Despite comeback, Frogs have outgrown the moral victories

Posted Sunday, Oct. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton Historians, please Google this:

In the dusty, leather-helmeted annals of college football, has any team ever been held without a single first down in the first half — and then come back to nearly upset the No. 11-ranked team in the land?

“We don’t have moral victories anymore,” TCU coach Gary Patterson announced. “But you come to Norman and you get beat 20-17. And you don’t get a first down in the first half.

“That’s not to say it should have a silver lining. But I also don’t think you line them up and bring in the firing squad, either.”

His metaphors might have been crusty, but Patterson’s assessment was right on the mark. On a night when the Oklahoma Sooners — ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 10 by the coaches — all but smothered TCU into submission in the first half, the Horned Frogs stunningly turned the tables in the second half and left the verdict in doubt until the final minute.

A moral victory? TCU football outgrew those two BCS bowls ago.

But from the cloudy opening chapters Saturday night, thanks to their proud, prepared defense, the Frogs could take a silvery solace.

“We have to find a way,” Patterson said later. “You’ve got to learn how to finish, and that goes for the defense, too.

“In all three of our losses, we’ve been in position to win the ballgame.”

TCU’s three defeats this season have come at the hands of LSU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. The combined record of those three ranked foes is 15-1.

For the Frogs, it was another week without quarterback Casey Pachall, mending from a broken arm. It was another week of learning for sophomore Trevone Boykin.

The first half stats summed up the TCU offense’s struggles perfectly. Boykin was sacked three times and completed only five passes for 17 yards. TCU went to the locker room with 16 net yards of offense and not a single first down.

“The key was we didn’t play very well but it was only 13-0,” Patterson said.

“All we had to do was make something happen.”

Six minutes into the third quarter, the Frogs finally got their first first down. Boykin hit freshman Ty Slanina on a fourth-and-6 pass at the Oklahoma 18, and TCU kicked a 25-yard field goal.

That’s when, just as Patterson wished, the Frogs made something happen.

Jaden Oberkrom’s pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff was recovered by TCU on the Oklahoma 35. Six plays after that, Boykin himself scooted into the end zone and, as the crowd of 84,992 sat in mostly uneasy silence, the Sooners’ lead suddenly was a precarious 13-10.

The play that ended up deciding the game — Brennan Clay’s 76-yard dash to an Oklahoma touchdown with 4:37 to go —left Patterson muttering afterward.

“Last thing we talked about during the walk-thru,” he said. “The mike linebacker didn’t play the cutback on a blitz we’ve worked on since two-a-days.

“You’ve got to play the cutback. It’s a run blitz.”

Despite the solitary defensive glitch, Boykin and the Frogs came right back. A five-play drive covered 75 quick yards, and Boykin scored again.

The Sooners’ lead again had been sliced to three points. But the Frogs couldn’t get the football back in the final 2:26.

Patterson refused to place the blame for the defeat on his young quarterback.

“We’ve got to help him,” the coach said.

There are no more moral victories for TCU, not in this Big 12 neighborhood. But after the way the night started, the Frogs found something to grow on.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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