It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but TCU will take it all the same.
The Horned Frogs won a Big 12 home game for the first time Saturday afternoon, holding off Kansas 27-17 in front of an announced crowd of 41,894.
Jaden Oberkrom’s 37-yard field goal with 2:34 left in the game finally gave TCU enough breathing room. The Frogs went 0-4 at home last year in Big 12 play a year ago.
TCU (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) had to rely on another stingy game by its defense to overcome a sputtering offense that turned the ball over five times and resulted in all of the Jayhawks’ points.
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Kansas (2-3, 0-2) was held to seven first downs, 198 yards of total offense, 133 below its average, and was forced to punt 10 times. TCU gained 380 yards, including Trevone Boykin’s 173 yards passing and 71 yards rushing.
TCU’s first-half offensive struggles continued. Kansas took a 3-0 lead after intercepting Boykin’s pass on TCU’s first play from scrimmage. The ball deflected off Waymon James’ hands, and Isaiah Johnson picked it off to set up a 37-yard field goal.
The Frogs responded with a 63-yard drive as Boykin connected with David Porter for a 22-yard pass and B.J. Catalon broke free for a 25-yard run. Boykin scored on a 10-yard keeper to give TCU a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Boykin’s 25-yard run helped set up another scoring drive to start the second quarter. The drive stalled at the KU 27, after Boykin was dropped for a 7-yard loss on a sack and James’ reception was stopped for a 5-yard loss. TCU had to settle for Oberkrom’s 44-yard field goal to push its lead to 10-3.
Kansas came right back in the air. Jake Heaps connected with Andrew Turzilli for a 50-yard gain on first down to give the Jayhawks great field position at the TCU 25. But cornerback Jason Verrett, who was beaten on the big gain, intercepted Heaps two plays later to give the Frogs the ball back at their own 10 and keep Kansas off the scoreboard.
TCU’s offense, however, gave it right back and it cost them. The Jayhawks tied it at 10-10 when JaCorey Shepherd returned an interception 32 yards after Cam White fell down at the end of his route. Both teams combined to punt it eight times in the first half as Kansas was held to 100 first-half yards. TCU didn’t fare much better with 156 yards before halftime.
“I thought we tried to start fast,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “We’ve got a guy running down the middle and we overthrow him.”
Again, the receivers, at times, failed to give Boykin much help. His running backs also had problems. Catalon, the intended receiver, didn’t run the correct route on the Jayhawks’ pick-six. A few other times passes were either dropped or broken up at the last second.
“At some point in time, if we want to win more games than we lose, guys have to make plays,” Patterson said. “Good DBs are going to knock them away. You have to come back to the ball.”
The second half was more kind to the TCU offense, just as it had been through six games in 2013.
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Boykin hit Porter with a short pass in the flat and Porter ran between two converging defenders to take it 75 yards for the score and a 17-10 lead.
After a Kansas fumble, TCU looked poised to seize control. The Frogs drove 53 yards on seven plays to take a 24-10 lead on B.J. Catalon’s 2-yard scoring run.
However, another TCU turnover, this time a muffed punt by Brandon Carter, set up another Kansas score. The Jayhawks took over at the TCU 27 and Jimmay Mundine caught a 27-yard pass from Heaps for the touchdown to pull KU to within 24-17.
“You kind of just have to take it in stride,” TCU defensive end Jon Koontz said. “There’s not a whole lot you can do about that at that point. Whether you start a drive with them backed up on the 5-yard line or if they’re already in the red zone, you have to treat it the exact same. You can’t put your head down when that happens repeatedly, you’ve just got to continue to play.”
Linebacker Paul Dawson, making his first-career start, led the Frogs with 17 tackles, the third-highest total under Patterson and the most since Jonathan Anderson had 17 against BYU in 2011 playing as a safety. Dawson replaced Anderson in the starting lineup Saturday.
“We finally got him in the game doing some things and he made some plays which is awesome,” Patterson said. “Both [Derrick Kindred] and Paul are stepping up and making us a better football team.”
The game was still in doubt with 7:28 left in the third quarter and the TCU offense, nursing a 24-17 lead, seemed destined to give Kansas every chance it needed to tie the score.
Kansas recovered Catalon’s fumble at the TCU 37 with 3:54 left in the third, but again the Frogs’ defense was up to the challenge. TCU held and Matthew Wyman’s 51-yard field goal attempt hit the right crossbar.
TCU’s offense sputtered after scoring touchdowns on its first two drives of the second half. The Frogs punted four times and fumbled twice on their next six possessions before Oberkrom’s field goal gave TCU a 10-point cushion with less than 2:40 remaining.
“We’ve got to go get that score that knocks them out. It stayed at a one-score game too long,” Patterson said.
TCU plays Oklahoma State at 11 a.m. Saturday in Stillwater, Okla. The Cowboys (4-1, 1-1) were off this weekend.