At the beginning of each football season, TCU’s Kenny Hill turns off Twitter, thinking it best not to know what both his critics and fans think while sitting on their couches cradling their smartphones.
However, he can’t do anything about what West Virginia’s defense throws at him, which is everything plus another man.
Hill didn’t have his best passing game in No. 8 TCU’s 31-24 victory over West Virginia on Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium, but he more than made do.
The former Southlake Carroll star had the football version of the cycle, registering a touchdown passing, receiving, and rushing, a 3-yarder that put the Horned Frogs ahead for good over a Big 12 nemesis that always seems to give the Horned Frogs fits.
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Hill capped TCU’s game-winning drive by keeping the ball on third-and-goal from the 3, going to his left and finding a seam off Kyle Hicks’ block for the TD.
Hill entered the game having completed 73 percent of his passes but was 15 for 28 for a modest 188 yards while working against West Virginia’s unconventional 3-3-5 defensive scheme that includes a lot of movement.
Yet, like his team, found a way with the help of his coaches, who found different ways to get him involved in the offense.
“It was a lot easier in practice,” Hill joked about his game-winner. “That’s how we drew it up. Kyle made a great block. It was just up to me to get into the end zone.”
Bigger than the result itself, of course, was the reason the play was called. The coaches trust Hill to make a play in that situation, which, Hill said, “means a lot. It gives you a lot of confidence.”
That confidence might be the biggest difference in the 2017 version of Hill, who a year ago in a 34-10 loss to West Virginia was 18 for 31 for 148 yards and an interception. He was also sacked three times.
The Frogs took possession with 9:50 left Saturday on their own 35 behind a confident leader.
Hill was 4-of-5 passing on the 10-play drive, including a 7-yard pass to Dylan Thomas on third-and-2 and a 23-yard completion to John Diarse on third-and-7 that set up first-and-goal.
“We knew we had to punch one in,” Hill said of the mind-set of the offensive unit as it took the field. “ ‘We need to get a touchdown right here. Punch it in, punch it in, punch it in.’ Everybody rallied, and we got it done.”
In the third quarter, Hill found Jalen Reagor one play after Nick Orr’s interception to give the Frogs a 17-3 lead. West Virginia, however, stormed back with two long TD receptions to tie the game.
TCU elected unconventionality to retake the lead.
Hill handed the ball to KaVontae Turpin, who ran right and pulled up to throw back to the QB, who broke a tackle and ran untouched 48 yards.
“I was so excited when they called that play,” Hill said. “We’ve been practicing that play all week. I said [to coaches], ‘if ya’ll throw to me, I’m going to score. I’m not letting anyone tackle me on this.’ ”
Said Hicks: “Kenny brought it out today. I was happy for him. He’s always talking in practice how he wants a receiving touchdown. I’m glad he finally got it.”
It will more than likely — but who knows — be his last.
It’s not the last we’ll see of Hill, though. And it wasn’t necessarily supposed to be that way, either, when the season started, according to social media universe, what with a top recruit enrolling after Hill’s difficult 2016.
Hill is doing what seniors are supposed to do, coach Gary Patterson said. “Is it great that he is athletic? Yes.”
Now, leave him alone.
“Seems like every week with ‘you guys’ it has to be a drama about Kenny Hill,” Patterson said. “The guy is 5-0. It’s hard to be 5-0.”