A defensive slugfest turned into a show of offensive fireworks in the second half between TCU and Kansas State.
But it came down to the leg of Kansas State kicker Jack Cantele, whose 41-yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining gave the Wildcats a 33-31 victory Saturday.
The Wildcats’ game-winning drive came after TCU field-goal kicker Jaden Oberkrom nailed a 56-yarder with 2:13 left to give the Horned Frogs a 31-30 lead. It’s the second-longest field goal in TCU history.
The loss means TCU (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) will not earn a bowl berth for the first time since 2004. The Wildcats (6-4, 4-3) clinched a bowl berth with the win, their fourth straight.
It’s only the second time in coach Gary Patterson’s 16-year tenure at TCU (including the first three as defensive coordinator) that the Frogs aren’t finishing their season at a bowl.
“It’s tough. There’s only been two years, no matter what league we’ve played in that we haven’t been to a bowl game,” Patterson said, before pondering the Frogs’ schedule and near misses this season. “You’ve got to be careful when you pick an LSU to play early and then you lose an overtime game to West Virginia. You could have already had six wins. But that’s not the way we did the schedule; that’s not the way it worked out. I just feel bad for the kids.”
A personnel miscue by TCU helped K-State take a 30-28 lead on a 23-yard field goal with 5:59 remaining. The score capped a 14-play drive that moved the Wildcats only 38 yards but took almost nine minutes off the clock.
The Wildcats were forced to punt on fourth-and-5 when TCU was penalized for an equipment failure when two players — punt returner Trevone Boykin and cornerback Jason Verrett — were on the field at the same time wearing a No. 2 jersey. The penalty gave K-State a fourth-and-1 at the TCU 35. Instead of punting, the Wildcats went for it and picked up the first down to set up the eventual field goal.
With 5:59 left, however, Casey Pachall completed five consecutive passes, including two for 18 yards to Brandon Carter to set up Oberkrom’s go-ahead kick from 56 yards with just 2:13left.
“I had a lot of faith in our defense,” Pachall said. “I thought we were definitely going to pull this one out. But an unfortunate turn of events, things that happened earlier in the ballgame could have prevented that, no doubt. And really shouldn’t have put [the defense] in that situation to put all the pressure on them to win us the game. But it’s football, things happen. It just didn’t go our way tonight.”
It sure looked like TCU’s day to start the second half. The Frogs, trailing 17-7 at the break, scored touchdowns on their first two second-half possessions.
On fourth-and-1, Boykin scored on a 7-yard run to give TCU its first lead 21-17, with 7:44 left in the third quarter. It was the second touchdown Boykin was in on in a four-minute span. He passed to Josh Doctson in the back of the end zone on a nice play fake moments before to pull the Frogs to within 17-14.
K-State struck quickly after falling behind. Jake Waters connected with a wide-open Tramaine Thompson for a 79-yard scoring pass to give the Wildcats a 24-21 lead midway through the third quarter. But TCU came right back to reclaim the lead. B.J. Catalon returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to set up Pachall’s 51-yard scoring pass to David Porter. Again, KSU rallied on its next possession to pull within 28-27 on Cantele’s 34-yard field goal.
“Just a great ballgame,” Patterson said. “You have to give Kansas State a lot of credit. They fought back. It went back and forth. People made plays. It’s too bad anybody had to lose. Obviously, we wished it wouldn’t have been us.”
The Wildcats took a 7-0 lead on Daniel Sams’ 11-yard scoring run after Blake Slaughter’s 39-yard interception return set K-State up at the TCU 41. A couple minutes later Waters found a wide-open Tyler Lockett for a 74-yard touchdown pass to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.
TCU’s first score was set up by its defense, which forced a three-and-out and a Wildcats punt from deep in their end zone. Cam Luper’s 14-yard punt return gave the Frogs the ball at the KSU 38, and Catalon scored after a great move at the line of scrimmage on a 15-yard run.
The Wildcats raced down the field to tack on a 31-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in the half.
TCU has a bye week before finishing its season against No. 5-ranked Baylor (9-0, 6-0) on Nov. 30 at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
“This Baylor game is going to have to be our bowl game,” Patterson said. “So that’s the way we’re going to approach it.”