU defense was a more willing victim. An exchange route that star linebacker Josh Furman got caught behind with his man resulted in a 22-yard touchdown pass, but drives of 14, 12, and 10 plays just wore the Cowboys down and also peeled lots of time off the clock.
Spencer and his staff will work to make corrections, especially working with the three young players that TCU targeted with the hope of speeding the clock up on their progress. It also wouldn't hurt to get some experienced help like Lampkin and Stephens back to share the workload with really good and explosive offenses loaded remaining on the schedule, starting with homecoming this week against West Virginia.