TCU takeaways: 5 things from the K-State loss to end a .500 year

TCU quarterback Kenny Hill (center) kneels with teammates in prayer before the start of Saturday’s game against Kansas State.
TCU quarterback Kenny Hill (center) kneels with teammates in prayer before the start of Saturday’s game against Kansas State.

TCU finished the regular season 6-6 following a 30-6 home loss to Kansas State on Saturday. The Horned Frogs were trying to win three out of four to finish the season, but got hampered by an offense that couldn’t move against the Big 12’s top defense.

Still, the Frogs have earned another game. They’re headed to the Liberty Bowl to take on Georgia, and it will give them a chance to right the ship in time for the offseason. But before that happens, a look back at five impressions from the season finale:

1. That was TCU’s worst quarterback day in three years, and maybe more. The Horned Frogs went with both Foster Sawyer and Kenny Hill, and neither managed to throw for 100 yards. Sawyer started and went 12-for-25 for 86 yards. Hill entered in the third quarter and went 5-for-11 for 52 yards. But neither got help via a tough catch, or even the occasional easy one, from the receivers. Hill played hurt and left the game hurt. Combined with the misty weather, the misplays made it tough to judge the quarterbacks from numbers alone. Then again, neither rose above the circumstances. It’s going to compound the quarterback decisions in the spring, when four-star recruit Shawn Robinson of DeSoto arrives as an early enrollee.

2. The receiver corps will go down as one of the disappointments of the season. Early on, it looked stocked with potential playmakers, with seven veterans being joined by the nation’s No. 1 JUCO receiver, an experienced transfer from LSU, a touted freshman and a deep-threat tight end transfer. Instead, they turned in only 14 touchdown catches, and 10 came from two players. Shut out of the end zone were Ty Slanina, Emanuel Porter, Deante Gray, Jarrison Stewart and Isaiah Graham. A running back, Kyle Hicks, led the team in catches with 42.

TCU lost a school-record sack streak of 41 games in coming up empty against Kansas State. It was the second-longest run in Big 12 history.

3. The offensive line never really came together as expected. Coach Gary Patterson was optimistic when center Austin Schlottman and left guard Trey Elliott returned to health for the Texas Tech game, joining left tackle Joseph Noteboom, right guard Matty Pryor and right tackle Aviante Collins to give TCU the line it envisioned for a final push. But it didn’t hold up. Except for the Baylor game and the second half of the Texas game, the line rarely provided enough running room or protection to sustain drives.

4. It’s hard to know what TCU is against the run. Against Baylor, the Frogs were very good. Against Texas and D’Onta Foreman, the Frogs managed. Against Oklahoma State and Kansas State, forget it. TCU allowed 330-plus yards rushing in each of those games. A bowl game can be a springboard to next season. The Frogs no doubt would like to use it to re-establish themselves as a run defense.

5. TCU finished fifth in the Big 12, but it was a distant fifth. Judged against the top four, the Frogs came up lacking significantly. They not only went 0-4 against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Kansas State, they were outscored 147-68 — more than 2-to-1. Only the Oklahoma game was close, and it really wasn’t that close. There’s a big gap between the Frogs and the top of the league that they will spend the spring and summer trying to close.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez