Two teams with stout defenses and struggling offenses — one no doubt more than the other — were looking for any advantage Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Oklahoma State found all the edge it needed with its special teams and held on against TCU 24-10 in front of a crowd of 59,638.
The Horned Frogs (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) again struggled early offensively, prompting a brief change at quarterback and a new play-caller in the second half. Neither move altered the course of the game but the offense, as it has the entire season, played better in the second half and pulled to within 17-10 midway through the fourth quarter.
A 50-yard kickoff return by OSU’s Brandon Sheperd, however, set up the Cowboys in TCU territory for a backbreaking score. Clint Chelf, who replaced starting quarterback and Denton Guyer alum J.W. Walsh in the first half, connected with Josh Stewart for 27 yards and Rennie Childs scored on a 7-yard run to put the game away with 6:04 remaining.
Stewart, also a Guyer alum, had a career-day all over the field. He finished with 265 all-purpose yards, including 124 yards on punt returns. His 95-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Cowboys (5-1, 2-1) a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. He also had 10 receptions for 141 yards.
“It was a big one,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “You don’t let the guy have an opportunity to catch it. We knew how dangerous he was. That was not the plan.”
The TCU defense is getting used to being a lone wolf out on a cold prairie. Four turnovers, including three Trevone Boykin interceptions and a fumble, plus poor coverage on kicks, helped OSU start five drives in the Frogs’ territory. The Cowboys finished with 425 total yards but were held to two offensive touchdowns and a field goal. Former Arlington Martin kicker Ben Grogan twice missed inside 33 yards, after TCU’s defense clamped down.
TCU’s offense started cold again and was shut out in the first half as OSU built a 17-0 lead. The Frogs managed only three first downs and 62 yards before halftime. After Boykin’s second of three interceptions, freshman Tyler Matthews got his first shot to run the offense. The move didn’t change much. On Matthews’ first snap, his hand off to Ty Slanina was fumbled and OSU recovered.
But Matthews and Boykin, who returned to play most of the second half, rarely had time to find a receiver, especially in the first half.
“We have to, as a whole offensive line, just flat out play better,” guard Eric Tausch said. “We have to hold our blocks, it’s all of us as a group. We have to do a better job of giving [Boykin] more time because we’re open down the field and we’re not giving him enough time to see those open receivers and make those big plays.”
For Boykin, even when he did hit his receivers, too often the pass was dropped or route adjustments weren’t made.
“If I had an answer for it … we’ve tried about everything we can to try to fix it up to this point,” Patterson said of the offense. “We’ve got to understand [our receivers] have to go after balls. But there was one where we had Cam Luper down the middle and Trevone underthrew it. Even Deante’s catch he’s underthrown. He’s got to get the ball out quicker. Those guys are fast enough to run by anybody.”
Jaden Oberkrom’s 35-yard field goal near the end of the third quarter finally got TCU on the board, trailing 17-3.
After seeing its opening drive of the second half fizzle at the OSU 11 on a dropped pass on fourth-and-5, TCU put together its best drive of the day, aided by an OSU offside penalty on a fourth down. Boykin led the Frogs 77 yards on 12 plays to set up Waymon James’ 14-yard scoring run that pulled TCU to within 17-10 with 7:39 remaining.
But OSU’s long return on the ensuing kickoff set up the Cowboys’ game-clinching score.
“It’s huge,” TCU defensive end Jon Koontz said. “We work on special teams a lot, and we didn’t do a very good job of it today.”
TCU’s next possession faltered when a delay-of-game penalty forced them into a fourth-and-8 and Boykin’s pass fell incomplete.
“You’ve got to go make plays,” Patterson said. “We did it at Boise [in 2011], we did at West Virginia last year. You’ve got to find the way at the end to go make plays. People don’t give it to you.”