Two of TCU’s best moments in a 41-17 Big 12 Championship Game loss to Oklahoma on Saturday were provided by the Horned Frogs’ past and future at wide receiver.
Senior wide receiver John Diarse provided a one-handed, potential game-changing touchdown catch from 12 yards out that brought the Frogs almost all the way back from a 17-point first-half crisis at AT&T Stadium.
TCU’s other touchdown was furnished by true freshman Jalen Reagor, a four-star prospect from Waxahachie and the son of a former Texas Tech standout. The TD catch represented his team-best seventh this season.
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Though one receiver’s college football career is heading toward an end after a five-year journey that started at LSU, and the other’s is just beginning, their respective immediate futures in football are pointing northward.
“I’m thankful for Coach [Gary] Patterson letting me live out my dream and continue to play college football,” said Diarse, a native of Monroe, La. “Before we left the hotel [Saturday morning] I began to reflect on the past five years and battling through all the adversity, and still getting this chance a lot of guys don’t get.
“It definitely has been a fun ride. One I’m thankful for, and the sky’s the limit as far as the future goes.”
Neither originally planned TCU as their football destination.
Diarse transferred to TCU after spending three years at LSU. In those three years he finished his undergraduate degree and moved to Fort Worth as a graduate transfer with two years of eligibility remaining after the 2015 season.
Reagor originally committed to Texas Tech, where his father Montae Reagor starred in preparation for a nine-year career in the NFL as a defensive lineman. Jalen Reagor backed out of that commitment, choosing instead Oklahoma.
He later decided against Norman, too. Rather, he would go to TCU.
The Frogs had no problem ultimately being his third choice.
Reagor’s role in the offense has continued to expand all season. His 29-yard, over-the-shoulder catch from quarterback Kenny Hill at the start of the second quarter represented the Frogs’ first points and, more importantly, slowed OU’s momentum.
“That’s what we expect,” Diarse said of Reagor. “Freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior … when it’s your time to make a play, you make a play. He’s answered the bell all year long. I’m excited personally to watch him the rest of his career.”
Diarse was TCU’s leading receiver in yardage on Saturday with 66 yards on five catches.
After a to-be-determined bowl game, Diarse will leave TCU with a reputation for consistency. He has at least one reception in 26 of his past 27 games. He’ll go into that final game with 33 receptions for 513 yards in 2017. Over two seasons, he has 66 catches for 990 yards.
The one-handed grab Saturday looked as if it might be the biggest of his career. It cut what was once a 17-point Oklahoma lead to 17-14 at 14:07 of the second quarter.
Hill threw the ball to the outside, where, presumably, the only guy who could catch it would be Diarse. With Tre Norwood on him, Diarse turned to the outside, reached out, and pulled the ball in with one hand as he fell to the ground.
The nearest official called the ball incomplete. That call was overturned on replay.
“I remember falling with it and having possession,” Diarse said. “I immediately went to the sideline and told coach ‘that’s a catch.’ But when you have this feeling here and you wish things would have turned out the other way, it doesn’t really hold any weight.”