A year ago, no teams in college football played more true and redshirt freshmen than TCU and LSU — 28 of them.
We were reminded Saturday night that growing up still has its occasional problems.
Fumbles and penalties and precocious moments intruded throughout the night, as the Horned Frogs refused to leave the Tigers’ shadow.
But in the end, LSU proved to be a little quicker and measurably deeper, as the Tigers held on to defeat the Frogs 37-27.
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On the second TCU possession of the second half, however, the Frogs saw the subplot quickly become their predominant story.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin, one of those freshmen who played a key stand-in role for TCU last season, came off the bench to replace starter Casey Pachall and lit a mood-changing spark under the Frogs.
It wasn’t that Pachall played poorly. He was 8 for 14 passing for 64 yards in the first half, a half that the Tigers of the Southeastern Conference dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard.
Pachall’s first pass of the third quarter, though — intercepted by LSU sophomore Jalen Mills — gave TCU coach Gary Patterson the chance to use the card up his sleeve, Boykin, that he had hinted at all summer.
Pachall, who missed the final nine games last season, appeared to be rusty. Boykin, who ignited the Frogs with his feet, showed himself to be well-oiled and ready.
Boykin took the Frogs 77 yards to a touchdown on his first full possession at quarterback.
Somehow, despite being outgained 322 yards to 109 at the time when Boykin came in, the Frogs were only six points behind, 23-17, with nearly 24 minutes to play.
Ah, youth. It giveth and it taketh away.
Just as LSU had carved out a 23-10 lead, a third-down roughing the passer call on Tigers defensive tackle Ego Ferguson kept alive the drive that ended with B.J. Catalon running 26 yards to a touchdown.
And when the Tigers answered that with a 14-play, 68-yard touchdown drive of their own, they promptly gave Boykin and TCU another golden chance by fumbling at the 6-yard line.
Did LSU lose interest, or did the Frogs finally realize that with Boykin they could win the game?
TCU’s next possession fizzled, however, and the Frogs had to settle for a 39-yard Jaden Oberkrom field goal. They still trailed 30-27.
Odell Beckham Jr. returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for LSU, and the Tigers were able to turn it into another 10-point lead.
Are the two teams 10 points apart? On the scoreboard Saturday, they were. But LSU will likely point to the things it didn’t do — convert in the red zone, hold onto early big catches, avoid penalties. And TCU should find ways to grow.
Clearly, LSU reminded the crowd of 80,230 that it hails from the half of the SEC that Bob Stoops warned everyone about.
But TCU hung with the Tigers. Patterson likely will shrug that away and insist that his program has outgrown any claim to a moral victory. But the Frogs showed flashes of outgrowing their 2012 troubles throughout the night.
Is a quarterback controversy brewing?
Patterson will have to answer that. Unless Boykin answers it for him.