For a second straight week, Kay and I sat high above the field at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth and watched the TCU Horned Frogs get off to a horrendous start.
The unbeaten No. 8 Frogs, playing a ranked team for the fourth straight week, fell behind No. 17 Kansas State 28-10 midway through the second quarter Saturday night — a week after trailing former No. 8 Oklahoma State 24-7 at the same point. In both games, TCU pulled within 11 by halftime, and I felt confident they’d come back to win.
Saturday after her Frogs scored with 20 seconds left in the first half to close the gap to 28-17, I turned to Kay, gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her TCU was going to come back. It was the same thing I told her when the Frogs trailed by two touchdowns as the fourth quarter began a week earlier. Sure enough, that day they came back to tie the score at 30 and send the game to overtime, where they won in the second extra period, 43-40.
This time, TCU drove 77 yards on the opening possession of the second half, passing up a sure field goal on fourth-and-1 as Kendre Miller scored from the 2 to make it 28-24. On their next drive, the Frogs went 74 yards to take their first lead on Max Duggan’s 55-yard strike to Quentin Johnston.
Two drives later, the Frogs took their decisive 38-28 lead when Miller — a workhorse with 29 carries for 153 yards on the night — scored from 9 yards out.
With that touchdown, the Frogs had outscored the Wildcats 28-0 and kept them scoreless since the 8:09 mark of the second quarter. And for a second straight week, TCU held a ranked foe without a touchdown in the second half.
After the Frogs took that 10-point lead early in the fourth, Kay and I had to leave to pick up our youngest at work. But it was a thrilling evening for us — not only because the Frogs kept their record spotless, but because while that was happening, we also got to keep up with the Astros’ playoff run on our phones just like the previous Saturday.
That outcome was magnificent too, with the Astros staying perfect in the postseason by beating the hated Yankees 5-0 to take a 3-0 lead in the ALCS. We can’t wait to watch Game 4 tonight (if it doesn’t get rained out), with hopes of a sweep but the realization that these *are* the Yankees and they can’t be held down forever.
Now that we’ve seen 7-0 TCU in person twice, I have a good sense of what they’re all about and what they’re capable of. I may be a former sports writer, but I’m certainly no football expert. I do know that under first-year coach Sonny Dykes — whose dad Spike I knew when I was covering sports at The Odessa American just out of college and he was coaching at the former Midland Lee HS — this team is special. Sunday’s new rankings have TCU up a spot at No. 7 after Mississippi’s loss to LSU.
The Frogs have had some great teams over the past two decades under Gary Patterson, now an assistant at Texas. They’d started to drop off in recent years, but Dykes has them off to a surprisingly strong start. The program remains extremely competitive in the Big 12 and continues to bring in great players despite recruiting against the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oklahoma and all the other out-of-state schools that raid the Lone Star State for talent.
Led by Duggan, Miller and Johnston, this team has a potent offense. The defense shows flashes of greatness, but we’ve seen the secondary give up big plays, which could be factors when the Frogs play Texas and Texas Tech next month.
More than anything, TCU can’t keep getting off to slow starts every week and expect to rally. That’s been the team’s reputation for years — stronger in the second half, the unbelieeeevable (shades of the late, great Jim Wacker) comeback from a 31-0 halftime deficit to beat Oregon in the 2016 Alamo Bowl the greatest example.
Here’s the Frogs’ remaining schedule: at West Virginia, home vs. Texas Tech, at Texas, at Baylor, home vs. Iowa State. The way I look at it, all winnable games.
But the Big 12 is a cutthroat conference where crazy things happen every week and the likelihood of a team running the table is slim. If TCU plays solid football on both sides and wins the turnover battle, winning all five of those games and taking a 12-0 record into the Big 12 championship game is a real possibility.
Kay and I will be rooting for that to happen — and making plans to attend another game or two if the Frogs keep winning. I’ll be going to see my frustrating 3-4 Aggies play Florida in a couple of weeks with my cousin John from Georgia (a Florida grad), knowing that it’s looking bleak for them to win the 6 games needed to qualify for a bowl game.
Fear the Frog!!! 😊 🐸