TCU turned that low expectation to their favor in a game that will likely move them into the top ten in the AP poll, as they played keep away and forced four turnovers that led to a 44-31 victory in Stillwater.
“It was an advantage for us that no one was giving us a chance because we’re a lot better like that,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “Always have been, always will be.”
Some other advantages for the Horned Frogs were its ground game that saw Darius Anderson post career-bests with his 26 carries, which resulted in 160 yards rushing and three touchdowns, including the final 42-yard touchdown that put the game on ice for TCU. Anderson’s three scores gave him six rushing touchdowns on the season, the most of the team.
“As the game went on, we knew the run would work, so I just carried the load for the team,” TCU running back Darius Anderson said. “It felt good.”
TCU running back Sewo Olonilua also contributed to the Horned Frogs 137-yard edge in rushing yards with 38 yards on nine carries, including another touchdown from one yard out, which was his third of the season. The Horned Frog’s hyper-effective ground game was just one of the main factors that allowed TCU to hold onto the football for more than OSU, 39:04 for TCU and 20:56 for OSU.
“If you want to be able to win championships, you have to be able to run the football, especially when you go on the road,” Patterson said. “I think the rotation of running backs has really helped us.”
That running game allowed TCU to continue doing what they’ve done better than any other team in the country, which is move the chains on third down. They entered the game leading the nation on third-down conversions, moving the sticks at a 65.8 percent clip. During the game they had success on third down as they were 11-of-18 (61.1 percent) on third-down conversions.
Another reason was the efficient play of TCU quarterback Kenny Hill who completed 22 of his 33 passes for 228 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Hill was eight of eleven passing on third down against the Cowboys, and he picked up the first down through the air on those plays seven times.
“It’s just feeling comfortable within the game plan for those situations,” Hill said. “Coach Cumbie talks about it all the time; we want to get yards on first down, second down we got to get yards because we are not trying to be in third and long.”
The final piece that factored into the significant time of possessions edge was the way TCU’s defense played, forcing OSU star quarterback Mason Rudolph into three turnovers, a couple of interceptions and a fumble.
All of his turnovers came via the Horned Frog defensive line: defensive tackle Chris Bradley had an interception on a screen pass, defensive end LJ Collier had the other on a tipped pass, defensive end Ben Banogu collected a strip-sack against Rudolph and defensive end Corey Bethley recovered Rudolph’s fumble, which aided in slowing down what was the fourth-highest scoring offenses in the country entering Saturday. Those four turnovers turned into 14 Horned Frog points, the difference in a 13-point TCU victory.
“For us, if the d-line is disrupting like all the stuff they want to do then like establish the run game, then we just open it up for everyone else to make plays, and I feel like our guys really stepped up,” Banogu said. “We made plays that came to us and we went and got some plays.”
On of the biggest plays the defense made was its attitude about the Cowboys’ 86-yard touchdown pass on Rudolph’s connection with James Washington that gave OSU a 7-6 lead.
“We knew that they were going to try and deep shot us and do what they do, but after we gave up the first touchdown, we said this can be the time where we can let it all crumble or we can just come out and do what we do,” Banogu said. “I think that is the best part of this team, they’re a lot more mature.”
That maturity aided senior safety Nick Orr when he stayed back on a trick-play wide receiver pass from OSU wide receiver Jalen McClesky pass at the five-yard line that prevented OSU from scoring a touchdown that would’ve cut the lead to a single possession with six minutes to play.
“I’m not going to say that I knew that it was coming, but I just made sure I stayed back just because I knew it was a key moment in the game, so you want to make sure you do your job and it paid off,” Orr said.
As usual, Patterson found there’s still improvement the Horned Frogs have to make after reaching 4-0 entering its bye week.
“I’m not bragging, we gave up 31 points, and they had more yards than we did,” Patterson said. “But right now, I don’t care.”
However, Patterson said that would change at nine a.m. Sunday morning when TCU begins its preparations for its off week and West Virginia in two weeks. Going forward for its matchup against West Virginia in Fort Worth and beyond, TCU will likely be the favorite, which is something Patterson doesn’t mind.