Despite a strong second half from quarterback Max Duggan, TCU football gave up too many big plays, falling to Iowa State University 37-34 on Saturday in their season opener.
“There is no silver lining,” Patterson said. “We came to play. You’ve got to play to win.”
Duggan, who entered for starter Matthew Downing at the start of the second half, finished 16-for-19 with 241 yards and three touchdowns. The sophomore showed little-to-no signs of rust after being medically cleared to play early last week.
“I think really just really came out fired up in the second half,” running back Emari Demercado said. “We were able to make more plays. Guys were getting excited, getting the momentum going.”
With 4:01 left to play in the game, TCU got the ball back with a chance to take the lead. On the first play of the drive, though, a bobbled catch by wide receiver Taye Barber led to an Iowa State interception.
Three plays later, the Cyclones scored a touchdown to extend their lead to nine and put the nails in the coffin for the Frogs.
On Tuesday, TCU head coach Gary Patterson applauded the Iowa State defense for being able to prevent big plays. His defense could not do the same against the Cyclones.
Iowa State had five plays of 32 yards or more in the game, three of which were scoring plays. The other two helped orchestrate scoring drives.
“I think we got to play better as a defense,” linebacker Garret Wallow said. “It really came down to five plays, and those five plays really hurt us.”
Wallow led TCU defensively with nine tackles, two of which were for a loss, and a sack.
The Cyclones finished with 424 yards of total offense, a significant improvement from the 303 yards they gained in their season-opening loss against Lousiana.
TCU racked up 499 yards of offense of their own, but their two turnovers — leading to 12 points for Iowa State — would prove to be the defense.
The Frogs looked like they had some rust to shake off to start the contest. After kicker Griffin Kell’s 49-yard field goal attempt was short on TCU’s opening possession, they punted on their next three drives.
Downing and the offense were not looking completely stale, gaining at least one first down on each of those first four drives. It was once the Frogs got past midfield that they were struggling to get things rolling.
Finally, with 6:37 left in the first half, Downing threw a 37-yard dart to freshman Quentin Johnston for the Frogs’ first score of the 2020 season.
Downing finished 11-for-21 with 159 yards and a score. Johnston, a former four-star recruit TCU flipped from Texas, caught two passes for 50 yards.
The Frogs trailed 16-7 at halftime. While the team’s offensive numbers were fairly close, a Downing fumble and a 75-yard touchdown run by Iowa State’s Breece Hall gave the Cyclones the advantage.
TCU was practically gifted a score in the waking moments of the second half.
The Frogs’ defense put the heat on Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy, who panicked and flung a backwards pass toward his own sideline. The ball fell into the hands of linebacker La’Kendrick Van Zandt, who walked into the end zone for the score.
After the game, Purdy referred to that moment as “freshman me.”
Any momentum gained by TCU was quickly diminished, though, as Iowa State answered with a touchdown of their own in just three plays.
Needing a spark, Patterson went to his bench. With 12:37 left in the third quarter, Duggan trotted on to the field for TCU. The sophomore was cleared to play last Monday after previously being ruled out indefinitely due to a heart condition.
“We felt like we needed to get a guy who could take off and scramble more,” Patterson said about putting Duggan in. “Nothing more than that.”
After taking a few drives to get warm, Duggan made his presence known near the end of the third quarter with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Barber.
Iowa State answered right away, using a 44-yard dime from Purdy at the end of the third quarter to move down the field quickly. Soon after, they scored a touchdown to go up 30-21.
A quick touchdown from Duggan to tight end Artayvious Lynn capped a quick three-play drive and gave the Frogs life midway through the fourth. However, Barber’s miscue on the ensuing drive cut the cord on hopes of a comeback.
“It’s been frustrating,” Wallow said. “As a team we have been through a lot and we overcame a lot. We want to win.”
Duggan threw his third touchdown of the day at the buzzer, but it was too little too late for TCU, who broke their 18-game home opener win streak.
TCU’s offensive line had been one of the weakest links on the day, giving up six sacks.
TCU will look to bounce back next week at No. 8 Texas. Kickoff at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium is TBA.