TCU’s offense took slow starts to a new low Saturday at Oklahoma and it cost them dearly.
The Horned Frogs, who talked of ending their streak of slow starts earlier this week, fell behind the 11th-ranked Sooners but rallied after halftime to give most of the 84,992 in attendance at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium a scare.
A 76-yard touchdown run by Oklahoma’s Brennan Clay with 4:37 remaining put the game out of reach for TCU, as the Sooners (5-0, 2-0 in the Big 12) escaped with a 20-17 win.
Before Clay’s touchdown, the Horned Frogs (2-3, 0-2) had rallied from a 13-0 deficit after a futile first half. TCU’s offense was held without a first down until the 8:35 mark in the third quarter and had just 16 total yards at halftime, a low for even the Frogs’ offense that has been held to 27 combined first-half points in five games this season.
But thanks to a brilliant game by the Frogs’ defense, the offense was able to finally find something resembling a rhythm in the third quarter.
Jaden Oberkrom’s 25-yard field goal cut the lead to 13-3 and then TCU caught Oklahoma off guard with a pooch kicked on the ensuing kickoff. Derrick Kindred recovered the fumble at the Sooners 35. Trevone Boykin rushed three times for 22 yards on the drive, including a 2-yard scoring run to cut OU’s lead to 13-10 with 8 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The TCU defense kept the clamps on the Sooners’ offense, forcing punts on Oklahoma’s first two possessions in the fourth quarter.
But Oklahoma’s defense was stingy, too. And too often the Frogs failed to execute, even after they found their offense in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, Boykin underthrew a wide-open Deante Gray downfield to start one failed drive and receiver Brandon Carter ran the wrong route on a third-and-3 (running a slant over the middle instead of stopping) to quell another drive.
Clay’s long scoring run came two plays later.
TCU came right back as Boykin connected with David Porter and B.J. Catalon for big pass plays before scoring on an 8-yard run to pull to within 20-17 with 2:26 left.
But as it was in losses to LSU and Texas Tech, it was too little, too late for the Frogs’ offense.
“We put ourselves in a position to win,” coach Gary Patterson said. “All three losses we’ve had we’ve been in position to win ball games. You got to learn how to finish. That goes for defense, too. We always have that one play where we didn’t stop them.”
TCU finished with 10 first downs and 210 total yards — all but 16 of it coming in the second half. Patterson declined to complain about his offense after the game.
“There is no blame game. If anyone is going to get blamed it’s going to be me,” he said. “We’ve got to execute. It’s plain and simple. You can’t go down and score as many points as we did in an eight-minute period and not do anything in the other 52 [minutes].”
TCU ran 24 offensive plays before registering its first first down of the game, which not only makes it hard to score, but puts the defense back out on the field without much rest.
Patterson credited Oklahoma’s defense with helping to slow TCU .
“We have to find a way to get better on offense,” he said. “There will be years down the road when we’re going to score more points and we’re not going to be stopping them. I promise you there won’t be very many people who score 35 on Oklahoma from what I watched tonight.”
Patterson tried to find a silver lining in the Frogs’ ability to hang with the Sooners on the road, despite having an offense that was a nonfactor for an entire half.
“It doesn’t have a silver lining, but I’d also don’t think you take everybody out on a firing squad, either. We have to find a way to get better. To me, there’s a tremendous upside. Because if we do start clicking, then we have a chance to win a lot of football games.”
Patterson left a little room for possible changes in the off-season if the offense doesn’t improve.
“I’m sure my [Twitter] mentions will have 150 [comments] of how I’m supposed to fire somebody,” Patterson said. “The bottom line is we’re going to play to win and I’ll worry about all that other stuff at the end of the season, when we find out how many wins and losses we have.”
TCU hosts Kansas (2-2, 0-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Jayhawks lost Saturday to Texas Tech 54-16.