Comebacks are awfully exciting, but they’ve lost their appeal for TCU coach Gary Patterson.
Too much can go wrong, and for a second time this season at home, it did for the Horned Frogs.
A false start, intentional grounding and a sack ruined the Frogs’ last chance with the ball, leaving them with a 52-46 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday night in a Big 12 game at Amon G. Carter Stadium after nearly making up a 25-point deficit.
Oklahoma scored five times on the ground and twice through the air, putting up the most points allowed by the Frogs under Patterson in a non-overtime game at home. The Sooners’ 28 points in the second quarter are likely the most in a quarter against a Patterson team at home.
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“I told them I was proud of the way we fought back, but bottom line, we weren’t going to be happy about a six-point loss,” Patterson said.
Three weeks ago, TCU also couldn’t complete a rally against Arkansas when a field goal was blocked at the end of regulation, setting up a loss in two overtimes.
For two years, and for many years here, we learned how to win close games. And now we’ve found a way to lose two games.
TCU coach Gary Patterson
“For two years, and for many years here, we learned how to win close games,” Patterson said. “And now we’ve found a way to lose two games. Like the final drive of the game. We get illegal procedure, and it’s first-and-15, for heaven’s sake. Not happy.”
TCU trailed 49-24 late in the third quarter after Samaje Perine’s second touchdown run for Oklahoma.
But Taj Williams’ 64- and 74-yard touchdown catches in the fourth quarter rallied the Frogs. The lead was down to 49-46 after Emanuel Porter caught a 2-point conversion pass with 5:36 left.
Oklahoma got a field goal with 1:55 left, and TCU couldn’t move with its final drive, which included a disputed intentional grounding penalty against quarterback Kenny Hill. The officials met and first announced that there was no infraction because Hill was out of the pocket.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops lobbied his case furiously, and apparently after a review, the penalty was enforced. That left TCU with a second-and-23 from its 15. A 9-yard pass was followed by a sack — the fourth against Hill — and on fourth-and-20, Hill threw wildly downfield.
After 449 yards passing against Oklahoma, Kenny Hill has three of the top nine passing games in TCU history after just five starts.
Patterson said of the explanation he received for the grounding call, “In his [the official’s] estimation, he didn’t have anybody to throw to. Mine was, he got hit. I don’t know how he could tell. He couldn’t throw it to him.”
That wasn’t the only call that upset Patterson. He said one of his defenders was tackled on one of Oklahoma’s second-quarter touchdowns.
“Bottom line to it is, I wasn’t happy with the officiating,” he said. “Not one time did we get a holding call … not when it mattered.”
The game, which included a stretch when TCU was outscored 42-3, left mixed feelings for Patterson and the players.
“In the face of adversity, we don’t back down,” defensive end Josh Carraway said. “I kept telling the guys out there to keep playing hard, and that’s what we did.”
Running back Kyle Hicks, whose 2-yard touchdown run cut the lead to 49-38 with 8:08 left, said, “We fought to the end. We need to find a way to finish those games, finish them out with a W. But it showed me that we’re going to continue to fight for those 60 minutes that we’re playing. Proud of us. But we need to finish off the game and get the W next time.”
31.4 Points allowed per game this season for TCU. In four games at home, the figure is 38.5.
Hill threw for 449 yards, eighth-most in school history, in recording his third 400-yard passing game, and Williams finished with 210 yards receiving.
But the numbers didn’t matter.
Because the comeback didn’t matter.
“I’m happy we came back. I told them downstairs, I’m happy about that,” Patterson said. “Not happy about a six-point loss. Simple as that. It’s not what this program is about. I don’t know if we have the people to be able to challenge for a conference championship. Bottom line is, we’re dang sure going to try.”
But it would be easier without relying on comebacks. They are too hard to pull off, as the past two Saturday night finishes at Amon G. Carter have shown.
“I like the way my kids fought back,” Patterson said. “But the bottom line to it is, we put ourselves in a hole too far and put ourselves in a situation where we couldn’t catch back up.”