Graham Harrell proved to be human after all against TCU. The TCU defense put pressure on him and defied Harrell all game with the different looks that they were bringing. The road environment appeared to get the better of him, and he unfortunately looked inexperienced for the first time. He was inaccurate on quite a few throws, and was unable to audible as successfully as before. This loss is part of his growing pains as a young QB, and will make him better in the future.
Shannon Woods and Baron Batch did what they could. The fact is, the holes weren't there for them for most of the game. Yet Shannon averaged 5.2 yards per carry, while Batch's only attempt netted four yards. Woods was still impressive in my eyes, as the only time that he was shut down would be when there was absolutely no places for him to run through. It is still far too early to make an accurate assessment on Batch given his limited carries.
I would have never believed that I would give an F to our receiving corps, yet here we are. Not only were they not getting open for the most part, they couldn't catch a thing. Furthermore, there were several plays where they weren't even looking for the ball. Add to all of that the lazy routes that most of the players were running, and you have a sub-par offense. Todd Walker was the only receiver who was actually doing his job and getting open, but Graham never even looked his way.
Considering all of the time that Harrell was taking in the pocket waiting for receivers to get open, the pass protection was actually decent. Also, it is worth mentioning that the talent of the TCU defensive line is one of their team strengths. However, the run blocking was not what it needed to be. One play in particular that stuck out in my mind was on a 3rd and 1. It was a handoff to Shannon, and he was met by three TCU defenders in the backfield immediately after he received the ball. Woods never had a chance.
Jake Ratliff owned everyone. The guy had an outstanding game, causing all kinds of mayhem in the TCU backfield. Also, Freshmen Rajon Henley, Richard Jones, and Dan'Tay Ward are playing extremely well and generating excitement for the future. However, the unit loses some points because the experienced players on the defensive line are not living up to what you would expect from such talent. We will need them to step it up this season.
Chad Hill was the bright spot here. He was thrust into more playing time thanks to a bone-headed move by Kellen Tillman that got him ejected. Also, Paul Williams had a strong outing, save an ill-advised fair catch on a kickoff. Fletcher Session played well, except for one familiar looking play in which he missed a tackle for what would have been an important sack. Stratton did his job, providing decent coverage and solid run support. However, the unit must work on their tackling.
For a unit suffering from injuries, the defensive backs truly played well. Joe Garcia finally came to play with the effort that I had praised him throughout the Fall for. Jamar Wall proved to be a very capable starter by filling in for an injured Chris Parker and a temporarily sidelined Antonio Huffman. Darcel McBath is providing some great help in coverage. Also, Anthony Hines did well in his return to the team and provided a nice addition to the unit.
I'll be nice and call this a mediocre effort by the team as a whole, considering the great defensive play and the fact that we were playing a tough opponent in their house with revenge on their minds. If you had told me before the game that TCU would be held to 281 yards, 12 points, and no TDs, I would have assumed that we would win easily. For a team that prides itself on offense and passing the ball, we were certainly not playing like it. Hopefully, the offense's poor play was an aberration, as my friend and fellow RP writer Mitchell Fish put it. In this game, what were supposedly our strengths became our weaknesses, while our weaknesses became our strengths. It can be argued that only one side of the ball showing up to play will not get it done. Conversely, a more optimistic point of view suggests that since both the units have had their strong performances, this bodes well for the future as it shows team balance. Still, the offense and defense must work on helping each other out more if we expect to be a legitimate contender.
(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at email@example.com