Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Poinsettia Bowl Notes: TCU 17, Boise St. 16

Playmakers Make Plays:

With the score 17-13 in TCU’s favor, Boise St. was set to snap the ball from the TCU 12-yard line with approximately 5:30 left on the game clock. It was third-and-eight and ESPN’s Mark May set the tone by saying, “This is the time for the playmakers to make plays”. Before Boise St.’s freshman Kellen Moore was able to figure out where to go with the football, he was being engulfed by the Horned Frogs’ All-American defensive end, Jerry Hughes. Hughes was held in check for most of the night, though not necessarily by the Broncos’ offensive line, as Boise St.’s passing game consisted of mostly short, quick rotes. Moore did feel Hughes’ impact prior to the sack as the athletic junior end pressured the southpaw signal caller throughout the first half and got a few shots in.

No one made more impact plays than senior safety Stephen Hodge, who turned in a team best 11 tackles. Hodge was most effective when called upon to blitz. He recorded a big sack of Moore and delivered a devastating blow on another quarterback pressure (Moore is one tough cookie). Hodge also knifed in on a run blitz and stopped the ball carrier for a two-yard loss. In the open field, he delivered a big hit out on the flat and turned in three tackles for a loss in the contest. On one of the Broncos’ trickeration plays, the safety displayed his discipline and instincts, sniffing out an end around and making yet another solid open field tackle. Hodge showed his great closing speed covering Ian Johnson on a screen pass, allowing him nothing after the catch. This kid was all over the field…he even made a nice special teams stop. His final big play came on an interception late the game, which ended any hopes the Broncos had at pulling out the win.

On Moore’s interception, the southpaw was pressured by speedy junior linebacker Daryl Washington, who forced the lefty to deliver the ball before he wanted to. Washington also had excellent coverage on Johnson coming out of the backfield, knocking a pass away. He is phenomenal athlete and with senior linebackers Jason Phillips and Robert Henson moving on, and Hughes potentially leaving early, don’t be surprised if Washington emerges as the linchpin of the Horned Frogs’ defense in 2009.

All of the defensive plays may have gone for naught if not for the running of Aaron Brown. Before the half, with TCU trailing 13-0, the senior tailback took an option pitch, cut back--despite the fact the Horned Frogs were out of time outs--and turned on the jets for a 16-yard scoring scamper with 24 ticks remaining in the first half.

TCU was in jeopardy of entering the locker room down two scores despite dominating the first half – 246 yards to 106 – and downright owning the second quarter – 188 yards to minus-seven. Brown’s score gave the Horned Frogs some much needed momentum heading into intermission. I really like Brown’s burst and would have liked to have seen him get more carries this season. His 14 carries and 102 yards were the second highest totals for the Texas native on the season (he had 15 carries for 106 yards versus Utah). Brown displayed burst, speed, vision, and cutback ability – he is a sleeper to keep an eye on for the 2009 draft.

If he was starting something, the closer was junior Joseph Turner. At 226 pounds he is the bigger of the two backs and he broke free up the middle for a 17-yard game-winning score midway through the fourth quarter. Turner also converted a key fourth-and-one on his way to a season-high 83 yards.

Another player who stood out with his best game of the season was senior wide out Walter Bryant who, at 6’4”, has good size. He showed good hands in making six receptions for 67 yards. Tight end Shea Reagan is also a sleeper. They don’t throw much to the 6’4”/261 pound senior, but he turned in a brilliant sideline reception in the fourth quarter, which allowed the Horned Frogs to kill some clock.

Boise St. Has Playmakers Too:

If you like big hits, sophomore safety Jeron Johnson is the man for you. Johnson laid so much wood he could have been mistaken for a lumberjack. A tackling machine, Johnson finished the game with a game-high 14 stops and added an interception for good measure.

The most spectacular play of the game was turned in by Boise St.’s back-up defensive end, Byron Hout. The freshman lineman snagged an Andy Dalton pass, used a spin move to avoid one would-be tackler, and set up his blockers, displaying good vision. He even switched hands with the pigskin instinctively as he cut back…brilliant! Alas, he was tackled at the TCU 11-yard line after rumbling 62 yards. Hout made four tackles, including a shared tackle for a loss – the kid has a bright future.

Another young lineman who flashed potential was sophomore defensive end Ryan Winterswyk. The starter came up big on a critical fourth and two from the Boise St. 33-yard line, stopping TCU’s Jeremy Kerley short of the first down. Winterswyk beat his man, made penetration and wrapped up in the backfield.

Record Setter:

On a draw play, Ian Johnson showed enough speed to get around the corner and into the end zone for his WAC-record 58th career rushing touchdown. What’s WAC football you say? It’s not like he’s playing in the SEC where the likes of Hershel Walker and Bo Jackson once roamed, you say? Well before you judge, understand that Johnson passed some guy named Marshall Faulk and some other back, LaDainian Tomlinson, is now third on the list (TCU now plays in the Mountain West Conference). Tomlinson, a TCU alum and Texas native with the cowboy boots to prove it, was in the house to see his Frogs prevail as the Poinsettia Bowl was played Qualcomm Stadium, home of Tomlinson’s Chargers. Marshall Faulk, who hails from New Orleans, played his college football at nearby San Diego St. University.

Lou Holtz on the Money:

More kudos for the ESPN team of Reece Davis, Mark May and Lou Holtz--with TCU apparently trying to milk the clock, they snapped the ball on consecutive plays with 18, 10 and nine seconds remaining on the play clock, a point Holtz was hammering home. This happens way too often in college football and is usually overlooked. There is really no explanation for not taking as much time off the clock as possible in that situation.

Photo Credit: College Press Box, TCU Athletics Media Relations