Iowa State visits unsettled TCU for Frogs’ opener

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Iowa State visits unsettled TCU for Frogs’ opener

TCU’s season opener turned into a false start. A couple of weeks later, the Horned Frogs are eager to get on the field.

TCU was scheduled to open the season against SMU on Sept. 11. Positive coronavirus tests among players and staff members forced a postponement. Barring another setback, TCU will make its debut at home this Saturday against Iowa State.

Last season, the Horned Frogs finished 5-7 and lost six of their last eight games. The return of quarterback Max Duggan from a troubling health issue should provide a boost.

While being tested for COVID-19 in August, Duggan was diagnosed with a heart defect that he’s had since birth. He was cleared to play earlier this month and has been practicing for two weeks.

As a freshman, Duggan started most of the season and finished with 2,077 passing yards and 15 touchdowns. He was intercepted 10 times and completed 53.4 percent of his attempts.

It’s not guaranteed he’ll play. Another sophomore, Matthew Downing, has been taking first-team reps. He made brief appearances in four games last season.

“I don’t know who’s going to start,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “Downing has been the guy since we’ve gone. He’s slung the ball really well. Right now, we have three quarterbacks (including third-stringer Stephon Brown). All of them have a part of the package in the game plan and we’ll go forward with it.”

No matter who takes the snaps, the quarterback will have another talented target. Patterson has big plans for wide receiver and Nebraska transfer JD Speilman.

“Number one, I think he has a chance to be our starting punt returner; he’s a good specialist,” Patterson said. “He gives us a lot more flexibility to go to more personnel groups. He loves playing the game. He’s a very positive person. … He’s been a great addition to the TCU Horned Frogs — it’s been a lot of fun for us to have him.”

The Horned Frogs didn’t have much fun playing Big 12 opponent Iowa State last season. The Cyclones rolled to a 49-24 victory behind a stellar performance from quarterback Brock Purdy, who completed 19-of-24 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 102 yards and two more scores.

Purdy and the Cyclones were much less efficient in the team’s opener. Iowa State lost 31-14 to Louisiana on Sept. 12. Purdy was held to 145 passing yards and completed just 16-of-35 passes with no touchdowns and one interception. He rushed for just 35 yards.

“There was some really good growth in some things we really put our mind to this offseason,” head coach Matt Campbell told The Gazette. “But again, we struggled in some of those critical areas and at Iowa State, you’re going to have to win in the margins. And if you refuse to win in the margins, it’s really going to be hard for us to have success. Tough way to learn it, but again, for us it’s a great opportunity to take what we learned … get ourselves back (during the bye week) and get ready for Big 12 football.”‘

Iowa State finished 7-6 overall and 5-4 in conference play last season, including a 33-9 loss to Notre Dame in the Camping World bowl game.

–Field Level Media

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