Darius Anderson made no excuses.
“I saw the hole was open, just a mistake I made,” Anderson said. “I can’t get it back now. Just learn from it. Hurts, but we’ll be back.”
As it’s been the case in previous trips to Lawrence since joining the Big 12, the Frogs found themselves in a dogfight. They’ve been able to escape with wins previously and were seemingly on track to do it again.
Trailing 27-24 late in the game, TCU had marched down the field and had a first-and-goal from the KU 9 with about 1:15 left. Anderson took the handoff from quarterback Michael Collins, tried to power his way up the middle and had the ball come loose when he hit his own offensive lineman.
Kansas defensive tackle KeyShaun Simmons pounced on it.
“Yeah, I hit the O-lineman,” Anderson said. “That’s still on me. That still has nothing to do with me letting the ball go.”
Anderson was visibly upset with himself on the sidelines, being consoled by multiple teammates and coaches. All of them had a similar message.
“Just encouraging me, letting me know that they’re still here for me no matter what,” Anderson said. “That it’s not my fault. It’s a team sport.”
Yes, it is. And TCU made plenty of mistakes before and after Anderson’s fumble that contributed to its first loss to Kansas since 1997.
After Anderson’s fumble, Kansas had to milk 1:11 off the clock to secure the win. The Jayhawks took a safety, but left one second remaining.
TCU coach Gary Patterson had a message to the kickoff return unit: Fall on the ball. That would ensure TCU would have at least one second left to attempt a long field goal for the win.
But TCU redshirt freshman safety La’Kendrick Van Zandt returned it for a 2-yard gain as time expired. If he had fallen on the ball at the Kansas 33, TCU would have had a 50-yard field goal attempt.
Patterson mentioned the phrase “fall on the ball” seven times in his postgame news conference.
“That’s what they were all told,” Patterson said. “Everybody was told ‘fall on the ball.’ Then the clock doesn’t start. And then you have a chance to kick a field goal. Everybody was told fall on the ball. That’s what I told them. Everybody was told ‘fall on the ball.’
“If you fall on the ball you’ve got one second. On the sideline, everybody was told fall on the ball. A redshirt freshman caught it … everybody was told to fall on the ball. Let me repeat that again: Everybody was told fall on the ball.”
TCU had blunders before the Anderson fumble and final kickoff, too. The Frogs failed to score when Patterson went for it on a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1 on the opening offensive drive of the game.
TCU running back Sewo Olonilua was stopped short of the goal line.
“Not so much we were trying to impress someone, they scored seven, we were trying to score seven. Simple as that,” Patterson said. “We’re on the 1 yard line, you’d expect with 230, 240 pound back that you could do that.”
Patterson was pleased with quarterback Michael Collins’ starting debut for the most part. Collins finished 23-for-33 passing for 351 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The interception happened deep in TCU territory, as KU took over on the 13. But the defense limited the damage to a field goal.
Still, nothing was enough for the Frogs on Saturday. Another game with multiple turnovers. A fourth loss after leading at halftime. TCU fell to 3-5 on the season and bowl eligibility is in jeopardy.
Kansas hadn’t had a Big 12 victory since Nov. 19, 2016 against Texas, a stretch of 14 games going into Saturday.
“They’ve been struggling, their program has,” TCU senior defensive end Ben Banogu said. “For them to get a win like this … hats off to them.”
For TCU, it’s back to the drawing board and trying to stay energized in what is becoming a seemingly lost season.
“We’re 3-5. We might be 3-9 before it’s done,” Patterson said. “But the bottom line is we’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep getting better so we can move forward next year, one way or the other, unless they don’t keep us.
“But the bottom line to it is you’ve got to keep people healthy, people have got to make plays and people have got to grow up. If we’ll do that then we’ll have a chance.”