Facing an undefeated, ranked opponent in a hostile environment, TCU wasted no time in squandering its opportunities to gain or sustain any momentum Saturday against No. 12 West Virginia.
The Horned Frogs fumbled away the opening kickoff when returner Deante Gray lost the ball at the 17-yard line, helping the Mountaineers put their first points on the board just 64 seconds into the contest.
West Virginia never looked back during a 34-10 victory that marked the most lopsided loss by the Horned Frogs (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) as a Big 12 member. The last time TCU fell to any opponent by more than 24 points came in a 35-10 loss to Oklahoma in 2008, when TCU was a member of the Mountain West Conference.
The Horned Frogs, who lost the turnover battle by a 3-0 margin (largest deficit of the season), rebounded briefly in the second quarter to close the deficit to 14-10 and generate a smattering of momentum.
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But the Mountaineers (6-0, 3-0) neutralized that brief surge with a five-play, 67-yard touchdown march. West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard, a White Settlement Brewer graduate, capped the drive with one of his four touchdown strikes, an 11-yarder to Gary Jennings. Howard and the offense extended the margin the rest of the way, with TCU left to focus on a litany of missed opportunities to flip the mounting momentum.
We let them come score again. It was one of those things where they took advantage and they made some breaks for themselves and we didn’t.
TCU coach Gary Patterson
None of them worked. The Frogs struggled to convert third downs (2 of 11), lost two fumbles on kickoff returns (both by Gray), threw a first-quarter interception and rarely did anything that threatened to turn any momentum after West Virginia built a 21-10 lead with 10:27 left in the second quarter.
“That’s just part of the game, momentum swings,” TCU defensive end Josh Carraway said. “We’ve been there before. So when the momentum gets swinging away, we’ve just got to find a way to get a hold of it, get it going our way. We just couldn’t do that tonight.”
Patterson cited the road environment as a huge factor in Saturday’s struggles for a team playing only its second game of the season outside the state of Texas.
“We’ve got to learn how to play on the road. We’ve got to bring our own energy,” Patterson said. “As a program we’ve done it before. We’ve got to do it again. At some points in time, we played hard. We didn’t play very smart.”
But the Frogs got the ball in the end zone on a second-quarter touchdown strike from quarterback Kenny Hill to receiver Jaelan Austin, pulling within four points after West Virginia’s initial 14-0 salvo. At that point, the Frogs needed a defensive stop that never came.
“We let them come score again,” Patterson said. “It was one of those things where they took advantage and they made some breaks for themselves and we didn’t.”
TCU running back Kyle Hicks, who rushed for 103 yards (6.9 per carry), said the early deficit was not demoralizing. But the ball-security issues and lack of intensity that followed was frustrating and out of character.
“We just need to pay attention in detail to ball security,” Hicks said. “We need to play with more intensity. We have to find a way to play a four-quarter football game, the TCU way.”
The Frogs fell way short of that goal Saturday in West Virginia.