TCU coach Gary Patterson said he would have liked to have won the Kansas game by more than four points for the sake of the players, who will probably see their team ranking dropped by the College Football Playoff committee this week.
“For the kids, I wish we’d won by more,” Patterson said. “But here’s the thing. Everybody’s got two or three games left, and you’ve got to go win. We’ll see when we get to the sixth or whenever it is in December. If we can be 11-1 after our last two ballgames, against a Texas team that is playing well, especially at home, and against Iowa State, we’ll see how it falls.”
With a 34-30 lead and the ball at the Kansas 23 with 3:26 left following an interception, the Horned Frogs passed up a chance to score more points. They picked up a first down with four rushes and then kneeled the game out.
“How do you know if we would have won by 50 we wouldn’t have lost a spot this week?” Patterson said. “We could have won 60-0, and it still might not have made a difference. Did Alabama win? OK. I don’t have any control over those kinds of things. All I can do is try to win out, try to win a co-championship, then we’ll see how everybody else feels about it.”
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Cameron Echols-Luper, whose 69-yard punt return put TCU ahead in the third quarter, said, “A ranking is just a ranking. It doesn’t define us as a team. We come out every day in practice to battle, to fight, to finish. A No. 4 ranking, it’s always great. A No. 1 ranking, it’s always great. Any time you’re ranked at anything, it’s always great. But we’re not looking at it. We’re just fighting to the end.”
The stretch of eight games in eight weeks is over for TCU, which is ready for a break after a string of emotional games.
“We went through a grind these last couple months,” quarterback Trevone Boykin said. “But you can’t really let that affect your future. We’re going to move forward. We have a week and a half to get healthy, and we’re just going to look forward to the UT game on Thanksgiving.”
In the last two months, the Horned Frogs upset then-No. 5 Oklahoma, went to the last play at then-No. 4 Baylor, blew out then-No. 15 Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, pulled off a comeback from 13 points down at then-No. 20 West Virginia, dominated then-No. 7 Kansas State and finally, on Saturday, came back from 10 points to win in freezing cold at Kansas.
There were not many mental breaks in that stretch.
“A lot of people would have lost that ballgame today,” Patterson said of the 34-30 win at Kansas. “For us, that’s two ballgames where we fought back on the road. You had two emotional games, West Virginia and Kansas State, and like I told you, every week you got to get ready.”
The Horned Frogs will practice Wednesday and Thursday this week as they get 10 days between the Kansas game and the Texas game in Austin on Thanksgiving night.
The status of running back B.J. Catalon, who sustained a hit near the head at the end of the West Virginia game, remains unclear. Patterson said Catalon is feeling better, but he did not know if the running back would be ready for Texas.
Running back Aaron Green ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 6.7 yards in a second game as the starter in place of the injured B.J. Catalon. In two games of fill-in duty, Green has rushed for 299 yards and three touchdowns.
“Two weeks in a row,” Patterson said. “Somebody has to step up if you’re going to win a ballgame. Somebody has to step up — Ty Slanina, the punt returner, Aaron Green.”
The Horned Frogs ran for 150 yards a week after rushing for 334 against Kansas State. Green got the bulk of the work among the running backs with 19 carries. Kyle Hicks and Trevorris Johnson had one each.
Patterson, who is his own worst critic as defensive coordinator, said he was “fairly happy” with the defense against Kansas. The Horned Frogs gave up only 18 first downs and 81 yards rushing, but Kansas had 342 yards through the air.
“There were a couple plays where you’ve got to stop people,” he said. “If you want to win championships, you’ve got to stop people. The thing I thought we did was we played in the red zone. I thought one of the best plays was the stop in the red zone when we fumbled and they had the ball at the 10.”
Ty Slanina said anybody could have made the catch he made on third-and-20 for a first down against Kansas, fueling a drive that cut the lead to 27-24 in the third quarter.
“We have a lot of playmakers,” he said. “Trevone just happened to throw to me on that play. I think anybody could have made that play for us tonight.”
Seven receivers and two running backs caught a pass for TCU. Slanina and David Porter had six catches each. Josh Doctson had the longest catch, 38 yards.