TCU head coach Gary Patterson earned his 100th career win Saturday, but the milestone victory didn’t come easy.
TCU used two early third quarter scores to propel them to a 38-17 win over Louisiana-Monroe in their home opener Saturday afternoon at Amon G. Carter stadium.
Junior running back Matthew Tucker scored a pair of rushing touchdowns and Senior cornerback Greg McCoy had a 94-yard kickoff return as the Frogs won their second consecutive game and improved to 2-1 on the season.
Tucker finished with 66 yards on 15 carries.
Sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall had a big game, too, completing 15 of 23 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns, his first a 68-yard bomb to receiver Josh Boyce early in the first quarter that gave TCU a 7-3 lead.
One of Pachall’s few errors came near the end of the second quarter when he fumbled with 10 seconds left on the clock after being hit while attempting to throw. ULM couldn’t capitalize on the mistake, though, and missed a 43-yard field goal as time expired.
That marked the end of a tumultuous first half for TCU in which ULM quarterback Kolton Browning and the Warhawk offense gave the Frog secondary fits.
Browning led ULM deep into TCU territory on their opening drive, down to the Frogs’ six yard line. TCU would make a third and goal stop and limit the Warhawks to a field goal.
But on ULM’s next possession, the Warhawks drove deep into TCU territory again, capping it off with a 22-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Cody Wells to tight end Brent Leonard on fourth down. Leonard was found wide open after slipping past TCU defender Tekerrein Cuba.
Patterson said TCU had a general idea of what the ULM offense was going to bring, but the Warhawks’ early success happened because the Frogs’ simply did not do what they had to do.
“We understood what they were going to do,” Patterson said. “We had to make plays. Their whole first drive was our fault.”
Running back Matthew Tucker would score on a five yard touchdown run on the Frogs’ next drive to give TCU a 14-10 lead.
TCU’s lead wouldn’t last long, though.
After driving ULM into TCU territory for the third consecutive time, Browning tossed up what looked to be a prayer but turned out to be a 37-yard touchdown to a diving Tavarese Maye. Maye was guarded closely by TCU cornerback Kevin White but the two got tangled up in the endzone. White fell, but Maye managed to extend out to make the catch and give ULM the lead back.
Patterson said the Warhawks’ big first quarter showed his team what a lack of preparation leads to.
“I told them all week how they needed to practice,” Patterson said. “They found out in the first quarter what happens if you don’t.”
After an Antoine Hicks touchdown run and ULM’s missed field goal at the end of the half, TCU headed into the locker room with a 21-17 lead.
But when the Frogs’ came out of the locker room, their lead would get bigger.
In a hurry.
McCoy returned the opening kickoff of the second half 94 yards for the touchdown.
McCoy said he knew he’d have a chance to make a difference in the game and swing the momentum fully in TCU’s direction coming out of halftime so he wasn’t going to pass up on the chance.
“When I came out (of halftime) I already knew I had to try to make an impact and help bring some energy to the team,” McCoy said.
TCU kicked off but got the ball back three plays later when ULM’s Jyruss Edwards lost the ball on a carry up the middle. TCU nose tackle D.J. Yendrey recovered the loose ball and set the Frog offense up on the ULM 28-yard line.
From there, Pachall would navigate the TCU offense down to the ULM one-yard line before handing it off to Tucker, who nudged his way into the endzone for his second score of the game to give the Frogs a 35-17 advantage.
Suddenly, a TCU lead that was nearly cut to one before the half, had grown to 18.
ULM couldn’t respond. The TCU defense held the Warhawks scoreless the rest of the game.
Pachall said McCoy’s kickoff return was a key part in igniting TCU in the second half and giving them the momentum to win the game.
“That was big,” Pachall said. “That gave us a lot of momentum.”
ULM runs a 3-3-5 defense, something TCU normally does not face, but Pachall said the Warhawks’ scheme didn’t pose too many problems Saturday.
“There was maybe one or two plays where they did something we didn’t expect,” Pachall said. “Other than that we were pretty well game-planned and we knew everything that was going to go on.”
Patterson said TCU’s second half resurgence was due mainly in part to his team ratcheting up their intensity.
“When they turned up the knob, good things happened to them,” Patterson said. “We got to keep turning up the knob. We’ve got to learn how to play four quarters.”
TCU kicker Ross Evans tacked on a 28-yard field goal with :27 left in the game.
Patterson said TCU has to keep progressing but he admitted he’s proud of what his team has accomplished through three games, two of which have been on the road.
“We need to move forward,” Patterson said. “The last two weeks going on the road and taking your own energy was hard. So, we’re excited about where we’re at.”
The Frogs will be back in action next Saturday when they host Portland State at 1 p.m.
-Matthew Tucker got the start at running back for the third consecutive week. Starter Ed Wesley was suspended in the first quarter at Waco and was held out last week and Saturday with a shoulder injury.
-TCU was also without starting linebacker Tanner Brock, who was also held out with an injury.
– TCU return man Skye Dawson muffed a punt in the second quarter that was recovered by ULM inside the TCU 10-yard line. Luckily, ULM was penalized for illegal formation on the play and had to punt again. But it wasn’t Dawson. Instead, freshman receiver Brandon Carter got the call and was given the chance to return punts the rest of the game.
-TCU got a chance to wear their new Nike Pro Combat uniforms. The jerseys are identical to the ones TCU wore against Baylor and Air Force, except the main color scheme being purple, not white
– Browning finished with 194 passing yards and a touchdown.
– Waymon James led all Frog rushers with 89 yards on 11 carries. TCU’s Aundre Dean chipped in 67 yards on 11 carries.