Casey Pachall looked out of sync, and the TCU offense, so dominant and efficient at times against Grambling State and Kansas, was starting to sputter early in the first quarter Saturday against Virginia.
Then, Brandon Carter put a little gas in the engine.
Carter’s one-handed catch and run for a 68-yard touchdown sparked the TCU offense to a 27-7 win Saturday afternoon over Virginia.
Carter’s touchdown came on third down and 10 with 8:17 left in the first quarter. Quarterback Casey Pachall’s pass fluttered high over the Virginia secondary, and seemingly past Carter, who reached up with his right hand and snagged the ball, throwing off the Cavalier defender and sprinting into the end zone.
Carter, who later in the half had another one-handed catch, a 41-yarder to the UVA 3-yard-line, finished the game with a team-high 128 yards on five catches.
“When Casey threw the ball, I was thinking, ‘Just catch the ball and just run,’” the sophomore receiver said. “And that’s what I did. It just happened that I put one hand out there and I caught it.”
Carter’s big score was right instep with what the offense wanted to do on its first drive of the game, he said.
“Our offense came out there with the mindset of scoring that first drive,” he said.
But before Carter’s acrobatics, the Frogs looked little like the offense that rolled up 56 points two weeks ago against Grambling State and last week drove up and down the field against Kansas.
Pachall’s first pass of the game was intended for Josh Boyce, who could have scored if not for the defensive pass interference, which was called and moved TCU up 15 yards to its own 21. But Pachall’s next pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage. Then he was hurried out of the pocket for a one-yard gain. Pachall would complete a 10-yard out route to Cam White for a first down on third and nine, but the Frogs’ next two plays – a Matthew Tucker run and a Pachall incompletion – went nowhere, leaving TCU with another long third down.
Pachall’s next pass nearly went incomplete, too, before Carter got a hold of the ball, giving TCU a lead it would hold the rest of the game.
“He can do just about everything,” said receiver Josh Boyce, who in the second quarter scored his 18th career touchdown, a school record. “When they call his name, he’s there to make the play.”
Carter, who played quarterback at Euless Trinity High School, played last year as a true freshman. Since last season, Carter has matured as a route-runner, Pachall said.
“He’s a lot more reliable now with his routes,” Pachall said. “I already know he can make plays and he can catch the ball and he can run. It’s just that trust factor that’s grown a little bit.”
And while Pachall relies on Carter to run his routes right, Carter relies heavily on something within himself.
Last week, at Kansas, Carter had eight catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. Listed at 5-foot-11, Carter went up over the top of a Jayhawk defender for that score. He made a similar catch for touchdown last year against Boise State. Carter finished that game with four catches and 120 yards.
“When I see the ball, I go to the highest point and get the ball,” he said. “I’m not big, I’m not tall. It’s just all in my heart. I got a big heart, and that’s how I play.”