Another Saturday, another Horned Frogs win to stay perfect — but this one was nothing short of miraculous

With the Aggies a 4-6 debacle after opening the season (over)ranked No. 6, I have zilch to get excited about where my alma mater’s football team is concerned. Heck, from what I can tell on the play-by-play (I didn’t watch the game), they struggled to beat 1-9 UMass on Saturday before “pulling away” to win a nonconference game 20-3 in which they were somehow favored by 32.

But over the 28 years we’ve been married, I’ve always supported Kay’s school, the TCU Horned Frogs. And they’re having a storybook season that has now reached an 11-0 record, a No. 4 ranking and a berth in the Big 12 championship game with one regular-season game left.

They’ve pulled off some electrifying, heart-stopping, almost unfathomable comebacks to stay perfect this deep into the schedule. Of their 11 triumphs, eight have been by 10 or fewer points — and a couple by one and three.

The one-point show of gridiron guts happened Saturday, when the Frogs overcame a determined and dominant-at-times Baylor effort to win 29-28 on a last-gasp field goal in Waco. TCU scored nine points in the final two minutes to rally from a 28-20 deficit.

The winning kick was a thing of practice-drill beauty, as the Frogs — with no timeouts left after using all three while stopping the Bears on their last drive — gained 2 final yards to the Baylor 23, then scrambled to get personnel off and on the field and into position for the attempt. With no time to measure his steps, senior Griffin Kell calmly booted the ball from senior punter/Australia native Jordan Sandy’s perfect hold, with a slight draw that sent the kick down the middle from 40 yards out. It was Kell’s earlier missed extra point after 77 straight makes that forced the Frogs into a two-point conversion try that failed after Emari Demercado’s 3-yard touchdown at the 2:07 mark, capping a 90-yard drive.

When the Frogs opened league play with a convincing 55-24 win over perennial power Oklahoma, never could we have imagined they’d have a chance to run the table and play with teams like Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan for a national title. They have two more games to make that happen, and nothing — not even the unpredictability and some of the WTH decisions we’ve seen the College Football Playoff Committee make (including one that left the Frogs out in 2014, the CFP’s first year) — can take that away if they win out.

When Kay and I attended earlier games this season against ranked Oklahoma State and Kansas State, watching TCU climb out of 18- and 17-point holes, it was tough to see the Frogs being in this position — despite the unquestionable will to win we’d seen for two straight Saturdays.

But here they are. If they can take care of business at home next Saturday against Iowa State — a game Kay and I have tickets for — and then win the conference title game in what almost certainly will be a rematch with KSU, the Frogs will have an opportunity that no TCU team has had — to join the nation’s other top-ranked teams in the CFP’s bowl-game showdown for all the marbles. TCU won national football titles in 1935 and 1938.

It’s a monumentally tough assignment, but the Frogs have shown all season what they’re capable of, what they’re playing for and, most significantly, what they’re made of. The fortitude and resolve of first-year head coach Sonny Dykes’ squad was no more on display than in Saturday’s game, which receiver/returner Derius Davis missed with a hand injury, 1,000-plus-yard rusher Kendre Miller left with an undisclosed injury early in the second half, and leading receiver Quentin Johnston exited after tweaking the ankle injury he’s battled for weeks.

But sports, and winning, are all about the next man up when players go down, and the heroes just keep stepping up for TCU. Saturday, it was guys like Gunnar Henderson, a senior receiver from Kay’s hometown of McAllen who transferred from Incarnate Word in San Antonio last year, walked on and this past spring was awarded a scholarship. He caught three passes for 52 yards against Baylor, including a wide-open 26-yarder from Max Duggan that put the Frogs up 20-14 after three quarters.

And it was guys like sophomore safety Bud Clark, who had five tackles and a key interception in the end zone with four seconds to play in the first half, critically keeping the score tied at 14.

And then there’s No. 15, the Frog who’s been there and done it consistently every week (and not just this year) — Duggan, the uber-poised senior quarterback from Iowa, who somehow wasn’t even Dykes’ starter when the season began. Duggan, who entered Saturday’s game having thrown 25 touchdowns with just two interceptions, led TCU back all three times the Bears took a lead. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 327 yards and a touchdown, adding eight gritty carries for 50 yards and another score.

Duggan, who hasn’t been in the Heisman conversation but should be, was named a semifinalist this week for the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Foundation honor, both of which go to the player of the year. He’s also a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, given to the best quarterback and named after the legendary Heisman winner who led TCU to the national title in 1938. Duggan’s also a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award that goes to the top senior or upperclassman QB based on performance on and off the field.

It’s safe to say that TCU has been a second-half team this season, which has been a program hallmark for a while. Its defense has had moments of greatness — the performance last week against Texas was incredibly impressive and by far its best — but also has often struggled. Baylor piled up 501 yards, including 232 on the ground, shocking numbers from a defensive unit that swarmed the Longhorns all night in Austin, limiting them to 199 total yards and a paltry 28 rushing.

To win these next two, especially the conference title game against high-scoring Kansas State, the Frogs will have to bring a defensive effort like the one they showed against Texas. I’m eager to see this play out and am confident in the Frogs’ chances of getting into the playoff field.

But as Kay said late in Saturday’s game, when it looked like the Frogs might fall short against the Bears, there’s nothing wrong with being 10-1 — or 12-1 if TCU can win next week and falls short in the Big 12 title game at AT&T Stadium here in Arlington. No matter what happens, they should go to a great bowl game with a chance to finish in the Top 10.

For a team the media “experts” picked to finish seventh in the conference with its new coach, that sounds like a pretty darned awesome season to me. 😄💜🏈

5 thoughts on “Another Saturday, another Horned Frogs win to stay perfect — but this one was nothing short of miraculous

  1. “I’d rather be lucky than good any day” J.R.”Bob”Dobbs is what immediately jumped to mind after missing the end of the game from switching back and forth with Jenny’s alma mater Michigan State. I was just gone a few seconds….. but a magical season so far. They have moxie!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s