Sonny's Side Up: TCU Horned Frogs walk out of rivalry game with SMU Mustangs with Iron Skillet

Photo by Brandon McAuliffe

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DALLAS – The Mustangs were served Sonny side up in the 101st Battle of the Iron Skillet as TCU and former head coach Sonny Dykes waltzed into a scorching Ford Stadium the enemy and left with hardware. Dykes, who led SMU to two consecutive wins over TCU to end his tenure in Dallas, has now won three consecutive Iron Skillets – two with SMU and now one with the Horned Frogs. Rhett Lashlee's first Iron Skillet as a head coach ended in a 42-34 loss. 

Remember, the past two games were in Fort Worth with the 2020 game being cancelled due to the pandemic. The last time TCU was in Ford Stadium was in 2018 – which was the first Battle of the Iron Skillet for Dykes as the head coach of SMU. And, it was the only one he’s lost.

TCU dominated the first half, leading 28-14 at halftime. The Horned Frogs took a 28-7 lead with 6:39 left in the second quarter following an 80-yard touchdown pass from Max Duggan to Derius Davis. Duggan was tremendous in the first half, throwing for 212 yards and three touchdowns on 13 of 17 passing. Running back Kendre Miller had 86 rushing yards and a touchdown on only six carries. 

SMU tried to make it a game in the second half behind an improved defense. The Mustangs scored the only points of the third quarter when Tre Siggers capped off a 98-yard touchdown drive with a two-yard touchdown. A pass from Tanner Mordecai to Rice transfer Jake Bailey set up the score. 

The score was 28-21 in the fourth quarter and SMU had the ball with a chance to tie the game. Instead, Mordecai threw his second interception of the contest, which led to points by TCU that put the game too far out of reach for Lashlee’s program. 

THREE THINGS 

Turning the page: The “Return of Sonny” as it was billed on The Hilltop dominated the noise surrounding the 101st Battle of the Iron Skillet. No one wanted to talk about the experienced quarterbacks or the run game or if either defense could earn stops against high-powered opposing offenses. 

Each question, each article, and nearly every tweet was about the return of Dykes to Ford Stadium. After all, Dykes, who was at SMU as head coach for four seasons starting in 2018, led the Mustangs to its most successful span since the Death Penalty was handed down in the 1980s. SMU was 30-17 in the four full seasons with Dykes in charge. The 10-win 2019 season was the first of its kind for SMU since 1984. 

Dykes’ short tenure was about narratives prior to the Week 4 win over SMU. Whether it be about replacing a legend in Gary Patterson or ditching SMU for a crosstown rival, few talking points focused on the actual job or the play on the field. No longer. Now at 3-0, the Horned Frogs start Big 12 play next week. Maybe the Patterson stuff resurfaces when the Horned Frogs play Texas, but for now, Dykes and his TCU program can start to fully focus on the football. 

Mad Max: Duggan was beat out in the offseason for the starting spot by Chandler Morris, but the veteran remained ready and was inserted back into the starting lineup after one half of play in Week 1 when Morris was injured against Colorado. Duggan, a senior, lost in his previous two starts against SMU despite playing well both times. Duggan was 16 of 36 for 188 yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions in the 2018 loss by three points. He was 16 of 28 for 276 yards and three scores to no interceptions in the four-point loss last year. His 50 percent completion percentage was the only cause for concern. 

Duggan started for the third time in four years against SMU on Saturday and he looked right at home in Ford Stadium. Duggan was 13 of 17 for 212 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone. His dual-threat ability was on display throughout the contest. SMU sacked him four times in the first half and Duggan remained unfazed. He finished the game 22 of 28 for 278 yards and three touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception against SMU in 12 quarters on 92 attempts. His numbers in three games against TCU are 742 yards and nine touchdowns to no interceptions. Even when Morris gets healthy, Duggan should remain the quarterback. 

Turnovers saddle Mustangs…again: SMU traveled to Maryland in Week 3 and likely return with a win and an undefeated record if not for three turnovers by Mordecai. The senior threw two picks and fumbled the ball in the seven-point loss. He made similar mistakes in the loss against TCU. He threw two more interceptions against the Horned Frogs on Saturday. He’s now thrown a pick in three of his team’s first four games. He sits at five interceptions on the season. He only threw 12 total in 2021, though, three did come in a win over TCU. The Horned Frogs won by 15 points. They scored 14 points off turnovers. 

GAME BALL 

TCU running back Kendre Miller 

The team that runs the ball better wins the Iron Skillet, at least in recent memory. SMU ran for 350 yards in the 2021 victory. Dykes knew a balanced attack would be the key to success for his Horned Frogs and Miller offered that rushing option throughout the game. The junior ran for 54 yards on three attempts in the opening drive, which ended in a touchdown and set the tone for the game. Miller finished the game with 138 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. As a team, TCU ran the ball for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries. Take away sacks and TCU averaged nine yards a carry against SMU. Conversely, the Mustangs only averaged 3.5 yards a rush (sack adjusted). 

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