When Kansas State kicker Jack Cantele hit a 41-yard field goal with just seconds remaining in the Wildcats’ win over TCU Saturday, the Horned Frogs lost not only the game, but their last hopes of making it to a ninth consecutive bowl game.
“I really couldn’t tell you,” said safety Sam Carter when asked what the mood was like in the locker room after the game. “I’m not used to losing. I don’t think any one is here. Everybody’s sad. I really don’t know what to say, you know?”
The 33-31 loss ended whatever slim chance TCU (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) had of making a bowl game. It is the first time the Frogs will miss a bowl since 2004. Meanwhile, KSU (6-4, 4-3 Big 12) secured a postseason berth for the fourth year in a row.
TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom appeared to have clinched the win for the Frogs when he hit a 56-yard field goal to make the score 31-30 with 2:03 left in the game. However, the Frogs were unable to keep the Wildcats out of field goal range as KSU drove the length of the field on the following drive to set up Cantele’s kick with only three seconds left.
The defining play of the game actually came on the previous Kansas State possession. Facing fourth-and-six from the TCU 39-yard line, the Wildcats punted the ball out of bounds to the Frogs’ two-yard line, but the officials threw a flag against TCU.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin, who head coach Gary Patterson had moved to punt returner earlier in the game, had gone back to return the punt. At the same time, cornerback Jason Verrett was on the field with the TCU defense.
Both players wear the number “2.”
By NCAA rule, a team cannot have two players on the field at the same time wearing the same number. TCU was penalized five yards, and KSU converted on fourth-and-one. The Wildcats went on to kick a field goal 13 plays and several minutes later to take a 30-28 lead.
Had TCU not been penalized, the Frogs would have had the ball ahead by three points and a chance to expand their lead. Instead, KSU was able to bleed the clock and take the lead. After the game, head coach Gary Patterson took the blame for the error.
“It was only one person’s fault that we didn’t win and that’s me,” he said. “We run a punt returner on, which we’d never done before, because he’s a lot more sure-handed…And we’ve got 2 [and] 2 on the field because we left our defense on the field and gave them an opportunity to go on fourth down. [That was the] difference in the ball game.”
It was one of many bizarre moments for TCU this season. Unfortunately for the Frogs, most of those have gone in favor of the opposing team. From officiating errors against Texas Tech to failing to gain a first down in the first half against Oklahoma to a three-hour lightning delay against Texas, TCU has caught some tough breaks this season.
“It is tough,” Carter said. “We’ve had had some good games and some bad games. Coach says sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. This season a lot of games haven’t gone our way, so we learn from our mistakes and we will be better next year.”
The Frogs put themselves in a difficult position early against the Wildcats. Five of TCU’s six first half drives got into KSU territory, but the Frogs turned just one of those opportunities into points. Running back B.J. Catalon’s 15-yard touchdown run was TCU’s lone score of the first half.
On those other four possessions that made it into Wildcat territory, TCU punted twice, failed to convert on fourth down once, and threw an interception. The Frogs went to halftime trailing 17-7.
TCU, as has been the team’s custom in 2013, turned things around in the second half, scoring 21 points in the third quarter. The Frogs had 157 yards in the third quarter, compared to just 142 before halftime.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin threw a one-yard touchdown to wide receiver to Josh Doctson on a play-action pass to pull TCU within three. He then ran the ball in from seven yards out after the Frogs recovered a fumble in KSU territory to put the Frogs up 21-17.
Boykin played quarterback primarily in the red zone in addition to playing wide receiver and punt returner. He had one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown and 25 yards receiving on four catches.
“Trevone just keeps making plays,” Patterson said.
After KSU scored a touchdown on its next possession, Casey Pachall found wide receiver David Porter deep downfield for a 51-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-24. Pachall finished completing 23 of 33 passes for 248 yards with a touchdown and and interception. A Cantele field goal made it 28-27 before the end of the third quarter.
The Frogs’ inability to take advantage of early opportunities has been a constant problem this season, and it ultimately cost them Saturday.
“We know that we are capable of playing with these teams and even beating them,” Pachall said. “But we have to put a full game together every week.”
TCU has two weeks before it faces Baylor Nov. 30. That will be the last game of the Frogs’ 2013 season, and they want to make the most of it.
“This Baylor game’s going to have to be our bowl game,” Patterson said.
“We are disappointed and very upset that we’re not going to a bowl,” Pachall said. “But we’re going to play as if we were going to a bowl. Our mindset isn’t going to change. We’re going to come out and practice the way we need to. And then, in two weeks, on Saturday, we’re going to show up as if we were going to a bowl. To a big bowl.”