TCU Football walked away victorious in its first game of the season Thursday, defeating the University of Minnesota 23-17 in front of a record crowd of 54,000 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.
The No. 2 Horned Frogs totaled 449 yards of offense in the win, averaging 5.2 yards per play. Quarterback and Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin completed 26 passes, throwing for 246 yards and recording a 19-yard rushing touchdown.
Wide receiver Josh Doctson led the Frogs in receiving, totaling 74 yards and an 11-yard touchdown early on in the game.
Sophomore wide receiver Desmon White also had a strong performance, ending the night with a career high five catches for 61 yards.
Kicker Jaden Oberkrom shined with three field goals in the win, including a successful one from 53 yards out, the fourth-longest ever in TCU history.
The TCU defense allowed 341 yards in the game, but several key stops and turnovers, including fumbles forced by safety Derrick Kindred and defensive end Terrell Lathan helped prevent the Gophers from ever taking a lead in the contest.
Despite the victory, the narrow six-point margin of victory for the Frogs raised concerns about the offensive production and validity of their No. 2 ranking. Last year, TCU blew out Minnesota 30-7 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, albeit both teams experienced several major roster changes in the offseason.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson said he wasn’t surprised that Minnesota kept the game relatively close.
“I told you it was going to be a tough game,” Patterson said. “We blew some opportunities in the red zone. Give Minnesota a lot of credit for the defense they played.”
The Frogs opened the scoring with Oberkrom’s 53-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Just one minute later, TCU extended its lead to 10-0 via an 11-yard touchdown pass from Boykin to Doctson. The Frogs recovered a fumble by Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner on Minnesota’s previous drive, leading to Boykin’s connection with Doctson.
The Golden Gophers tallied a field goal in the second quarter to make it a 10-3 game.
The Frogs would not score again until the opening drive of the third quarter, when Boykin took it himself for a 19-yard touchdown, making it a 17-3 lead for the Frogs.
After that, the Frogs scored six points thanks to two more field goals from Oberkrom, while Minnesota went on two score two touchdowns through running back Rodney Smith and wide receiver KJ Maye, making it a six-point game in the final minutes.
Minnesota attempted an onside kick with less than two minutes to play but Josh Doctson recovered it for the Frogs. TCU would hold on to seal the victory.
The Frogs’ offense struggled at times, wasting several chances to blow the game wide open. In the second quarter with the Frogs up 10-0 and attacking in the red zone, senior running back Aaron Green fumbled the ball at the Minnesota 12-yard line, ending the scoring opportunity.
In the third quarter, the Frogs had another scoring opportunity. Ahead 17-3, Trevone Boykin was picked off at the Minnesota 18-yard line by cornerback Eric Murray, whom Patterson called “one of the best corners they faced last season.”
Boykin said despite the shaky performance of the offense, he is confident in its potential
“We have a platform to get better every week,” Boykin said. “I am disappointed because I know we can do better than tonight, but with a win I’m always satisfied.”
Boykin said working with new receivers was not a factor in the offensive performance Thursday night.
“We have gone through training camp with all these guys so I am not going to sit here and make excuses and say what we didn’t do,” Boykin said. “It was the first game and now next week we just have to get better.”
While the offense had its ups and downs, the defense came out strong, despite concerns that its youth and lack of experience would pose a hurdle.
Freshman linebacker Mike Freeze lived up to high expectations in his TCU debut, while veterans such as Kindred and junior defensive end Josh Carraway led the unit by forcing turnovers.
Carraway recovered the fumble forced by Lathan in the first quarter that ultimately led to Doctson’s touchdown, putting the the Frogs ahead by 10.
“I just saw Terrell (Lathan) coming around…so I just waited for him to make the play and of course as he does, he made the play,” Carraway said.
Whether a defining win or an ugly win, the Frogs are thankful that they are leaving the Twin Cities with a tally in the win the column.
“I did not care,” Patterson said. “One point (margin of victory) was all I wanted coming out this one. This was a hard ball game.”
The team now heads back to Fort Worth where they will face Stephen F. Austin University on Saturday, Sept. 12 at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.