Horned Frogs comeback from 18 points down to defeat Stanford in the Alamo Bowl

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Something about TCU playing in the Alamo Bowl seems to create instant classics and Thursday’s matchup between the Horned Frogs and the Stanford Cardinal was no exception. TCU utilized record-breaking performances from senior quarterback Kenny Hill and senior wide receiver Desmon White to pull off an 18-point, come-from-behind victory in San Antonio, 39-37

“I just came out to this game and tried not to do too much at the beginning, and then everybody kind of got on me a little bit, and we just all calmed down as a team and buckled down and got a win,” Hill said “That’s what we needed to do. It’s what these seniors wanted to do. We didn’t want to go out like how it was headed, so we had to turn it around.”

TCU quarterback Kenny Hill sprints to the end zone for the Horned Frogs’ first touchdown. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

Hill was the first and only player this season to have a passing, receiving, and rushing touchdowns in the same game, and he did it again Thursday. The senior signal-caller finished with 401 total yards: 314 passing, 60 rushing, and 27 receiving. His passing touchdowns were a 93-yard strike to Jalen Reagor and an 11-yard connection with White. His rushing score came on a six-yard scramble for the Horned Frogs’ first touchdown, and his receiving touchdown came on a throwback from White that went for 27 yards down the left sideline. That performance secured him Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP honors.

TCU quarterback Kenny Hill celebrates the Horned Frogs’ Alamo Bowl victory as the game’s Offensive MVP. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

I told Des just like I told Turp the first time, please, man, if you throw it to me I’m going to score this,” Hill said. 

White also had a banner night in his game in the purple and black, finishing with 143 total yards and three total touchdowns: an 11-yard receiving touchdown, a 27-yard passing touchdown to Hill, and a fourth-quarter 76-yard punt return that gave TCU their first lead of the game.

White lined up as the quarterback at DeSoto High School but transitioned to the role of wide receiver at TCU. As a quarterback, White threw for a total of 3,589 yards with 37 touchdowns and five interceptions, an average of 276.1 yards per game.

“Coach Cumbie does a great job of utilizing my abilities,” White said. “I just tried to come out and play my best game for my last time in a TCU uniform.”

 

Even with those stellar outings by Hill and White, Stanford punched TCU in the mouth early, leading 21-3 midway through the second quarter. Heisman runner-up Bryce Love gave the Horned Frog defense everything the could handle, totaling 145 yards and two touchdowns.

“The bottom line to it is we need to start faster,”  TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “If you want to win championships, whether it’s the Alamo Bowl or Oklahoma or anybody else you play, you can’t dig a hole for yourself against good football teams.”

Trailing by 11 entering the second half, 21-10, the Horned Frogs used a little trickery 27 yards from the end zone. TCU threw a curveball as Hill hit White on what appeared to be a screen, but White looked downfield toward the end zone before throwing back to Hill who was left all alone down the left sideline where he sprinted untouched for a touchdown, which cut the lead to five after kicker Cole Bunce missed an extra point.

TCU quarterback Kenny Hill runs into the end zone for a receiving touchdown from wide receiver Desmon White. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

The Cardinals had an immediate counter-punch for TCU as Love struck for his second touchdown, this time with a 69-yard burst up the middle for a score that pushed its lead back up to double digits, 28-16.

On the following drive, TCU found the end zone once again. On the Cardinal 11, Hill danced around in the pocket and fired a dart to White in the back of the end zone for a touchdown to give the pair a passing and receiving touchdown each.  The strike cut the Stanford lead to five, 28-23, with 5:51 left in the third quarter.

 The TCU defense stopped the volley of touchdowns after a critical third and six pass break-up by linebacker Travin Howard. Stanford settled for a 27-yard field goal to give the Cardinal an eight-point lead, 31-23.

Thr Frogs countered when first-year wide receiver Jalen Reagor ran free down the right sideline, and Hill hit him wideout in stride for the fourth-longest touchdown in program history, a 93-yard strike.

“His legs just go,” Hill said. “He’ll starting running off the line and all of the sudden he hits another gear.” 

TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor hauls in a 93-yard touchdown pass. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

The score left the Horned Frogs trailing by two, 31-29, after they just missed the game-tying two-point conversion.

With just under 12 minutes to play Desmon White brought the house down in San Antonio. On a 60-yard punt that traveled to the TCU 24, White caught the ball and began to run left, cut back to his right, and after a couple blocks, he had a 76-yard punt return touchdown that gave TCU it’s first lead of the night, 36-31.

 The score was his first ever collegiate punt returned for a touchdown and an Alamo Bowl record as the longest punt return for a touchdown in the game’s history.

“We needed it,” White said. “The punter left it in the air hanging. I just got in there, I saw green, and I just took off running. It felt good because I just got done fumbling, so I wanted to make up for that fumble and help the team out, and that’s what I did.”

Desmon Whites dances in the end zone after his 76-yard punt return touchdown. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

The Cardinal wouldn’t go away though, finding wide receiver JJ Acera-Whiteside for his third red zone touchdown of the night on a jump ball reception over TCU cornerback Ranthony Texada. The ensuing two-point conversion was broken up by in the back of the end zone, leaving Stanford with a one-point advantage, 37-36.

Hill proceeded to march the Horned Frogs down the field over the course of nine-plays to set-up a go-ahead field goal attempt that Bunce hit from 33 yards right up the middle. The sophomore kicker’s second make made him six-for-seven since taking over as the kicker in place of Jonathan Song in the Nov. 11 matchup with Oklahoma.

Patterson’s defense stepped up to seal the victory for the Horned Frogs, as safety Innis Gaines intercepted Stanford quarterback KJ Costello with 2:01 left to play.

TCU safety Innis Gaines intercepts Stanford quarterback KJ Costello. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

Up Next

With the victory, TCU finished the season 11-3, Patterson captured his 160th career victory as a Horned Frog, and the senior class finished with 40 wins.

It’s the 10th 11-win season since Gary Patterson took over as head coach in 2001. Only 3 FBS schools have had more such seasons in that time. Ohio State (12), ,Oklahoma (12) and Boise State (11).

“This group of seniors, for their opportunity to win 11 ballgames and then also 40 in their career I think is really cool,” Patterson said. “Bottom line is coaches love coaching guys that are good people and they work hard, and this group does that.”

Going forward, the next group of Horned Frogs has a standard to strive for.

 “The next group up, they can’t drop the ball because this group worked too hard to get us where we were,” Patterson said. “We’ve got some big games starting out next year.”