When it came to play-of-the-game choices, TCU coach Gary Patterson had two to choose from.
He picked them both.
He called Cameron Echols-Luper’s 67-yard punt return for a touchdown the “difference in the game” and Ty Slanina’s 26-yard catch and run for a first down on third-and-20 “maybe the play of the game.”
Why not? They happened minutes apart in the third quarter and helped TCU go from trailing 27-17 to leading 31-27. The pass from Trevone Boykin to Slanina turned a possession that could have ended in a punt instead into an 80-yard scoring drive that cut the lead to 27-24. After a three-and-out, Echols-Luper’s punt return put the Horned Frogs ahead 31-27.
Boykin said he didn’t think the third-and-20 play, from the TCU 10-yard line, was going to convert because he thought Slanina ran too deep a route. But Slanina was open, and Boykin put the ball in his chest on the run.
“He put a good ball on me, and there was a lot of space to run,” Slanina said. “It worked out great. Right when I caught the ball, I looked at the sticks, wherever they were, and just headed for open space.”
Echols-Luper said he was trying to score with his punt return, not just get good yardage.
“We needed a break,” he said. “We needed a big play or a big stop or something, just to boost our momentum. It helped us. It changed the momentum in the game. Kansas was getting a lot of bounces.”
Safety Chris Hackett said, “Luper’s punt return, that was a pretty big deal in the game. That was a game-changer. Once that happened, you feed off of things like that. Once that happened, I think we went off of that.”
The game kicked off with the temperature at 31 degrees. The 90 percent chance of snow never materialized, and there was little wind.
“I didn’t think the elements were a big deal,” Patterson said. “I didn’t even wear gloves.”
But that doesn’t mean the cold wasn’t a factor in the way the Horned Frogs bogged down on offense in the first half.
“It might have,” Slanina said. “I think it probably affected us. But we found a way to overcome it in the second half.”
Boykin said it was plenty cold in Fort Worth during the practice week.
“The weather didn’t affect us a lot,” he said. “Overall, I feel like we should have come out and put up more points.”
Boykin set school records for passing yards in a single season and total offense in a single season.
His 27-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter sent him past Andy Dalton’s previous record of 3,292 yards of total offense. Boykin now has 3,586 yards.
The 330 yards passing gave Boykin 3,021 yards, bettering the 2,921 from Casey Pachall in 2011.
Boykin also collected his sixth 300-yard passing game at TCU, breaking the career record he shared at five with Dalton and Pachall.
Boykin, with 24 touchdown passes, is three away from the record for a single-season of 27 by Dalton in 2011.
Boykin avoided disaster in the second quarter when an interception return for a touchdown was nullified by a penalty. Kansas had too many men on the field, wiping out a play that would have given the Jayhawks a 20-7 lead.
Boykin said the Horned Frogs weren’t necessarily trying to catch the Jayhawks with too many men when they quick-snapped.
“It’s a rush thing. We were just trying to hurry and snap the ball,” he said. “The corner made a play. He turned around, and it fell into his lap. Luckily, they did have 12 people on the field, but it had nothing to do with it. It was just a quick call.”
Boykin has not had a multiple-interception game this season.
• TCU opened with a touchdown drive for the seventh time this year. It was only the second opening touchdown drive Kansas has allowed this year.
• Ty Slanina set a career high with 95 yards receiving, and his six catches tied a career high.
• Aaron Green went over 100 yards rushing for the third time in four games.
• Chris Hackett got his fourth interception in four games and leads the Big 12 with six.