FORT WORTH, Tex - The No. 15 TCU Horned Frogs entered 2016 with high aspirations, but the dream of an undefeated season was dashed with a 41-38 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks in double-overtime Saturday night at Amon G. Carter Stadium, ending the Horned Frogs 14 game win streak in Fort Worth.
“We made too many little mistakes,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “When you want to beat good teams, you can’t make little mistakes.”
With a non-conference loss to an SEC opponent, the Frogs can still contend within the Big 12 conference, but for now, the they are left asking questions as to how what seemed to be a come-from-behind victory got away from them in front of their home crowd.
Facing each other for the first time in 25 years, the battle between the Frogs and the Razorbacks looked like it was going to be a low scoring, hard-hitting affair early on, as Arkansas led TCU 3-0 at the end of the first quarter. Things took a turn though when TCU quarterback Kenny Hill’s pass to running back Kyle Hicks was intercepted by Arkansas linebacker Brooks Ellis, who returned the pick 47 yards for a touchdown, giving the Razorbacks a 13-0 lead.
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“They pressed us offensively and they came after us. When people get in your face you have to hit back and we weren’t good at that early,” Patterson said.
The score would hold into halftime, the first time that the Frogs had been shutout for the first half in front of their home crowd since Nov. 2012 against Kansas State.
Patterson said he was encouraged that the deficit was not larger given Arkansas’ ability to stifle TCU’s offense.
“We fumbled, we threw a pick six….honestly I thought it was a positive that we were only down 13-0 at halftime,” Patterson said.
The Frogs would not go down without a fight though. Hicks got the Frogs on the board with a 9-yard rushing touchdown just over 3 minutes into the second half, cutting the Arkansas lead to 13-7. The Razorbacks would regain a 14 point lead with a 13 yard pass from quarterback Austin Allen to receiver Drew Morgan late in the quarter, putting Arkansas up 20-7.
Drama would ensue in the fourth quarter. After Arkansas kicker Cole Hedlund missed a short field goal attempt to put the Razorbacks up by 17 points, TCU would respond on the ensuing drive by working their way all the way down to the red zone, and a one-yard rushing touchdown by Hill on the keeper cut the Arkansas lead back to six points, 20-14.
After forcing an Arkansas three and out, the Frogs kept up their tempo by driving down the field yet again on the ensuing drive. With 7:15 to play, Kyle Hicks ran it seven yards into the end zone to give the Frogs their first lead of the evening, 21-20. The Frogs defense would continue to make stand after stand and another Kenny Hill rushing touchdown with 2:05 to go made it a 28-20 TCU lead.
“It was all leadership,” TCU defensive end Josh Carraway said of the comeback. “We had guys who had been in those dire situations before, and they really pushed everybody to their limits.”
Defense wasn’t the only factor in getting the Frogs back in the game late, as Hill personally accounted for 14 points in the frame.
“He battled again,” Patterson said of Hill’s performance. “He made big plays with his feet, and we had some other guys make big plays too.”
While Hill’s second touchdown appeared to lock up a TCU victory, the game was far from over. It was now the Razorbacks’ turn.
Propelled by several long first down completions, Arkansas struck late when Allen found wide reliever Keon Hatcher for a 16-yard touchdown with only 1:03 to play. The Razorbacks would convert on a two-point conversion attempt to Hatcher again, tying the game at 28 at all.
“They put us on the forty and they just kept catching the ball,” Carraway said when asked about the final drive.
TCU had a prime chance to win the ballgame in the final minute after KaVontae Turpin returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to the Arkansas 27-yard line, but an Emanuel Porter touchdown was called back for illegal touching before a game winning field goal attempt by Ryan Graf was blocked, sending the game into overtime.
Arkansas struck first in overtime with a touchdown pass to tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, but the Frogs responded when Hill found Taj Williams in the end zone for a 13-yard pass, resulting in a second overtime.
TCU would settle for a field goal to open double overtime, and it would not be enough. On third and goal, Allen took it himself out of the pocket. Five yards later, Allen was in the end zone, Arkansas had won the ballgame, and the crowd of 45,000 was silenced as Razorback players celebrated an overtime victory.
“Arkansas took the game from us,” Carraway said.
In total, the Frogs outgained the Razorbacks 572 to 403 in total offense. Hill passed for 377 yards opposed to Allen’s 223. But none of that mattered. All that did matter was that Arkansas scored 41 points, and TCU scored 38. TCU’s run at an undefeated season was over after just two weeks.
“I told them I was proud of them,” Patterson said. “But you’re at home, you had a chance to win it twice, and you don’t.”
* After hauling in 11 catches for 158 yards against South Dakota State, TCU wide receiver Taj Williams was held in check on Saturday against Arkansas, only recording one touchdown catch for 13-yards (a pretty big one in overtime). I won’t call it a concern, because Williams was an unknown to SDSU in week one, but going forward he will need to have bigger games.
* TCU’s nine penalties for 95-yards doesn’t look great - but it is even worse considering the timing of more than a few of them. Twice in the first half the Frogs were flagged for penalties on plays resulting in first downs where the play in question had no actual affect on the play.
* Enough can’t be said about sophomore Kavonte Turpin, who nearly willed the Frogs to victory by himself. His 295 all-purpose yards got TCU back into the game in the second half. Turpin’s 126 yards receiving were 12 shy of a career-high 138 set last season against Texas. It was his third career 100-yard receiving game.
* A 14-game winning streak had many TCU fans, especially the students, a bit spoiled in Fort Worth. The hard thing will be for the Frogs to remember the ultimate goal - a national championship - is not off the table. Just last season the Oklahoma made the College Football Playoff after losing to unranked Texas early in the season. Now the Big 12 might have a harder road in 2016 with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU already losing, but there is still tons of football left to be played.