This is not going to be easy.
Sure, TCU is now the Big 12’s last remaining undefeated team, via a 31-24 victory against No. 23 West Virginia on Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium, and dare we say the league’s best shot at the College Football Playoff.
But no matter.
It is not going to be easy for the eighth-ranked Frogs to stay in that position, at the top of the Big 12, much less win the rest of the games.
“Every game is going to be like this,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “If you’re going to win championships, as a general rule — and this has been every year I’ve been here for 17 years as a head coach — you win about three or four that are ugly. You’ve got to win the ugly ones sometimes.”
This one counts as that.
West Virginia’s oddly aligned defense, with its uncommon blitzing angles and a knack for outnumbering the offense on running plays, made things ugly for No. 8 TCU and quarterback Kenny Hill.
The nation’s best third-down offense converted only six of 15 chances, by far a season low.
The Frogs managed only 16 first downs, also a season low.
They had no 100-yard rusher, and Hill threw for just 188 yards. Not a season low, but close.
“It’s kind of confusing trying to figure out what they’re in. They gave us problems all day,” Hill said. “But we made one more play than they did.”
Hill, in fact, made the last one, a 10-yard run for a first down that allowed TCU to kneel out the final seconds.
But it wasn’t the only one by the senior quarterback from Southlake. He made three in the second half that each showcased his ability and demonstrated his value to the Frogs.
His 45-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Reagor gave TCU a 17-3 lead in the third quarter, his 48-yard touchdown catch on a halfback pass from KaVontae Turpin put TCU ahead 24-17 late in the third quarter, and his 3-yard run on third-and-goal gave TCU the winning points with 2:53 left in the game.
“If he’s not athletic, he can’t do two of those three things,” Patterson said. “The hardest thing to do as a defensive coordinator is to account for that other running back, which is the quarterback. I’ll tell you, one of the biggest runs of the game was the second down on the final drive. Him making the first down was as big a play in the ballgame as any we had. You finally close the door.”
Hill almost had to search for words after the game to describe how tough a day it was.
“We expect everybody’s best shot. We’ve just got to be ready,” he said.
Patterson could only explain it as typical of the series between the Big 12’s newest members, who have played two overtime games and had another decided on a last-second kick since joining the league.
“Welcome to West Virginia-TCU,” Patterson said. “Holy moly.”
It wasn’t easy.
The Frogs made it tougher by allowing two long touchdown passes that helped West Virginia tie the game 24-24 with 9:50 left. That put Hill and the offense on the spot to drive for the go-ahead score. On third-and-goal at the 4, Hill kept around left end behind blocks from running back Kyle Hicks, tight end Cole Hunt and left tackle Joseph Noteboom. He dived for the final yard and scored.
“No excuses. I’m not going to be happy tomorrow about a couple of things,” Patterson said. “But we found a way to get to 5-0. It’s hard to be 5-0. We’re tied with some people in the conference. Now you move on to the next game.”
Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez
WVU—FG Molina 37, 7:30
TCU—Olonilua 2 run (Song kick), 14:16
TCU—FG Song 37, 8:36
TCU—Reagor 45 pass from Hill (Song kick), 6:06
WVU—D.Sills 64 pass from Grier (Molina kick), 3:52
WVU—Ka.White 76 pass from Grier (Molina kick), 1:37
TCU—Hill 48 pass from Turpin (Song kick), :15
WVU—D.Sills 4 pass from Grier (Molina kick), 9:50
TCU—Hill 3 run (Song kick), 2:53
Time of Possession
RUSHING—West Virginia, Crawford 19-111, McKoy 7-12, Pettaway 5-10, Grier 8-9. TCU, Hicks 11-71, Anderson 9-43, Hill 7-28, Reagor 2-19, Nixon 2-8, Olonilua 2-4, Turpin 1-1, (Team) 1-(minus 1), Snell 1-(minus 3).
PASSING—West Virginia, Grier 25-45-1-366. TCU, Turpin 1-1-0-48, Hill 15-28-0-188.
RECEIVING—West Virginia, Jennings 10-80, D.Sills 7-116, Ka.White 6-138, Simms 2-32. TCU, Diarse 4-70, Reagor 2-55, Austin 2-31, D.White 2-17, Thomas 2-11, Turpin 2-0, Hill 1-48, Hunt 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—West Virginia, Molina 29.