With quarterback Tye Gunn lost to a shoulder injury and Brigham Young up 34-16 late in the third quarter, reserve quarterback Jeff Ballard took the reins of a TCU team that had not scored an offensive touchdown all day.How quickly a game can change.
In only his second collegiate outing, Ballard passed for 150 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Horned Frogs to a 51-50 overtime victory Saturday.
“First I was nervous for Tye, but then I knew I had to go in there and get it done,” Ballard said.
After TCU took a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter on a 35-yard touchdown pass, Ballard followed up his throw with a short rush to complete the two-point conversion and move the Frogs ahead by three. BYU kicker Jared McLaughlin kicked a 39-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime.
BYU scored a touchdown on its first play in the overtime, but failed to convert the extra point. The error would prove critical when wide receiver Cory Rodgers found the end zone on a three-yard rush, and sophomore kicker Chris Manfredini kicked the extra point to seal the comeback victory.
The winning touchdown generated controversy as Rogers lost the ball near the goal line, but replays were inconclusive and the score stood.
“I definitely crossed the plane (of the end zone),” Rodgers said. “The officials ruled it a touchdown, and I trusted them, and then the official’s review left no doubt in my mind.”
That game-tying touchdown was one of four for Rodgers on the day – one receiving, two rushing and a 100-yard kickoff return early in the first quarter that halted a 14-0 BYU run. Rodgers’ all-around performance earned him National Player of the Week Honors, granted by the Walter Camp Foundation, and his timely return moved him into a six-way tie for the longest kickoff return in TCU history.
“I have a great kickoff return unit,” Rodgers said. “They have great confidence in me that I’m going to break a long one. I got some really good opportunities.”
Ballard’s introduction to the game sparked a 28-10 run for the Frogs. Rodgers said that while Gunn’s absence wasn’t the reason TCU managed to turn the game around, Ballard did provide a change of pace.
“The game changed tremendously,” Rodgers said. “Gunn wasn’t playing badly, but he was getting banged up, and Ballard came in and made some great decisions.”
Despite Ballard’s impressive cameo and Rodgers’ strong showing, the Frogs struggled early on defense, allowing Cougar quarterback John Beck to amass career bests in both passing yards (517) and passing touchdowns (5).
Senior cornerback Drew Coleman blames the Frogs’ defense for Beck’s record day.
“We eventually realized that it wasn’t anything they were doing (that was beating us), ” Coleman said. “We figured out that it was all of us. We gave them almost 35 points because of defensive mistakes. It was about miscommunication. But then we settled down and they had to start kicking field goals.”
TCU will look to improve its conference record to 3-0 Saturday against New Mexico at Amon Carter Stadium.