Despite an impressive second half, TCU was dealt another difficult loss on the road Saturday, and head coach Gary Patterson pointed to the quality of the opponent to explain why.
“You have to give Oklahoma a lot of credit…in the first half, [we gained] no first downs,” he said. “We were physically outmatched in the first half. In the second half, we had to find answers on how to win, and we put ourselves in position to win the game.”
The Horned Frogs (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) mounted a furious rally in the second half Saturday night, but ultimately fell short in Norman, losing 20-17 to the Sooners (5-0, 2-0 Big 12).
After trailing 13-0 at halftime, the Frogs had narrowed the margin to 13-10 just before the start of the fourth quarter. A 76-yard touchdown run by Oklahoma running back Brennan Clay with less than five minutes left seemed to put the game out of reach, but the Frogs scored another touchdown just five plays later to pull within three points once again. Oklahoma gained two first downs on the following drive to run out the clock and preserve a 20-17 win.
The Frogs gained a net total of 16 yards in the first half but went into the break down by only two possessions. They scored their first points of the night on a 25-yard field goal by Jaden Oberkrom to make the score 13-3. Immediately following that score, TCU took its biggest risk of the night in an attempt to seize the momentum.
With 7:17 left in the third quarter, Gary Patterson called an onside kick. Oberkrom bounced it high over the front line of the Sooners’ return team, and safety Derrick Kindred recovered the ball off the bounce to give TCU possession at the Oklahoma 35-yard line.
“We thought if we could get the ball to hit the ground, maybe we’d have a chance…You got a couple lucky bounces and guys fought for the ball and we got it,” Patterson said. “You had to change the game. You had to make something different happen. And fortunately for us, it worked.”
Trevone Boykin scored a two-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive to bring TCU within three points, and the Frogs erased the memory of a lackluster first half that saw them go three-and-out on six straight possessions.
The Frogs’ offense was put in a position to make that comeback because of an impressive effort on the other side of the ball. Prior to Clay’s touchdown run, the TCU defense had given up just 254 yards to the Sooners and only 54 yards after halftime.
The Frogs had seven tackles for loss and sacked Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell three times. Jason Verrett in particular had a great night, allowing only one catch and making six tackles.
“He’s a guy that we count on,” Patterson said of the senior cornerback. “We can single him, and he’ll play one-on-one…We always put him on the best guy that everybody has.”
However, the defense failed to deliver in the final minutes of the game, allowing Clay to break free for a touchdown run and then missing tackles on Oklahoma’s last drive to bleed the clock.
“You have to learn to finish,” Patterson said. “That goes for defense, too. We need to make that one play when we need a stop.”
The slow start on offense was a combination of a number of factors, Patterson said. The coach said quarterback Trevone Boykin was not patient enough in the pocket and receivers ran incorrect routes, which resulted in incompletions. Those mistakes cancelled out the good the Frogs were able to do late in the game, he said.
“It’s plain and simple,” he said. “You can’t go down and score as many points as we did in an eight-minute period and not do anything the other 52 [minutes].”
Despite that, the coach said he was proud of how his team battled back in the second half. He said the team’s problems cannot be placed on one person or one group, repeatedly emphasizing the importance of not “playing the blame game.”
Patterson said, “If anybody’s going to get blamed, it’s going to be me.”