For the third time in 2016, the TCU Horned Frogs are walking out of Amon G. Carter Stadium without a win, as the Frogs were downed by the Texas Tech Red Raiders 27-24 in a double overtime thriller Saturday night in Fort Worth.
In a game that many experts predicted to surpass the 1,000 yard mark in offense with more than 100 points scored, the narrative took a wacky turn, as the Frogs and Red Raiders were tied at 17 apiece after regulation. Each team answered the bell with a touchdown in the first overtime, but TCU kicker Brandon Hatfield’s attempted go-ahead field goal was blocked in double overtime before Clayton Hatfield sent one through the uprights to give Texas Tech the win.
“The goal is to beat them by one point. We did some good things, but we missed three field goals,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “In tight ballgames you can’t miss three field goals.”
As the Frogs have now lost two straight and have fallen to 4-4 on the year, it’s now time to examine what exactly happened in a contest that ultimately spelled doom for the Frogs as their rivals from West Texas prevailed.
Tech’s lowly defense was no gift to TCU
Where do we begin? Texas Tech’s defense is ranked the second worst in the nation among all FBS teams, and the Frogs only managed to put up 17 points against them in regulation. Just last week, they allowed over 850 yards to Oklahoma, who TCU scored 46 points against on the first of the month. Ultimately starting quarterback Kenny Hill was pulled in favor of redshirt-sophomore Foster Sawyer, who did connect with Des White for a passing touchdown in overtime. But that was the only real highlight from Sawyer. It didn’t help either than running-back Kyle Hicks suffered a minor ankle injury or that Brandon Hatfield missed three field goals, but even then, you’d expect the Frogs to put up mind-blogging points against the Red Raiders through the air, which they did not. In total, the Frogs only mustered 246 passing yards between Hill and Sawyer.
“I don’t point fingers,” Patterson said. “Good teams don’t do that. They find ways to fix it [the offense].”
Whatever that fix on offense may be, the Frogs hope to find it sooner than later with just four games left on the season.
Kenny Hill is running out of time to shine
Big things were expected from Kenny Hill entering the season, but the last few games for the junior have been anything but special. Against Oklahoma, he couldn’t muster any offense on the final drive of the game, down six points. In Kansas, it was more turnovers than anyone could count. Last week in Morgantown, the Frogs didn’t score in the second half. The last straw may finally have been tonight, when the Frogs only had 10 points against Texas Tech well into the second half. Hill only threw for 160 yards with zero passing touchdowns, which to be blunt, is abysmal when facing a defense like that of the Red Raiders. Patterson said the call to pull Hill in favor of Sawyer was a decision made by co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, and added that “both of them (Sawyer and Hill) still need to get better.”
Kicker issues could be bigger than we thought
It’s safe to say that if kicker Brandon Hatfield had been on point tonight per usual, the Frogs would have won this game in regulation. They may have even won it in a third overtime. Hatfield missed two mid-range field goals in regulation before shanking one in double overtime, ultimately allowing the Red Raiders field goal on the next drive to be enough to win the game. Eliminate just one in regulation and the Frogs win 20-17. Eliminate the missed kick at the end and it’s 27-27 heading into triple overtime, with Tech getting the ball first. Patterson said that part Hatfield’s struggles Saturday night due to field position.
“He [Hatfield] has struggled with kicks from the left hash marks,” Patterson said. “On all three of those missed kicks, we were on the left hashmarks. We probably should of just ran the ball to at least set it up better.”
Now questions loom as to whether or not Hatfield, a backup, will still have his job going forward. Backup kicker Ryan Graf was already pulled from the job after early season struggles, and primary kicker Jonathan Song is still in the late stages of recovery from an offseason injury that has sidelined him all season. Patterson said that Song is healthy enough that he could have kicked Saturday if necessary, but didn’t want to take a risk with his condition.
It wasn’t a win, but the defense had a night to remember
Regardless of the outcome in this one, the TCU defense should be proud of themselves for only allowing 17 points in regulation against one of the most potent offenses in all of college football. A week after the No. 16 Oklahoma allowed more than 50 points to the Red Raiders in Lubbock, the unranked Frogs were able to shut out Patrick Mahomes and company the entire first quarter, picking him off and sacking him for a fumble in the process.
“They [the defense] played unbelievable tonight. I told they we’re going to get better and better, and then they hold them to that few points in regulation tonight,” Patterson said.
The only slips for the defense all night were essentially two missed spies on Mahomes that resulted in two keeper touchdowns on the night, once in the first half and once in overtime. For a defense that has struggled so poorly at secondary and tackling all year long, holding Texas Tech to just 206 passing yards and 345 total yards on the night is not too shabby. If the Frogs can’t replicate this performance in the final four games, all it takes is an offensive outburst for TCU to dominate their opponents. It’s all just a matter of timing.
Bowl season is on the ropes for TCU
TCU has been to and won a bowl game each of the last two years, but with the loss tonight, the Frogs have their work cut out for them if they intend to make it three in a row. The Frogs still need two more wins to be bowl eligible, and with the next three games coming against Baylor (road), Oklahoma State (home), and Texas (road), nothing is guaranteed. At least not when you can’t beat Texas Tech at home despite an incredible defensive performance. Keep in mind that Oklahoma State just beat up on the West Virginia team that dominated the Frogs last week, and the outlook isn’t exactly positive for the Frogs. They will get a breather in the final week of the year when they face lowly Kansas State at home, but if TCU can’t win a game before then, it won’t matter. If the Frogs were to lose five in a row, it would be worst streak of such for the Frogs since entering the Big 12 conference.
Desmon White, WR – The junior may have only had 49 receiving yards on the night, but he averaged 16.5 yards per catch over three receptions, and his touchdown reception to tie the game at 24 apiece in overtime, his first of the season. was nothing short of spectacular. White has now brought his totals up to 161 receiving yards on the season. Look for White to be a hot target down the road when the Frogs need a receiver to make a clutch play like he did tonight.
Mat Boesen, DE – Boesen isn’t a guy that you typically think of as a playmaker when it comes to the TCU defense. On Saturday though, the junior had quite the night, forcing a fumble mid-way through the first quarter and then recording to critical sacks in the fourth quarter that preserved a 17-10 TCU lead for the time being. Boesen finished the night with five solo tackles and five combined for a total of 10 tackles on the night. With some confidence now under his belt, look for Boesen to continue pounding in the weeks to come as the Frogs face more potent offenses in the forms of Baylor and Oklahoma State.