BOULDER, Co. — The Horned Frogs opened the season on the road with a new coach and quarterback, yet they scored more points than their previous seven games and left with a 38-13 victory.
The Sonny Dykes era started off with a little adversity though, considering the 47,868 fans inside Folsom Field made it a hostile environment for him and his players. Dykes’ offense was somewhat sluggish in the beginning and Colorado made TCU punt the ball on its’ first three possessions.
Not to mention the Horned Frogs found themselves down by three points at the end of the first quarter. However, Dykes’ team shook off the early game jitters, settled in and dominated the Buffaloes in the second half.
And it all started after a game-changing play on special teams in the second quarter. Senior wide receiver Derius Davis returned a 60-yard punt for a score and silenced the rowdy crowd. His touchdown sparked a fire in the rest of the players, changed the game’s momentum, and TCU never trailed again.
“We were struggling to get anything going, and Darius had made a heck of a return,” Dykes said. “If you give him some room to run, he knows how to finish and it’s obviously still a good play for us, kind of kept us in until we could get something going on offense.”
Although the Horned Frogs led 7-6 at halftime, they only had 67 yards of total offense. That’s why Dykes made adjustments and his players responded and came out a different team for the last two quarters. TCU scored on its’ first four drives of the second half, including three touchdowns.
It was somewhat bittersweet for the offense though. Quarterback Chandler Morris, who started the game, went down with an injury and didn’t return. Senior Max Duggan stepped in and showed why he was the Horned Frogs starter for the past three seasons. The gunslinger looked poised behind center and commanded the new offense like a veteran.
Duggan didn’t have to do too much though, because TCU’s rushing attack took over the game. The Horned Frogs offensive line started dominating in the trenches and opened up gaping holes for the running backs to burst through. Emari Demercado started off the second half scoring surge with a 43-yard touchdown run. Kendre Miller led TCU in rushing and added a three-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Freshman quarterback Sam Jackson also got in on the action and rushed for a score. Colorado’s defense was fatigued and didn’t tackle well in the second half. Dykes obviously smelled blood in the water, and kept pounding the ball, which is mind-boggling for a coach who loves slinging the pigskin all across the field.
“We really committed to running the ball in the second half, made a couple of adjustments on what we were doing, and guys did a great job making plays,” he said. “We have good backs and those guys get on the field when they can, and create some offense.”
Dykes was very impressed by the performance of the Horned Frogs’ defense. After all, the unit held Colorado’s offense to 136 total yards in the second half. Linebackers Jamoi Hodge and Dee Winters each generated five stops. Winters also registered two tackles for loss and a sack. Safeties Namdi Obiazor and Mark Perry, who’s a former Buffalo, combined for nine tackles.
What caught Dykes’ eyes is the fact that the Horned Frogs kept the Buffaloes out of the endzone until the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. And those are numbers Dykes can live with.
“I was very impressed, I though the guys played exceptional, I really did,” the 52-year old coach said. “They had to play defense like 46 plays or something in the first half, and those guys were on the field a lot.”
Even freshman kicker Griffin Kell had a solid outing, with a 33-yard field goal. Colorado ran 17 additional plays and outgained TCU in yardage, but still lost by 25 points. That’s a clear sign to Dykes that he has leaders on both sides of the ball. And that will take the Horned Frogs far once they start navigating through the Big 12 meat grinder. So above all, Dykes is encouraged by what he witnessed Friday night.