When the rain started pouring at Amon G. Carter Stadium Saturday, it looked like the Battle for the Iron Skillet was going to be an ugly affair for the second year in a row.
But instead, when the downpour ended, it had washed away the sins of a struggling TCU offense.
“I feel like the rain gave our team more confidence,” quarterbackTrevone Boykin said after his team beat the SMU Mustangs 48-17. “After the rain was gone…I don’t know what it was. I don’t know,” he said, laughing.
While no one may be able to explain it, the Horned Frogs (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) became a different team after the rain. TCU was tied with SMU 10-10 in the third quarter when the skies opened up and the fans took shelter in the concourses. But when the sun began shining again after a few minutes, so did the Horned Frog offense.
Just after the sun came out, TCU took a 17-10 lead on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Boykin to freshman wide receiver Ty Slanina, the receiver’s first collegiate touchdown. That score was part of a string of 27 unanswered points by the Horned Frogs to start the second half.
During that period, Ja’Juan Story, a transfer from Florida, also had his first score as a Frog. He caught a screen pass for what looked to be a short gain before throwing off a tackler and sprinting 56 yards to the end zone to make the score 24-10.
“It was crazy,” Boykin said of the play, “because like right before, I told him I was going to throw him the ball and I asked him [if] was he going to score, and he said, ‘Yeah.’ And then we did it.”
After a touchdown run by running back B.J. Catalon and a 26-yard field goal by kicker Jaden Oberkrom put the Frogs up 34-10, SMU drove down the field and scored a touchdown to make it 34-17. When the Mustangs tried an onside kick on the next play, wide receiver LaDarius Brown caught the ball off of a bounce and returned it 45 yards for a score.
“I’ve never seen that perfect of a hop,” head coach Gary Patterson said. “I might have been able to at least get to the 20. And then I probably would have pulled my hamstring.”
On SMU’s next drive, safety Sam Carter intercepted a pass by SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert and returned it 66 yards for TCU’s final touchdown. The Horned Frogs’ defense intercepted Gilbert four times and forced five total turnovers as they shut down the Mustangs, allowing only 292 yards of total offense.
Carter’s return capped a 31-point fourth quarter for the Frogs. The explosion of scoring made it clear that TCU had gotten its “swagger” back, something Patterson said was an emphasis this week after the team had been down following a loss to Texas Tech.
“This last week, [we said] we need to get swagger,” Patterson said. “We need to start moving forward and we need to go play.”
After a difficult start to the game that saw TCU fall behind 10-7 before halftime, that swagger finally returned for the offense in the second half.
“Just feeding off of each other’s energy,” Catalon said of how the offense found its rhythm at last. “If [our] defense makes a play, as the offense, we’ve got to come back and respond.”
The team’s energy was fueled in part by the efforts of new contributors like Story and Slanina, as well as freshman wide reciever Cameron Echols-Luper and sophomore safety Derrick Kindred.
Patterson said earlier this week that Kindred, who Boykin nicknamed “Peanut” during camp last summer, has a chance to be a special player for this defense. According to Patterson, Kindred’s size and speed allowed the team to play more man coverage and disrupt the routes of SMU’s receivers.
The coverage by the secondary helped the team’s pass rush in the absence of injured defensive end Devonte Fields, who did not play. The team sacked Gilbert seven times, and the pressure was part of what forced him into four picks.
That performance from the defense contributed to a lopsided final score, but as always, Patterson said he did not care about the margin of victory.
“I would have been happy with one point,” he said.
Ultimately, the Horned Frogs were just happy they were able to hoist the Iron Skillet high before their home crowd. But they are even happier because, after weathering a storm, the sun had finally come out for TCU football.