On the second to final play of the football game, down by 24 points, TCU quarterback Kenny Hill dove for a first down on a 15 yard rush and was helped off the field with apparent knee injury. One play later with just :08 seconds on the clock, back-up quarterback Foster Sawyer was intercepted at the goal line by Kansas State linebacker Trent Tanking, and the game was over. It was a seemingly poetic ending to a 6-6 season for the Horned Frogs that culminated in a 30-6 home loss to the Wildcats, just two weeks after falling 31-6 to Oklahoma State in the worst home loss by margin in the Gary Patterson era of TCU Football. On Saturday, it was déjà vu all over again.
“We need to grow up on offense,” Patterson said following the loss. “Until we do that, we won’t win against anyone good.”
With their worst regular season since 2013 behind them and a probable trip to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on the horizon, the Frogs now have a month to sit on a sloppy loss in game where the weather conditions were equally as messy. Here are some of the biggest talking points as we analyze the finale of TCU’s 2016 regular season.
Home was not so sweet
“Protect the Carter” has often been the mantra for the Horne Frogs when it comes to protecting home turf, but TCU faces the grim reality of having lost their final four games at home en route to a .500 regular season. The Frogs hadn’t lost a home game since 2013 prior to this season and four in a row at home since 2012, so it’s nothing short of foreign territory for many players on the roster. What’s more, the last two home losses to Oklahoma State and Kansas State, by margins of 25 and 24 points respectively, are the two worst home losses by margin in the Gary Patterson era of TCU Football. The Frogs only scored six points in both contests, and Saturday marked the first time since 2006 that TCU did not score a touchdown in a football game. As the team looks forward to the upcoming bowl game, Patterson remarked that “it helps we won’t be at home.” To put things in perspective, the Frogs went 4-1 away from Fort Worth this season while only going 2-5 in their own backyard, granted three of those home losses came by six points or less.
There’s a quarterback crisis in Fort Worth
With Hill not 100 percent, Patterson made the call to put back-up Foster Sawyer in a starting quarterback for the Frogs Saturday morning, hoping it would rejuvenate an offense that showed uncharacteristic struggles at home during the second half of the season. A total of six points and 86 passing yards over the first three quarters was not the plan, as Sawyer was benched in favor for Hill as the 4th quarter began, but the last thing the Frogs wanted to see was Kenny Hill suffering an apparent knee injury on a 4th down attempt when the game was already out of reach. Now we can only wonder how serious the injury was, and if it could sideline Hill come bowl-time. And with how Sawyer performed on Saturday, one has to wonder if he can turn things around in just 4 weeks as the Frogs prepare to go up against likely their second SEC opponent of 2016.
Only one purple team could use the run, and it wasn’t TCU
We saw it before two weeks ago, and on Saturday it happened again: TCU couldn’t use the running game while their opponent ran all around them. Running back Kyle Hicks, who was so effective for so long in the early going of the season, was the victim of yet another formidable defense as the Wildcats held him to just 69 total yards, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. Of course, that shouldn’t be so much of a surprise considering K-State boasted the 10th best run-defense in the nation entering the contest, leading the Big 12 in that department. Meanwhile, K-State quarterback Jesse Ertz had himself a field-day, as the dual-threat junior rushed for 177 yards on 19 keepers.
“It’s difficult because you just never know what you’re going to get from him,” TCU linebacker Sammy Douglas said. “You have to contain him and make tackles.”
Running back Justin Silmon followed suit, with 133 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on the day, as the Wildcats took advantage of more TCU missed tackles than one cares to count. At the end of the day, K-State outrushed TCU a whopping 336-142, and outgained them on offense by over 200 yards with 495 compared to TCU’s 280.
There will be a lot of growing up to do in the next month and beyond
We’ve heard a lot about “growing up” from Patterson this season, and with nearly a month left before the Frogs get back on the playing field, the team has plenty of time to work on the necessary adjustments that could get the Frogs back to the standard that Patterson and company are used to.
“I don’t accept average,” Patterson said. “If we accept average around here, I’ll go coach somewhere else.”
While Patterson said he felt the seniors showed passion as they took the field in Fort Worth for the final time and commended the defense for keeping the game close into the early stages of the second of the half, the offense once again didn’t answer the bell.
W need to get better up front,” Patterson said. “We got thrown around across the board. We dropped balls, we didn’t block anybody….we need to either grow up or recruit.”
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And now might be just the time for that, as the Frogs will get a handful of extra practices between now and New Years that they otherwise would have gotten should they have won one less game. Patterson said the next month is much more than just finishing the final chapter of the season.