The November Big 12 schedule is a gauntlet for the top four teams in the conference. The powers that be backloaded the slate so that the conference favorites would enter into a sort of round robin cage match to end 2015. The strategy will either vault the winner into the College Football Playoff or destroy any chance if no one survives the meat grinder.
TCU paid a visit to Stillwater dipping its toe into the meat grinder against the 12th ranked Cowboys. The result for Frog fans was painful - a 49 to 29 defeat and a seat on the outside looking in at the playoff race. For now.
So what happened to Frogs? Let's find out.
Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers.
Start here, turnovers are unpredictable. Yes, every defensive coach in American will tell you that they work on takeaways, even emphasize them. No team has the formula to force them, create them, or will them to happen. Turnovers are unpredictable, but they do happen. Case in point Saturday in Stillwater.
TCU is 11th in the NCAA in pass attempts for 2015, including Saturday. (They're tied with Nebraska.) Daryl Royal said famously that when you throw the ball three things can happen and two of them are bad. He was right, though nowadays scheme and skill mitigate those bad things pretty efficiently. Prior to Saturday, the Frogs were tied with several schools for the 17th fewest interceptions given away in college football with five. On Saturday Boykin threw four picks. Three of the four came in the second half, extinguishing any chance of a comeback.
Oklahoma State played turnover free.
The Frogs lost the turnover battle by four to the 12th ranked team in the country. That equals a loss, no ifs ands or buts. Consider that the Frogs actually outgained OSU by over 200 yards and possessed the ball 15 minutes longer, those are both recipes for victory. From almost the opening kick turnovers (and to a lesser extent big plays) doomed TCU. We could stop there. We won't.
Dead from the Start
Starting fast on the road against an evenly matched team is critical in winning vs. losing. TCU averaged 25 points in the first half prior to Saturday giving up 16 points. In the first quarter specifically TCU averaged almost 17 points while only give up 7. Typically the Frogs start fast and don't look back.
Not the case on Saturday. Here are the first half possessions for TCU and Oklahoma State:
- Field Goal
- Turnover on Downs
- Missed Field Goal
- End of Half
Oklahoma State came out blazing, both offensively and defensively, shocking the Frogs and taking a commanding 28-9 leading into the break. In the modern spread era a 19 point lead is not insurmountable. TCU, conceivably would have enough possession opportunities to make up that deficit and then some. (Just ask them about the Baylor game last year.) But the turnover bug bit the Frogs in the second half, neutralizing their tempo opportunities.
The Doctson is out.
This season has been an injury nightmare for the Horned Frogs. Losing Josh Doctson on Saturday made for 5 contributing wide receivers lost this season to injury or other reasons. Doctson is the real loss here. Losing him on Saturday spelled the end of TCU's hope of a comeback. If he's out for any extended period of time, his loss will doom TCU's season.
Doctson is responsible for 32% of TCU's catches this season, and almost 40% of TCU's receiving yardage this year. The Roundup worried that Boykin looked Doctson's way a little too often, now we don't know where he'll look.
With one superstar out and another sputtering, TCU were doomed in Stillwater.