It might not impress the College Football Playoff selection committee, but the Frogs somehow escaped Kansas with a narrow 34-30 win Saturday.
The No. 4 Horned Frogs were on upset alert for the majority of three quarters, before a 69-yard punt return touchdown by Cameron Echols-Luper flipped the switch and gave TCU a 31-27 lead.
“It changed the momentum of the game,” Echols-Luper said of his return in the postgame interview. “I knew as soon as I caught it I had a chance, he out-kicked his coverage.”
The Frogs were losing 27-17 when returner and cornerback Ranthony Texada fumbled a kickoff return on the Frogs’ own 49-yard line with 8:16 remaining in the third quarter.
Down 10 and defending in their own territory, TCU’s chances of winning seemed to be slipping away.
But TCU rattled off 17 unanswered points and three consecutive three-and-outs on defense to stifle the Jayhawks and preserve the victory.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin seemed to once again struggle in the cold weather, although he put up respectable numbers.
Boykin completed 26 of 37 passes for 330 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Running back Aaron Green was the primary running threat for the Frogs, gaining 128 yards on 19 carries with two rushing touchdowns on the day.
Wideout Ty Slanina was the best of the receiving corps, catching six important balls for 95 yards – including a 27-yard touchdown that opened all scoring.
The sophomore receiver was praised by Patterson after the game for a conversion on third and 20 that kept a drive alive when the Frogs were losing 27-17 in the third quarter.
The TCU defense was outdone by a series of absurd catches and lucky bounces on the day, but also missed many crucial tackles and dropped multiple interceptions.
KU receivers caught multiple deflected and tipped balls, none bigger than Nigel King’s 78-yard touchdown grab on a sideline tip drill in the third quarter.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played on a defense where the offense got that many tipped balls, it was crazy,” safety Chris Hackett said after the game.
TCU didn’t make the fourth quarter easy for itself. Freshman running back Trevorris Johnson fumbled on TCU’s 10-yard line, and KU made a 23-yard field goal to cut the lead to 34-30.
With four minutes left to play, KU was driving in its own territory when Hackett sealed the game with an interception.
“We were playing hard and couldn’t catch a break, but we kept composure,” Hackett said. “We talked as a team and kept going. The game’s not over, fight until the end.”
The TCU defense was able to force its first turnover of the game when it mattered most, and the Frogs ran out the clock to escape Lawrence with a 34-30 victory.
The Horned Frogs will likely drop out of the top 4 of the College Football Playoff Rankings after an uninspiring win over KU, but Boykin said TCU isn’t worried about the rankings – at least for the moment.
“Our main goal is to win a Big 12 Championship,” Boykin said. “We can’t worry about the playoffs, it’s not up to us. [The committee] votes for who they do, and either way we’re thankful for it.”
TCU heads back to the Lone Star State where they will play Texas in Austin on Thanksgiving night.