TCU sprints past Jackson State in season opener, 63-0

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After Jackson State marched all the way to the TCU five-yard line on the season’s opening possession, it looked like TCU was in for a long night; however, the Horned Frog defense stonewalled the Tigers with four sacks and an interception return touchdown, and both Kenny Hill and Shawn Robinson lit up the scoreboard Saturday, as TCU won handily to begin its season, 63-0.

After reaching a first-and-goal at the TCU five that became a third-and goal at the TCU seven, JSU quarterback Brent Lyles dropped back to pass, and a TCU cornerback came screaming off the right side of the line to knock the ball out of Lyles’ hands, forcing a fumble. The football proceeded to be bobbled 28 yards all the away back to the TCU 35 where Lyles recovered the ball and threw it out of bounds for an intentional grounding penalty. The Horned Frog defense stepped up on fourth down, as safety Ridwan Issahaku knocked down a pass attempt by JSU punter Christian Jacquemin to force a turnover on downs.

“There’s no opponent you play where you can just walk out there,”TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “I started calling the plays in quicker and our guys adjusted, which helped.”

After totaling 40 yards on that opening drive, the Tigers amounted to just 25 more the rest of the game. The 65 yards allowed by TCU were the fewest by an opponent since Northern Illinois was held to 60 in the Horned Frogs’ 37-7 win in the 2006 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

Five of TCU’s 11 defensive starters made their first career starts as Horned Frogs: defensive end Ben Banogu, defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, defensive end Mat Boesen, linebacker Arico Evans and safety Markell Simmons. Banogu started all 13 games for ULM in 2015. Banogu recorded his first sack as a Horned Frog, and true freshman Corey Bethley had a half-sack in his collegiate debut, combining with L.J. Collier for a second-quarter sack. Mat Boesen had a team-high seven tackles.

After starting on the JSU 31, Kenny Hill lead the offense into the end zone in the blink of an eye, a seven-play, 65-yard drive that was capped off by a 13-yard catch and run from freshman running back Kenny Snell. Snell caught the football on a shuffle pass from Hill and sprinted toward the right sideline, reversed field and ended up walking into the end zone after a block from Kenny Hill sealed off the final Tigers’ defender.

“There’s a lot of potential with Kennedy Snell, like a KaVontae Turpin, like a Deante’ Gray because he’s got wiggle,” Patterson said. “He can play out wide and he can play in the backfield.”

The 13-yard TD catch by Snell made him the first Horned Frog to score on his first collegiate touch since Deante’ Gray accomplished the feat against Grambling Grambling State in 2012 on a 70-yard punt return. Hill also finished the first drive of the season perfect, completing all five of his passes.

After a JSU three and out, TCU picked up right where they left off. Not to be out done by Kennedy Snell, his high school teammate at Waxahachie, freshman wide receiver Jalen Reagor took his first catch of his career for a physical 32 yards, all the way to the JSU four. Their quarterback was excited to see both freshmen get in on the action early.

“I was so happy for those guys: Snell, his first touch he scores, and we give it to Jalen I thought he was going to score on his first touch, I threw my hands up thinking it was a touchdown, but that’s big for him,” TCU quarterback Kenny Hill said. “Big to get their feet wet, get in a game, and get the nerves out a little bit, so I’m excited for that.”

Hill immediately followed that completion up with another touchdown pass, this time on a fade route to the back corner of the end zone to senior wide receiver Emanuel Porter. The touchdown reception was Porter’s first of the season and his first since the first overtime of the 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl. The two completions pushed Hill’s completions streak to his jersey number, seven, to begin the season. Hill also spread the ball around, completing those passes to five different receivers.

While the two freshman from Waxahachie awed the Fort Worth faithful and the JSU defense early, KaVontae Turpin was biding his time, waiting until TCU’s third possession. On the junior’s first carry of the game, Turpin was a blur, gliding down the right sideline for a 39-yard touchdown to push the Horned Frog advantage to three scores, 21-0.

“KaVontae is KaVontae, he’s a pretty good player,” Patterson said.

Turpin’s 39-yard scoring run was the first rushing touchdown of his career. He has nine receiving scores and two punt return touchdowns.

