Defeat can often bring clarity and after the upset loss to West Virginia on Saturday, TCU coach Sonny Dykes may have a clearer picture of his team, especially on offense.
After moving the ball effortlessly in the first half, the Horned Frogs (3-2, 1-1) were shutout in the second half of the 24-21 defeat.
Dykes was almost speechless on Saturday, but on Tuesday Dykes didn’t hold back about the struggles on that side of the ball.
“I don’t know that we’ve established an identity yet offensively,” Dykes said. “We’re almost halfway through the season and that has to happen earlier.”
The raw numbers continue to look exceptional for the Horned Frogs. Even with being shutout, TCU’s scoring average remains around 35 points per game. The offense is averaging just under 490 yards per game and 194 yards rushing.
Chandler Morris continues to be the Big 12 leader in yards per game, but the frustration comes from the smaller things that the offense is still struggling with at the halfway point of the season.
“What defines college football is your ability to win situational football,” Dykes said. “Turnovers and situational football, those are the two things. For whatever reason we haven’t been particularly good at situational football. We’ve just been unsettled.”
Unsettled is the word Dykes has focused on the last few weeks to assess the offense. Chemistry is an essential component of any great offense and it’s been hard to establish for TCU at times this season.
“It’s been musical chairs at wide receiver, it’s been musical chairs with the offensive line,” Dykes said.
At receiver Jack Bech, JP Richardson and Dylan Wright have all been in and out of the lineup due to snagging injuries.
On the offensive line, Brandon Coleman missed the West Virginia game and isn’t the only one that’s been banged up in the trenches. Thankfully for TCU Coleman practiced Tuesday and will play against Iowa State in the must-win Big 12 matchup Saturday.
The hope for Dykes is that the team will come together and put together a complete game in what should be the toughest environment TCU has played in this season.
“We scored 21 in the first half against a very good West Virginia defense,” Dykes said. “We’re certainly capable of playing well and doing good things. We’re also capable of what you saw in the second half. Our issue is consistency, when we pass protect we’ll bust a route.
“When we run the right route, we don’t pass protect. When the quarterback gets antsy in the pocket because he’s not getting great protection then when he gets great protection and has a guy come open he’s out of the pocket. Offensive football is about 11 people working in unison and we don’t have that yet.”
How can the Horned Frogs find that synergy? It’ll help to have players like Wright and Coleman back in the lineup, but the fix isn’t as simple as just being healthy.
In order to match the expectations set by last year’s team, TCU’s players have to look within themselves to take this offense to the next level it needs to reach. Pressure busts pipes or it makes diamonds and the pressure is beginning to mount at the midway point of the season.
“Just give us a week or two,” Wright said. “With us losing, facing different adversities thrown at us I feel like it’s just building us to be stronger when we get to Texas and Baylor. We’ll be way more organized and complete. Our backs are against the wall, but it’s a good wall.”
Handling that adversity was the defining trait of last year’s squad while it’s been the sore spot for this year’s team. There’s still time correct that with a very winnable game in Ames despite the hostile crowd waiting for them.
But the clock is ticking on the Horned Frogs making that leap on offense.
“It’s time, we’re halfway through the season,” Dykes said. “It’s time to get settled, it’s time to be able to execute in crunch time.”