Horned Frogs can run, but struggling defense has led to wild scorelines

Gold and Blue Nation

Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs have consistently topped the Big 12 in defense -- this year, TCU's run game is doing the talking

Gary Patterson made it cool to play defense in the Big 12. Now, he’s making it cool to run the football.

Right up until the 2020 season, his TCU Horned Frogs were arguably the best defensive team in the league, ranking at or near the top each season. Most of the time, they were No. 1 in both total and scoring defense — but that changed as they Horned Frogs finished the COVID-19-impacted season at the middle of the table.

In 2021, they are one of the worst defensive teams in the league, ranking only above Kansas — but still, they’ve figured out how to keep their heads above water with a 3-3 overall record, despite allowing 31 or more points to every power five opponent they’ve faced so far.

This has led to some crazy stat and score lines. In their last game, they allowed 52 points and 525 yards to Oklahoma, while out-gaining the Sooners with 529 yards but only putting up 31 points themselves. A week prior, they faced Texas Tech and had the same 52-31 final score — but that time, they were on the winning end.

On the flip side, TCU has one of the top offenses in the league, led by an efficient rushing attack. The sophomore duo of Zach Evans and Kendre Miller spearhead the third-best ground game in the Big 12, with Evans taking the bulk of the carries and their 943 combined yards on the season.

“Evans, I think he’s played at an extremely high level all year. Miller does get a little bit overlooked, but look at his production, he’s a bigger kid, but he runs away from Oklahoma on the touchdown, as he tight ropes the sideline,” said WVU coach Neal Brown. “I think the level of running back play in our league right now is really high, and I would put those guys up there with the best of them.”

Evans and Miller are getting their handoffs from junior quarterback Max Duggan, who is in his third year of leading the offense. Duggan has contributed to the run game as well, adding 231 yards on the season so far, but he is also one of the best passers in the Big 12. Through six games, he is second in the league with 13 touchdowns, while also coming runner-up witha 169.3 passer efficiency rating.

“The kid’s a winner. He competes, I heard…the other night that he’s playing with a broken bone on his foot, you wouldn’t know it. He’s throwing the ball better than he has in his career.”

Quentin Johnston is his favorite target, racking up 19 connections on the season so far. Brown calls the wideout a “difficult match,” but two other receivers — Taye Barber and Derius Davis — have added double-digit receptions as well.

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