1. The secondary continues to struggle. TCU averaged at least ten yards per play on six of its seven first-half drives and three of its seven in the second half. SMU consistently allowed wide receivers to settle in the middle of the field when SMU was in Cover 2 or a zone. Underneath help was late or absent and TCU’s receivers got off the line pretty easily, finding plenty of space. On the outside, the Horned Frogs took advantage of some one-on-one matchups on Josh Doctson, who cruised to 171 yards on five catches (34.2 yards per catch) and scored two touchdowns.
2. SMU struggled on third down on both sides of the ball. TCU converted three of five third downs in the first half and two of four in the second half. The Frogs ripped off big plays consistently on early downs, so they only faced nine third downs in total. On third and 10-plus, they converted two of three chances without much resistance. Offensively, SMU converted just five of 15 third downs. Short yardage situations remained a big issue. The Mustangs converted just two of nine third and fourth downs with five or less yards to go, failing to get much push in the running game.
3. The offensive line stepped up. Davis completed six throws of 20-plus yards, his most in three games this season. He also averaged 10.6 yards per pass attempt and was rarely flushed out of the pocket or even hit. Pass protection wasn’t an issue in the first two games, but was a strength tonight. Davis had time to make his reads and let routes develop. On Courtland Sutton’s 46-yard catch in the third quarter, he might have even thrown a bit too late. Davis did take two sacks on a fourth-quarter drive, but one came on a scramble after TCU sniffed out a run play.
4. The killer play: Nick Horton burst through the A-gap unblocked and had Trevone Boykin all but sacked in the second quarter. He tried to tackle Boykin around the shoulders and Boykin spun out of it for a 20-yard touchdown run that gave TCU a 28-10 lead. In a close game, a mistake like that is hard to look past. SMU would fight back, but Davis’ pass for Shelby Walker on fourth-and-two fell incomplete with just over five minutes left in the game. TCU would run it out from there.
5. The key unnoticed play: Davis not scrambling for the easy first and forcing one to Jones. Late in the second quarter on second and one from the TCU 37-yard line, Davis had room to scamper one yard for the easy first down conversion. Instead, he tried to get a short pass off to Xavier Jones, but it fell incomplete. SMU committed a holding penalty on the ensuing third down and couldn’t convert on fourth and five. TCU would score on Boykin’s 20-yard run one minute and 33 seconds later.