TCU has spent the first six weeks of the season in search of a kicker capable of converting a crunch-time opportunity when it surfaced.
Brandon Hatfield may have done enough to end the search with Saturday’s game-winning, 34-yard field goal in a 24-23 triumph over Kansas. Hatfield, a left-footed junior, has shared placement with Ryan Graf, whose most notable attempt of the season was blocked by Arkansas in the waning seconds of regulation during a double-overtime loss to the Razorbacks on Sept. 10.
Hatfield, who missed a 31-yarder earlier in Saturday’s contest, rebounded to drill his final kick high and true with 1:21 remaining to cap TCU’s 59-yard scoring drive. It marked the first game-winning kick of his career, going back to his high school days in Chino Hills, Calif.
“I was pretty fired up, as you’d expect. Probably my best hit of the day,” said Hatfield, who also added three PATs. “It’s a dream come true to do this for TCU.”
Hatfield, who has made 5 of 6 field goals this season, said he drew encouragement during the final drive from TCU running backs coach Curtis Luper. As the drive unfolded, he said Luper “came up to me and said, ‘Hey, let’s go hit that game-winner.’ I was pretty calm and it was a solid hit, right down the middle. I’m pretty proud of that.”
Another slow start
Despite facing one of the nation’s most porous defenses, TCU was held without a point until its sixth possession against Kansas. The Horned Frogs finally got on the board with a one-play, 3-yard touchdown “drive” after a fumble recovery at the Jayhawks’ 3-yard line when Kyle Hicks scored with 9:59 remaining in the first half.
Until that point, the Frogs’ first five drives produced an interception, lost fumble, punt, missed field goal and punt. Kansas entered the game allowing 35.2 points per game, ranking No. 103 among the nation’s 128 FBS schools in scoring defense.
TCU finished with a season-low 366 yards of total offense and failed to score a first-quarter touchdown for the third time in six outings. The Frogs committed four turnovers, including three interceptions by quarterback Kenny Hill.
TCU, which entered the game with only two interceptions, added three against Kansas. Two came from safety Nick Orr, making him the first Frog with multiple picks in a game since Sam Carter had two against Texas in 2014. Orr cited a strong pass rush, which registered five sacks, with helping him set the tone on a day when TCU collected a season-high four turnovers.
“They’ll keep coming, I feel like, as long as everyone keeps doing their job and everyone plays together,” Orr said. “It was my day today. But it could be anybody’s day, really.”
Sackfest for Carraway
TCU defensive end Josh Carraway posted a career-high three sacks, including two on Kansas’ final drive that resulted in a missed field goal. That is the most sacks in any game by a TCU defender since Devonte Fields had three against Grambling State in 2012. Carraway also posted a career high in tackles for losses (4).
Carraway, a senior, said his two-sack surge on KU’s final drive is what should be expected of him in that situation.
“As one of the leaders and one of the captains, they’re looking at me to make a play. I take that seriously,” Carraway said.
Hill’s ups and downs
TCU quarterback Kenny Hill added his seventh rushing touchdown of the season, an 18-yarder in the second quarter, to tie him with running back Kyle Hicks for the team lead. Hill also threw a career-high three interceptions, giving him eight this season. The eight interceptions mark the most by a Big 12 quarterback this season.