Football is a team sport. Eleven players line up on offense, eleven players line up on defense, and a team has anywhere from 53 to 85 players on their roster, depending on the level of play.
It only took one man, though, to run all over TCU football on Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium and hand them their second loss in as many games.
Texas running back Bijan Robinson, who many consider to be a Heisman Trophy front runner, was an absolute workhorse for the entire game, taking 35 carries for 216 yards (both career-highs) and two touchdowns.
“He’s a good running back,” head coach Gary Patterson said. “We aren’t the first or the last people that he’s going to run for some yardage on.”
The sophomore had six carries of 10 yards or more in the game, adding 22 yards receiving for a whopping 238 all-purpose yards.
With 4:23 left to go in the game and TCU trailing by five, all the Frogs had to do was get one stop, and they would have an opportunity to win the game on offense.
Texas then handed the ball off to Robinson six-straight times, and the young superstar gained 35 yards to give the Longhorns the 32-27 win and prevent TCU from even getting a final shot.
Though Robinson’s stat line will likely go down as one of the best in the nation all season, he was not the only running back who showed a rare ability to dominate on the ground on Saturday,
TCU running back Zach Evans was sensational in his own ways, rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries (7.5 yards per carry), causing Frog fans to wonder what could have been for the former five-star if his workload had resembled Robinson’s.
Patterson said after the game that Evans’ lack of carries had been due to the back being “tired.”
Perhaps the most impressive of Evans’ touches came on his very first one, as he took a carry inside the red zone, bounced off of a group of Texas defenders, and gave TCU a 7-0 lead just 52 seconds into the game.
TCU would go on to hold Texas to a field goal on their opening drive, but it was the Longhorns’ second possession of the game that saw the wind in the sails of the Frogs’ defense start to diminish.
With Texas facing third down, TCU safety T.J. Carter put a ferocious hit on Longhorn receiver Jordan Whittington to force an incompletion and a Texas punt.
Despite there not originally being a flag on the play, a TCU timeout allowed for the play to be reviewed, which resulted in a targeting call and Carter’s ejection from the game.
Six plays later, Robinson bullied his way up the middle for a 27-yard touchdown, giving Texas a 10-7 lead for their first advantage of the afternoon.
From the time Carter was dismissed from the game to the end of the first half, Texas outscored TCU 20-10, taking a six-point lead into the halftime break that they would not lose for the rest of the game.
In what seems to be becoming a habit for him, quarterback Max Duggan was efficient with the football while also failing to deliver in key moments for the Frogs.
The sophomore finished the game 20-for-28 with 182 yards and a touchdown, but his third quarter fumble on a massive blindside hit by defensive back Anthony Cook halted TCU’s attempt to take the lead in the second half.
Two drives later for TCU, with Texas holding their biggest lead of the game (12), Duggan missed receiver Derius Davis wide on 3rd-and-8 to end what was a crucial opportunity for the Frogs to score early in the fourth quarter.
Davis had not been without his own mistakes, though. The senior wide receiver recorded two fumbles in the game, one on a reverse handoff and another on a muffed punt, as well as a drop in the fourth quarter that almost gave way to a Texas interception.
“We had an opportunity, and we have to take care of that opportunity when we can,” Patterson said. “Like I told them downstairs, I was proud of them, but you can’t turn the ball over, punt, give up sacks and fumble the ball, and we can’t tackle.”
The TCU defense stood tall on each of the Frogs’ turnovers, holding Texas to just a field goal each time. Those nine points, though, and the potential points from a lost TCU possession were more than enough to give the Longhorns the win.
Cornerback Tre Tomlinson, who had played safety as well following Carter’s ejection, led the Frogs with nine tackles and a forced fumble. Defensive end Dylan Horton joined Tomlinson with nine tackles of his own, also recording two sacks on the day.
“As a defensive line, we were pass rushing with as much effort as we could,” Horton said. “We game planned this week, as we do for all our opponents. Overall, we tried as hard as we could to get to the quarterback.”
The two standout TCU defenders had played a big role in holding Texas quarterback Casey Thompson to just 12 completions on the day (on 22 attempts) for 142 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
Late in the game, Texas had a chance to go up by 19 and virtually end the game with 10 minutes remaining. The Frogs stood tall, holding Robinson twice from inside the TCU 2-yard line to force a turnover on downs.
The Frogs responded with a 13-play, 99-yard touchdown drive to pull within five, but Robinson was not going to be stopped again to give TCU another look.
One piece of good news in the game had been the Frogs seeing a pair of their defensive superstars return. Cornerback Noah Daniels returned for time both on special teams and at corner, while defensive end Khari Coleman also saw time on the defensive line. Neither player had seen the field yet this season prior to the game.
In a season that many had dubbed “the year” for TCU football, the Frogs are now 2-2 on the season.
Desperately needing momentum, TCU will head to Lubbock on Saturday to play Texas Tech for their first road appearance of the year. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Duggan said. “Going in two weeks straight with a loss is going to suck, but nobody is going to feel bad for us and Texas Tech isn’t going to feel sorry for us. We can’t listen to the outside noise; we just need to focus on ourselves and get a win down in Lubbock.”