The day before, Cumbie had pulled him from TCU’s loss to Texas Tech. Now, Cumbie had to build him back up.
“Coach Cumbie sat me down and told me, ‘We have faith in you. We just need you to go out there and be the same Kenny you were in the Arkansas game and the Oklahoma game,’ ” Hill said. “I have that fire and that drive. Show that, and your teammates will respond.”
Cumbie opted to stay with Hill as the starting quarterback, and Hill rewarded the decision with his best outing of the season in the Horned Frogs’ 62-22 victory at Baylor. It was a good moment for Hill, and it demonstrated Cumbie’s value to TCU.
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“Same quarterback coach who got Trevone Boykin, who nobody thought could play quarterback, to play quarterback,” coach Gary Patterson said.
Kenny Hill averaged 357.0 yards passing in the first six games. Against West Virginia and Texas Tech, it was 154.0 yards.
Cumbie, hired as a co-offensive coordinator with Doug Meacham in 2014, chose to stay at TCU in December after interviewing for an offensive coordinator position at Texas.
Boykin set career records for completions, yards and touchdown passes at TCU the past two seasons, when Cumbie helped him transition from being a part-time quarterback to a full-time quarterback and master the Air Raid offense.
With Hill, Cumbie has a different challenge.
Hill has only been a quarterback — highly rated as a recruit — but with ups and downs. After setting a school record in his first start at Texas A&M, he lost his starting job two months later and transferred, eventually landing close to home at TCU.
In a sense, Hill is working his way back. It makes Cumbie, a former quarterback in the Big 12 at Texas Tech, an ideal coach to help.
I think it’s lucky to have a situation for a guy that’s been through the hard part of playing quarterback. That helps a guy.
TCU coach Gary Patterson, on quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie and quarterback Kenny Hill
“It helps to be the guy that’s played the position,” Patterson said. “Sonny was a guy that came up, a walk-on, had to learn the ropes the hard way, had to become a quarterback. I think it’s lucky to have a situation for a guy that’s been through the hard part of playing quarterback. That helps a guy.”
Hill began the season with big numbers. He threw for 439 yards in the season opener, and his 36 completions against Arkansas the following week were the third-most in TCU history. In those two games, he accounted for 954 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns rushing and passing. Already, he accounts for three of the top nine passing yardage totals all-time at TCU.
But his 10 interceptions are the most in the Big 12. When he was picked off in the third quarter against Texas Tech, he was sent to the bench in favor of Foster Sawyer, who finished the 27-24 double-overtime loss.
“It was tough, but I understand why it happened,” Hill said. “It woke me up.”
The stakes were clear to him.
“Man, I can’t do this all over again,” he said. “This is A&M all over again.”
3,024Yards of total offense for TCU quarterback Kenny Hill, third-most in the Big 12. His combined passing and rushing yards rank behind only Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech (4,121) and Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma (3,031)
Still, for all the inconsistency, Hill ranks 15th in the country in passing yards (2,694) and 11th in total offense (336.0 yards per game). Until his two-game slump against West Virginia and Texas Tech, he was on pace to threaten Boykin’s season passing, completions and total offense records.
If the Baylor game proves to be a reset for Hill with three games to play, it could mean momentum for him and TCU into next season.
“It was big for me just having the confidence of all my teammates,” Hill said. “They were picking me up all week, saying, ‘Hey man, you’re going to do good this week, we trust you, we believe in you.’ That just put confidence back in myself, and I went out there and played.”
That’s all Cumbie and Patterson have been asking.
“All of us have been having conversations with Kenny,” Patterson said. “The key is just to understand you can’t worry about what anybody else thinks, what they write, what they say. You do that, then you might as well stop, because in that position, people are gong to be overcritical. It’s why you’ve heard me talk more about all the other things, because there’s a lot of things associated with how Kenny plays.”
And, with Cumbie’s help, how he reacts.
TCU vs. No. 17 Oklahoma State
Nov. 19, Time and TV TBA