Once the second quarter began, the Horned Frog offense lost its bid to score a touchdown on every possession as Kenny Hill’s first two incompletions, after eight consecutive completions, led to a turnover on downs.

The Tigers switched quarterbacks after being shut out in the first quarter. Redshirt sophomore Brent Lyles took a seat on the bench, and junior Jarrad Hayes entered the game. Hayes yielded the same results, as the JSU failed to score on Patterson’s defense with Hayes running the offense.

The Horned Frogs’ first punt came with 8:25 left in the first half. However, the TCU defense resumed the scoring with 7:30 to go in the first half. Issahaku undercut an out-route thrown by Hayes and rumbled all the way into the end zone to extend the TCU lead to four touchdowns, 28-0. The pick-six was TCU’s first since Ranthony Texada’s at Baylor last season.

It took three possessions in the second quarter, but the TCU offense found the end zone once more on a 13-yard out route from Hill to senior receiver Desmon White. His 13-yard scoring catch was his first of the season and third of his career. White’s reception concluded a nine-play, 64-yard drive to put TCU up 35-0 entering halftime.

Desmond White jukes out a JSU defender. Photo by Sam Bruton.

Hill finished the first half with stellar numbers, completing 14 of his 17 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions.

After a pristine first half, Kenny Hill made his first mistake of the season. On TCU’s first play of the second half, Hill looked to hit Turpin deep down the left sideline on a play-action pass, but the throw was into double coverage, resulting in JSU cornerback Ryan Theyard intercepting the TCU quarterback.

“They made a good play,” Hill said. “I just put too much air on it and they got underneath, it’s just one of those things. We get to learn from that and not let it happen next week.”

Lyles returned to action at quarterback for JSU, but the Tigers’ offense was forced to punt once again, as JSU couldn’t capitalize on Hill’s miscue.

Hill proceeded to bounce back from his error on the next possession, marching the offense down the field on a 90-yard drive in 10 plays that concluded on a 37-yard strike to White for their second scoring connection of the game. The drive allowed the Horned Frogs to stretch their lead out to 42-0 with 10:20 left in the third quarter.

“He’s been one of the most consistent guys all camp, and to see him have a game like that, that’s big time,” Hill said.

With 6:34 left in the third quarter and the Horned Frogs leading by 42, true freshman Shawn Robinson took over at quarterback. Hill finished the night with 206 passing yards, hitting on 18 of his 23 attempts, to go along with four touchdown passes and an interception.

Robinson’s first completion came on his second career pass attempt, and it was a beauty. Robinson hit a streaking TreVontae Hights over the middle and Hights took the pass the distance for a 56-yard touchdown to put TCU up 49-0. Robinson’s scoring drive lasted just two plays and 19 seconds.

“I thought the slant was a great throw to TreVontae Hights on the play action,” Patterson said. “As he learns, you’ll see him make big strides into the next weeks.”

A couple of minutes later, the Horned Frogs defense found the end zone again after TCU linebacker Ty Summers stripped JSU running back Quitton Brown, and TCU linebacker Arico Evans scooped up the fumble and returned it 32-yards for another score to put TCU up 56-0.

“It wasn’t really me that made the play, I was just there to finish the play,” TCU linebacker Arico Evans said. “My teammates had key blocks, and I finished the play.”

With 6:15 left in the game, a Fort Worth native got in on the scoring when Robinson connected with sophomore wide receiver Dylan Thomas, a R.L. Paschal High School alum, for a 10-yard touchdown that completed a five-play 77-yard drive to push the lead to nine scores, 63-0.

Robinson completed five of his seven passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns while adding 43 yards rushing on three carries.

The Horned Frogs recorded their 12th shutout in 17 seasons under Patterson, and it was TCU’s first since a 56-0 win at SMU in 2014. TCU has at least one shutout in six of the last nine seasons.

Up next for TCU is a date with Arkansas next Saturday in Fayetteville at 2:30 p.m.

“Reality is somewhere in between here,” Patterson said. “They have some good players, we rotated people and wore them down, but if we can do the same thing next week, they’ll get fired up because this next one is a test.”