The rain started coming and it didn’t stop coming, until after TCU walked away with a 24-16 victory.
Fans left the stadium en masse during halftime, as wind picked up and whipped at them. The turf was slick and the flagpoles shook, while players struggled with the elements.
One of those elements was soggy footballs. Game officials, per NCAA rules, had six balls prepared at the opening kickoff for use in the first half. At halftime, six more fresh footballs were brought out to be used.
Those 12 footballs were dried by just a towel in-between playing times. Without a warmer or other means of drying the leather skins, water-logged balls gave players a new challenge.
“The ball felt like it was a weighted ball,” TCU receiver Skye Dawson said. “It was soaking wet.”
More than a dozen passes were dropped between the two teams, while players slid and slipped on the field. SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw five interceptions and TCU botched three snaps on special teams play. Including turnovers-on-downs, both teams combined for a total of 14 turnovers.
“It felt ugly,” Dawson said. “The weather ruined a lot of stuff.”
One of the things the weather ruined was the chance to assess how well – or how poorly – TCU improved from the past week.
Due to the wet and windy conditions, a sloppy and unpredictable game saw unusual production from the Horned Frogs.
The aerial game was non-existent, as Gilbert and Horned Frogs quarterback Casey Pachall, combined, completed only 33 percent of their 66 passes. Pachall threw for a career-low 107 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per pass.
The rushing offense was futile as well, with the game’s leading rusher being TCU’s Matthew Tucker, who ran for 3.1 yards per carry. SMU tailback Zach Line, who ran for more than 120 yards in both of his previous starts against the Horned Frogs, gained 44 yards, half of which came from a 2nd quarter touchdown run.
The game was no longer about who was playing as the better team, but who would come out ahead in a comedy of errors.
“You have a situation where no one can catch it and no one can run it,” Horned Frogs’ coach Gary Patterson said. “So whoever screws up less is probably going to win.”
From looking at the scoreboard, it looked like the Horned Frogs were the team that “screwed up” less. From a coach’s standpoint, however, Patterson couldn’t seem to make up his mind.
“We screwed up less, or we screwed up more and got lucky,” he said.
In a game where both teams averaged less than three yards per play, it’s close to impossible to tell which assessment is right. The defenses could be praised for holding each other to such limited production or the offenses could be criticized for not finding ways to be effective.
All that can definitively be said is that the Horned Frogs “survived” a win, as Patterson said after the game, and the team is undefeated headed into TCU’s first Big 12 conference home game.
“We just found an another way to get it done,” Patterson said. “If you told me before the season that we’d be 4-0, I’d probably be jumping up and down.”
For Gary Patterson, and for the TCU fanbase, that may just have to do.