Bring on the Battle of the Iron Skillet. The TCU Horned Frogs look to renew the crosstown rivalry, this week, as they host the SMU Mustangs on Saturday, September 25 at 11 a.m.
The Frogs had beaten the Ponies seven straight seasons between 2012 and 2018. The Iron Skillet had found it’s home in Cowtown. Then came the 2019 game. SMU strolled into The Carter in their new “Dallas” unis and decided it was their year. The Ponies scored first and had a 15-0 lead in the first quarter. They held that lead the entire game, and SMU held on to win 41-38.
Frogs fans were very disappointed. To lose at home is one thing. To lose at home to SMU, stings. The Iron Skillet went back to Dallas. “We will get it back next year,” was the sentiment of Frogs fans. Then the world changed. Hello pandemic. Would there be a 2020 season? Would they play non-conference games or just other Big 12 schools? After months of speculation, yes, there would be football in 2020 and yes, each Big 12 school would play one nonconference game. The TCU vs SMU re-match was scheduled for a Friday night, back in The Carter, on September 11. Then, due to several players testing positive for COVID-19, the game got cancelled and was never re-scheduled that season. So, the Iron Skillet got to stay in Dallas for an extra year. The Frogs want the skillet back where it belongs.
TCU has started the season 2-0. SMU has started 3-0. SMU had played two games at home and won easily, beating Abilene Christian 56-9 and the University of North Texas 35-12. This past weekend, they had their first challenge of the season, playing on the road at Louisiana Tech. SMU won with a Hail Mary toss to the endzone that got deflected then caught by SMU. Mustangs won 39-37. All five of their offensive line have returned this season and, in three games, have done well. Ulysses Bentley IV, last year’s American Athletic Conference Co-Rookie of the Year, also returns. Last year, he led the AAC in rushing with 913 yards. He has already had a couple of explosive plays, including an 85-yard run against UNT and 250 total yards.
The biggest question coming into the season for the Ponies was who would replace Shane Buechele and his 7,024 passing yards he had the last two seasons under Coach Sonny Dykes. Tanner Mordecai, a fourth-year transfer from the University of Oklahoma, looks to continue where Buechele’s college career ended. In the first two games, Mordecai has completed 81 passes in 111 attempts for 1,023 yards, 16 touchdowns and two interceptions. His QB Rating currently sits at 194.4. He has thrown plenty of long balls in the two games with at least nine for 30 yards or more.
Given the struggles TCU’s secondary had with California last week, this could be a major problem for the Frogs. With the bye week this week, Coach Gary Patterson has an opportunity to fix the defense before Mordecai comes to The Carter.
SMU does have a feel-good story on offense in Senior Tight End Grant Calcaterra. In November 2019, after playing for nearly three seasons with the University of Oklahoma, he walked away from football due to multiple concussions. He did not play last year. In fact, he was ready to start a career as an EMT in California. But right before starting that job, he knew he needed to be back playing the sport he loved. Calcaterra’s full story can be found here:
Yes, he has a good story and the Frogs wish him well, but not that well. TCU has work to do. Fix the challenges in the secondary. Get QB Max Duggan better at the long ball. TCU does have bright spots with RB Zach Evans, the current Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, and WR Quentin Johnston. These two have the offensive power to make sure that the Iron Skillet comes back home to Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs currently lead the series 51-41-7. They want to make it 52.