Instinctively perhaps, Kenny Hill took the blame.
He didn’t make enough plays as the quarterback, he said after TCU’s 31-23 loss to Georgia in the Liberty Bowl on Friday.
Gary Patterson didn’t let it go farther than that.
“I thought he fought his [tail] off, to be honest with you,” the Horned Frogs’ coach said. “He’s not 100 percent.”
For a large part of the game, it didn’t show. Hill, who nursed an injured ankle throughout the bowl practices, ran for 72 yards and a touchdown and threw two touchdown passes.
But he took a sack for a 10-yard loss on third down from the 20-yard line in the fourth quarter, forcing a 47-yard field-goal attempt that missed to deny the Frogs the go-ahead points, and Georgia polished off the game with Nick Chubb’s 13-yard touchdown run with 2:48 to play.
Coming down to the end, I got to make more plays. I play quarterback. I need to make the plays.
TCU quarterback Kenny Hill
It left TCU (6-7) with only its third losing season in Patterson’s 16 years as head coach.
“At the end, the last two drives, you’ve got to get stops,” Patterson said. “They’ve got two good tailbacks. You’ve got to give Georgia credit. For us, it was a game that we could easily have won. But you’ve got to make plays. So for us, it’s kind of been the story of our season.”
One drive earlier, the Bulldogs (8-5) of the SEC had taken a 24-23 lead on Rodrigo Blankenship’s 30-yard field goal.
TCU was driving to get the lead back when Hill was flushed and sacked on third-and-10 by 309-pound sophomore defensive tackle Trenton Thompson, who had three sacks to earn game MVP honors.
“Coming down to the end, I got to make more plays,” Hill said. “I play quarterback. I need to make the plays. ... That last sack, I need to throw that away.”
TCU fell to 15-16-1 all-time in bowls and 9-6 under Gary Patterson. The Horned Frogs were playing in their 17th bowl game in 19 seasons.
Hill made plenty of plays early. He scored on a 10-yard run behind the block of tailback Kyle Hicks for a 9-7 lead in the first quarter, and he threw touchdown passes of 10 and 9 yards to John Diarse.
The second of those, an acrobatic grab that required Diarse to leap over the defender and land with one hand clutching the ball, provided a 23-21 lead for TCU with 2:07 left in the third quarter.
But Hill and the Frogs got the ball only twice after that — the 13-play drive that ended in Brandon Hatfield’s miss from 47 yards with 7:57 left and the final drive, which ended on a fourth-and-4 incompletion at the Georgia 44 with 1:14 to go.
Hatfield, a junior who emerged as the kicker following a preseason injury to Jonathan Song, hit from 40 yards in the first quarter but missed from 41 and 47. He also missed an extra-point attempt. He ended the season 13 for 19 on field goals.
248 Yards rushing allowed by TCU against Georgia. In its last four games, TCU allowed an average of 276.8 yards on the ground.
Kyle Hicks rushed for 88 yards for TCU to go over 1,000 yards, but his fumble cost the Frogs their first possession of the second half.
Chris Bradley, L.J. Collier and Tipa Galeai had sacks for TCU, and Galeai recovered a fumble.
“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to make about five to seven plays that you didn’t make to have an opportunity to win the ballgame,” Patterson said. “But I told them I’m proud of them. We only had seven seniors, and we got to this point.”
Georgia 31, TCU 23
UGA—Michel 4 run (Blankenship kick), 9:32
TCU—FG Hatfield 40, :44
TCU—K.Hill 10 run (kick failed), :02
TCU—Diarse 10 pass from K.Hill (Hatfield kick), 9:15
UGA—Michel 33 pass from Eason (Blankenship kick), 1:13
UGA—Wims 4 pass from Eason (Blankenship kick), 7:08
TCU—Diarse 9 pass from K.Hill (Hatfield kick), 2:07
UGA—FG Blankenship 30, 13:27
UGA—Chubb 13 run (Blankenship kick), 2:48
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Georgia, Chubb 17-142, Michel 15-87, Ramsey 1-11, Eason 6-7, McKenzie 1-3, Herrien 2-1, (Team) 2-(minus 3). TCU, Hicks 15-88, K.Hill 17-72, Anderson 4-12, Turpin 2-3, Olonilua 1-0.
PASSING—Georgia, Eason 12-21-0-164. TCU, Diarse 0-1-0-0, K.Hill 18-27-0-146.
RECEIVING—Georgia, McKenzie 4-103, Wims 3-11, Michel 2-39, Nauta 2-8, Godwin 1-3. TCU, Hicks 5-21, I.Graham 3-37, Stewart 3-29, White 2-21, Diarse 2-19, Slanina 1-10, T.Johnson 1-6, Anderson 1-3.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Georgia, Blankenship 53. TCU, Hatfield 41, Hatfield 47.