No matter how much TCU coach Gary Patterson refuses to point fingers, the conversation surrounding the kicking game that left nine points on the table in the Horned Frogs’ 27-24 double-overtime loss to Texas Tech on Saturday is inevitable.
The TCU defense held the nation’s No. 1 offense in yardage and No. 2 offense in scoring to just 315 yards and 10 points through the first 58 minutes of regulation at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Ultimately, the game’s final moments sealed the Frogs’ fate.
Quarterback Foster Sawyer shook off some early rust to tie the game 24-24 in the first overtime with a perfectly placed 25-yard touchdown pass to Desmon White.
Junior kicker Brandon Hatfield was then called upon to put TCU in front, where the team had played from basically the whole game, in the second overtime. The ball was on Tech’s 22-yard line. After a 2-yard rush to the left side and two incomplete passes, the ball was placed on the left hash mark.
“The one place Hatfield doesn’t kick as well is off the left hash,” Patterson said. “And the last three field goals were all off the left hash. Probably should have run the ball to the middle of field so he could have had a better angle. Candy and nuts.”
The missed 39-yarder was Hatfield’s third of the game inside 40 yards. He missed a 37-yarder late in the first quarter that would have given TCU a 10-0 lead and a 32-yarder midway through the fourth that would have put the Frogs up 20-10.
Among TCU’s offensive troubles, third-down inefficiency was the most glaring. The Frogs converted just 5 of 15 third-down chances, while Tech, which came in leading the nation with a 59 percent conversion rate, went 10 for 20.
TCU’s third-down misfires led directly to another poor stat: Just two touchdowns in five trips into the Texas Tech red zone.
Kenny Hill was 16 for 29 for 160 yards and an interception before co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie inserted Sawyer at quarterback for TCU’s ninth possession of the game. Hill forced a deep ball KaVontae Turpin’s way late in the third quarter as his receiver streaked toward the end zone, but Tech’s Douglas Coleman had Turpin blanketed and intercepted the pass.
“We weren’t playing very well,” Patterson said of the decision to go with Sawyer after the interception. “Both guys have got to play better. When they turn you loose, you’ve got to make plays.”
Sawyer’s first drive came with great field position. Tech punter Michael Barden mishandled a long snap and TCU linebacker Sammy Douglas got to him at the Texas Tech 15. Sawyer’s first pass of the game was a 9-yard completion to Daniel Walsh, but Sawyer then went 4 of 15 before his overtime touchdown pass to White.
Sawyer finished 6 of 17 for 86 yards and the touchdown.
Starting running back Kyle Hicks ran for gains of 5 and 6 yards on TCU’s first possession before limping off the field favoring his left leg.
Hicks returned to catch a 15-yard pass from Hill on TCU’s third drive, and played briefly in the third quarter, but ceded most of his rushing duties to Derrick Green, Trevorris Johnson and freshman Sewo Olonilua.
“He re-tweaked his ankle,” Patterson said of Hicks’ injury. “We’ll probably have to be very careful about him and whether he plays next week” against Baylor.
Defensive end Josh Carraway did not play in the second half after an undisclosed second-quarter injury. Mat Boesen had two sacks, one in the first half, and 10 total tackles as Carraway’s replacement.
Trey Elliot got the start at left guard in place of Patrick Morris, out with an undisclosed injury. It was Elliot’s first playing time of the season after the sophomore was thought to be out for the year himself with a foot injury.
The loss to Texas Tech was Turpin’s first game back after injuring his left knee in September against Iowa State, but the sophomore was somewhat limited in his return.
Patterson said earlier in the week that Turpin would be held out of the kicking game. He returned the final kickoff of regulation 28 yards.
“It was winning time,” Patterson said of the decision to have Turpin return the kick.
Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7760; @MCTinez817