In a game the Horned Frogs had to win to become bowl eligible, wide receiver Jalen Reagor had over 200 yards of offense and the defense stepped up, as TCU defeated Oklahoma State 31-24 Saturday on senior night.
“Gotta give the kids a lot of credit,” head coach Gary Patterson said. “Somehow, we found a way to win.”
Reagor was all over the field, scoring on a six-yard pass from quarterback Grayson Muehlstein late in the second quarter and on an 83-yard run early in the third quarter on which he blew by the entire Cowboys’ secondary.
“Some things you can’t teach, and he has the things you can’t teach,” safety Niko Small said about Reagor. “He has a switch. If he wants to turn it on, he’ll turn it on.”
His receiving touchdown had ended a 26:21 scoring drought in the game to put TCU up 7-3 after OSU had kicked a field goal on their opening drive.
As if it was scripted, the catch not only gave Reagor the fourth 1,000-yard receiving season in TCU history but was also good for his seventh-straight game with a touchdown reception—a TCU record. He finished the game with eight catches for 91 yards. This helped him finish the regular season with 72 of the Horned Frogs’ 231 catches, a record 31 percent of TCU’s receptions.
“It’s just all surreal,” Reagor said. “I know I’m capable of playing like that. It’s just the way that happens. It’s just a blessing.”
The score was a big reason why TCU had out-gained OSU 176 yards to 61 yards in total offense at halftime.
Reagor’s rushing touchdown early in the third quarter was the second of the sophomore’s career. His 121 yards rushing Saturday were a career-high and the second-highest total in a game for any Horned Frog this season.
With quarterbacks Shawn Robinson and Michael Collins out with season-ending injuries, Muehlstein made the start for TCU. A graduate student, the Decatur, Texas, native made the first start of his five-year career as a Horned Frog on his senior night.
After fumbling on just his second snap, the veteran signal caller recovered well to finish 16-25 with 180 yards, two touchdowns, and a 150.9 passer rating. He finished his regular season career with zero interceptions thrown on 43 pass attempts.
“You had to think outside the box,” Patterson said. “We had to do some things he [Grayson] could do well and get everybody involved.”
While their offense was finally clicking, the Horned Frogs showed why they have the top-ranked defense in the Big 12. On the first snap of the second half, linebacker Jawuan Johnson picked up a fumble and took it all the way to the house to put TCU up 14-3.
Along with the touchdown, Johnson finished with 12 tackles on the day, tying a career-high.
In the game, TCU held the No. 9 offense in the nation, which previously averaged 520 yards per game, to 280 yards of total offense, including just 99 passing yards from Cowboy quarterback Taylor Cornelius. This was the first time OSU had recorded fewer than 100 yards passing in five seasons.
“We just played hard: suffocate. Don’t give easy throws,” cornerback Jeff Gladney said. “Contest every shot—that’s all we really do.”
Mostly due to the efforts of Gladney, the Frogs had restricted the Cowboys’ primary wide receiver and Biletnikoff Award hopeful Tylan Wallace to just two catches for 29 yards through three quarters. Although Wallace finished with four catches for 64 yards, the total was still well below his previous season average of 122 yards, and he did not have a substantial impact on the game.
Although Small gave credit to Gladney, saying that he was the “best cornerback in the Big 12,” the success of the TCU secondary was also aided by the return of the senior defensive back, who had not played since October 27 at Kansas. Patterson said the experience of Small gave his secondary more confidence and allowed them to play faster.
“It just felt great all around just to be able to get back out there with my people,” Small said.
Thanks to the heroics of Reagor, ball control of Muehlstein, and effort of the defense, even two fourth-quarter touchdown runs by Cornelius were not enough to overcome the Horned Frogs, and TCU won 31-24 to become bowl eligible.
The bowl game will be the 19th in Patterson’s 21 years as a coach at TCU and 16th in his 18 years as head coach.
“For me, I’ve been here 21 years, and this will be the 19th bowl in 21 years,” Patterson said. “You don’t want to be that fact, be part of those facts be that group that didn’t.”
The Horned Frogs will find out in the next week which bowl they will play in and who they will be playing.