Because TCU quarterback Kenny Hill and running back Kyle Hicks were taking treatment on the sideline, a murmur went through the crowd at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium when the Horned Frogs began a fourth-quarter drive in a tight game with a backup quarterback at the helm and two reserve running backs sharing carries.
Eight plays and 97 yards later, the purple-clad contingent in Friday’s crowd were cheering the success of quarterback Foster Sawyer, running back Darius Anderson and running back Trevorris Johnson after Johnson’s 5-yard scoring burst to cap the march. The celebration became doubly intense moments later when Anderson added a 70-yard scoring sprint of his own to apply the dagger in the Frogs’ 31-9 win over Texas.
For all practical purposes, that fourth-quarter stretch authored by backup members of the Horned Frogs’ backfield applied the epitaph to the Charlie Strong era of Longhorns’ football as well.
Anderson and Johnson combined to rush for 171 yards and two touchdowns, with 165 of the yards and both scores coming in the final 13:03 as TCU found ways to protect and extend a 17-9 lead with Hill (ankle) and Hicks (side) getting treatment from trainers. Sawyer, a sophomore from Fort Worth All Saints, added a 28-yard completion to Daniel Walsh during the first TD drive but mostly handed off to Hicks’ backups, who entered Friday’s contest with a combined 249 rushing yards this season.
“All of our running backs can do that. They all have that ability,” Sawyer said. “Our goal was to get first downs and then get touchdowns. I was proud of my guys, proud of my teammates. The offensive line did an amazing job.”
Anderson, in particular, took full advantage. The freshman, limited to 92 yards in the Frogs’ first 10 games, turned in his first 100-yard performance at the college level against Texas (3 carries, 103 yards). The highlight was a 70-yard touchdown burst with 7:32 remaining for the game’s final score.
“He’s a hard worker. He’s got that ‘it’ factor,” Sawyer said. “You can tell he’s passing the freshman wall. He’s starting to grow up more. That’s the reason he’s here, to make plays.”
Before Anderson found the end zone with his tack-on touchdown, Johnson covered the final five yards of the 97-yard, eight-play TD march that turned the momentum in TCU’s direction for keeps.
“It won the ballgame for us,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “Basically, it flipped the switch and took all the air out of them.”
Johnson carried five times during the march, including the first four plays that covered 39 yards. After Sawyer’s completion to Walsh, he got to score on the ensuing snap and, along with Anderson, gave TCU fans a glimpse of what Patterson envisions as a bright future in the offensive backfield.
“All those guys have come a long way,” Patterson said, including freshman Sewo Olonilua in the group. “The future’s bright for us. We don’t lose any (to graduation).”
Nor will the Frogs lose Hicks, a junior who is the team’s leading rusher this season (894 yards, 12 TDs) despite a short work day against Texas (16 carries, 58 yards). But Saturday’s biggest eye-opener in the rushing department proved to be Anderson, who contributed a 27-yard carry on the drive that led to Johnson’s TD.
“He ran well. I’m excited for him. I’m excited for us that he did it,” Patterson said. “But I’m not ready to anoint him. As all freshmen, some days he’s here, some days he’s not … I don’t want to take anything away from him. It usually works a lot better when they ease into the success part.”
For the backups in Friday’s backfield, however, success came in one huge fourth-quarter surge that allowed TCU to put away Texas.