TCU quarterback Kenny Hill began his week as a guy trying to play his way back into the good graces of Horned Frogs’ coaches after being benched in crunch-time in last week’s loss to Texas Tech.
He ended it Saturday with his best game of the season, helping the Horned Frogs blow out No. 17 Baylor, 62-22, in McLane Stadium to emphatically put the brakes on TCU’s offensive woes in recent weeks.
Hill received a significant assist from running back Kyle Hicks, who rushed for a career-high 192 yards and five touchdowns. But the transfer from Texas A&M also did his share of heavy lifting at quarterback, rushing for 85 yards and passing for 244 and a touchdown. For only the second time this season, he did not throw an interception.
Instead, Hill deftly directed the Horned Frogs’ attack to their most prolific performance since hanging 70 points on Stephen F. Austin in last year’s home-opener. TCU (5-4, 3-3 Big 12) scored on seven of its first nine drives and racked up a season-high 688 yards after scoring a combined 51 points in regulation during its last three games. The 40-point margin marked TCU’s most lopsided victory over Baylor in series history.
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The timing of the turnaround for the Southlake Carroll graduate, who lost his starting job after eight starts at A&M during the 2014 season, could not have been better.
Asked what he thought about heading into the Baylor game, Hill said: “Man, I can’t do this. This is A&M all over again.”
Hill said a Sunday talk with quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie following last week’s 27-24 loss to Texas Tech in double overtime helped calm him and boost his confidence.
It was tough. But I understand why it happened. It woke me up.
TCU quarterback Kenny Hill, on last week’s benching against Texas Tech and how it affected his play Saturday againt Baylor
“Coach Cumbie sat me down and told me, ‘We have faith in you. We just need you to go out there and be the same Kenny you were in the Arkansas game and the Oklahoma game,’ ” Hill said. “I have that fire and that drive. All I was thinking about was coming out here and playing the best I could.”
Hill got things started with a 37-yard scoring strike to Taj Williams on the Frogs’ opening possession. His 40-yard scramble set up a second-quarter touchdown. By halftime, the Frogs led 38-14. It marked their highest-scoring first half since putting up 42 points on Grambling State in the 2012 opener.
Not a bad bottom line for a guy who looked “very tight and nervous early” to TCU coach Gary Patterson.
“I thought he was hesitating,” Patterson said. “Then later on, he quit hesitating.”
Hill agreed he began the game with some nervous energy, but TCU’s early success against the Baylor defense “kind of calmed me down” and kept backup Foster Sawyer on the bench until the 7:10 mark of the fourth quarter. Sawyer played the final quarter and both overtime periods against Tech.
But the Baylor blowout belonged to Hill, who averaged 7.7 yards per carry and spread the ball to eight receivers. He directed scoring drives of 54, 36, 88, 77, 85, 95, 41 and 66 yards while helping TCU put a significant dent in any hopes that Baylor (6-2, 3-2) will remain in next week’s CFP rankings. Hill said he leaned on the support of teammates in efforts to rebound from last week’s benching.
“It was tough. But I understand why it happened,” Hill said. “It woke me up ... It was big for me just having the confidence of all my teammates. They were picking me up all week, saying, ‘Hey, man. You’re going to do good this week. We trust you. We believe in you.’
“That put confidence back in myself. I just knew I had to play the way I could just to give us a chance to win.”
By a 40-point margin, as it turned out, in TCU’s most lopsided victory over Baylor in 112 games of series history.