Kenny Hill saves himself, TCU with fourth quarter at Kansas

After three interceptions, three sacks and a fumble, what could TCU expect from Kenny Hill in the fourth quarter?

To hear running back Kyle Hicks tell it, just what happened.

Shaking off an awful start, Hill delivered drives for a touchdown and a field goal in the fourth quarter to rally TCU to a 24-23 victory at Kansas in a Big 12 game Saturday. Brandon Hatfield’s 34-yard kick with 1:21 left — moments after Hill and the Horned Frogs avoided disaster when his fumble was recovered by friendly jerseys — provided the winning points.

Close call or not, Hill delivered.

“He’s poised. He’s not beating himself up. He’s ready for the next play,” Hicks said. “That’s what I like about him. He’s not on the sideline beating himself up, pouting, you know, causing a big scene. He’s like, ‘My bad, we’ve still got time to go out there and correct it, I’m ready to go.’ 

Even after the go-ahead kick, the Frogs (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) needed one more stop (and barely got it). Kansas’ Matthew Wyman missed a 54-yard field-goal try with two seconds left. It was his third miss in the fourth quarter, joining misfires from 37 and 41 yards that let TCU stay close.

“Every time we’re in Lawrence,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said with a wistful smile.

TCU has won all five Big 12 meetings against Kansas by a combined 35 points. The last three have been decided by four, six and one point.

“Just to get the W, it’s fun,” said defensive end Josh Carraway, who had three sacks. “It’s a lot of fun. Makes the plane ride home a lot better.”

TCU stayed in the game with takeaways. Weak safety Nick Orr had two interceptions for TCU, and Travin Howard had one off a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage by James McFarland. Defensive end Mat Boesen had a strip-sack that led to Chris Bradley’s recovery.

But for all that, the Frogs trailed 23-14 with 29 seconds left in the third quarter after Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis scampered 21 yards for a touchdown after Hill’s third interception.

Things looked even worse when a holding penalty forced third-and-12 and Hill had to scramble. Trapped, Hill appeared to be sacked, and he also lost the ball. But he had been grabbed by the face mask, and a flag flew. Sensing the action was over, the players on both sides stopped.

But the ball was live, Hill picked it up, ran for 20 yards, and TCU got the benefit of the 15-yard face-mask infraction added onto that. Two plays later, Hill found Jaelan Austin for a 25-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 23-21.

Two possessions later, Hill took the Frogs 59 yards in eight plays to set up Hatfield’s game-winner. The drive was saved when Hill’s fumble at the end of a 3-yard run to the Kansas 17-yard line on third-and-5 was recovered by someone on his team at the bottom of a big pile.

Hill nearly had not survived a third fumble. But he did, and Kansas coach David Beaty was not surprised.

“You know, he made a lot of mistakes today that really kept us in the game at times, but man, when they needed him, he scored a touchdown, he scrambled to go get that ball down there and get it — and they scored a touchdown off of that,” Beaty said. “That’s what real players do, man. He’s a real player.”

Patterson said he never considered changing quarterbacks.

“No. Nope,” he said. He paused. “Neither did they,” he said of Kansas.

With the Horned Frogs in position, Hatfield delivered on his 34-yard kick to win the game. The junior from Chino Hills, Calif., who had missed earlier from 31 yards, called it his best kick of the day.

“Just awesome, just an amazing feeling,” Hatfield said. “I can’t explain it. It’s been quite a journey.”

The Frogs expected nothing less from their trip to Lawrence.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

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