In the backwash of TCU’s double-overtime 41-38 loss last weekend, the knee-jerk reviews were not kind to Horned Frogs quarterback Kenny Hill.
“Same old Kenny,” a friend of mine commented on Facebook.
“Lost to Arkansas again,” tsk-tsked another.
And then came the semi-outrage over the penalty Hill received after his rushing touchdown in the final two minutes of regulation. The TV replays appeared to show Kenny making an angry, throat-slashing sign, a gesture that was specifically banned by the NCAA 12 years ago.
Never miss a local story.
Never mind, it seems, that in his first two games as TCU quarterback, Hill has thrown for 816 yards and accounted for eight touchdowns.
Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown of a starting college quarterback.
Hill sits second in the Big 12 Conference (behind Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes) in both passing and total offense. Were it not for a blocked field goal Saturday after Hill had passed the Frogs downfield in the game’s 59th minute, TCU and its new quarterback would be undefeated and likely ranked among the nation’s 12 best teams.
But the Frogs lost, and people who only saw the final score have concluded, “Same old Kenny”?
Coach Gary Patterson was asked Tuesday about Hill’s progress in the Frogs’ offense.
“He’s had the mistakes early in the ballgame,” Patterson said, “but as it’s gone on, he’s kept getting better and better.
“Sonny [Cumbie] has been very excited about how he’s checked the run game and the routes he wanted to get to and the things he was able to check up to this point.”
For what it’s worth, my own scribbled notes from Saturday reflected the head coach’s overall feeling, that Hill has started slowly in each of the season’s first two games, but has settled in and played better as the games have progressed.
Hill was one of the reasons the Frogs almost won Saturday — not the reason they lost.
Yet, heavy hangs the college quarterback’s head.
A similar weighty crown may have claimed another victim last weekend at LSU, where junior quarterback Brandon Harris — whose poor play almost got his head coach fired last season — was yanked after a first down-less first quarter against Jacksonville State. Danny Etling, a junior transfer from Purdue, came in and the Tigers went on to win 34-13.
Harris’ reaction to the unceremonious benching was less than ideal. He didn’t stick around for the traditional postgame team gathering to sing the alma mater.
And then the very modern twist: He went on Twitter and immediately followed the accounts of coaches Urban Meyer, Tom Herman and, yes, Patterson and his co-offensive coordinator Cumbie.
(Note to Cumbie: Don’t even think about following up on this. Poor Harris hasn’t improved in three seasons.)
The hasty Twitter follows may or may not mean anything. After all, as my friend at the Baton Rouge Advocate Scott Rabalais pointed out, Harris also follows Donald Trump and Leonardo DiCaprio.
But it shows the kind of pressure that a college starting quarterback has to bear.
For what it’s worth, Patterson has excused Hill for the alleged throat-slashing gesture, which was a misunderstanding, they said, and actually a reaction that was religious in nature.
“He just needs to let me know,” Patterson said. “That way I can do a better job of backing him up.”
People are doing a lot of misunderstanding so far about Kenny Hill, however. Patterson allowed him to transfer to TCU with a clean slate. The knee-jerk critics should do likewise.
Remember, he’s got a heavy crown to wear.