TCU’s Michael Collins doesn’t view finishing stretch as ‘audition’ for starting gig

TCU quarterback Michael Collins had a solid starting debut. At least on the stat sheet.

Collins finished 23-of-33 passing for 351 yards with one touchdown and one interception in TCU’s 27-26 loss to Kansas on Saturday. Pro Football Focus rated him with the highest passer rating under pressure (156.3) in the country last week.

TCU finished with more than 500 yards. All of that went for naught, though, with a third consecutive loss.

“I thought overall as an offense we played all right,” Collins said on Tuesday. “We had a bunch of yards and everything, but in the end we’ve got to win. That’s the quarterback’s job is to win games and take care of the ball and I didn’t do that. I wouldn’t call it a success by any means.

“Just have to do a better job of that going forward.”

The goal is to get back on the winning track against Kansas State on Saturday. Winning is what matters for TCU, a program that has established itself as one of the powers in today’s game. It’s the reason why Collins wanted to transfer to TCU even though he was in Penn’s prestigious Wharton School.

Playing at a Power Five school is every young quarterback’s dream and Collins is getting that opportunity. It’s special that it’s coming at a school where he’s with someone he’s known since fourth grade and was a high school teammate, right tackle Lucas Niang.

Collins and Niang were part of three straight championships at New Canaan (Conn.) High School.

“[Niang] was always just a little bit bigger than everybody else,” Collins said, smiling about his 330-pound lineman. “When we were sophomores in high school, he’s 330 pounds and the guy lining up across from him is 220 pounds, it’s pretty clear he’s going to make it.

“He was a beast.”

Football in Connecticut was competitive and the state title game drew 10,000 fans, but Collins acknowledged it’s nothing like Texas high school football.

“Down here it seems like a cult … in a good, in a good way,” Collins said, chuckling.

The same can be said for the fan bases of the college programs, and Collins has a chance to become a fan favorite for TCU. But Collins isn’t viewing the finishing stretch as an audition for next season or beyond.

Instead, Collins said, the approach is “one game at a time” and trying to resurrect what is quickly becoming a lost season for TCU.

“We’re just looking at it one game at a time and how can we win this week and win going forward,” Collins said. “That’s all I’m looking at right now.”

For Collins and the offense, it starts with taking care of the ball and closing games out. As stated, the offense is producing from a yardage-standpoint.

But the Frogs have struggled to capitalize on that production. They failed to convert a fourth-and-goal from the 1 on the opening offensive series against the Jayhawks, and turned it over twice.

With the game tied 17-17, Collins threw an interception on a screen pass late in the third quarter that led to a KU field goal. The KU linebacker, Keith Loneker, made a nice play, but Collins wishes he would’ve seen it before.

“I should’ve just spiked the ball looking back on it,” Collins said. “Just as I turned and let go of it, it was too late. I wish I could have that one back, but in the end I’ve just got to move on from it.”

Collins responded on the next series, leading the Frogs on an 11-play, 75-yard TD drive. Collins scored on a 3-yard rush to give TCU a 24-20 lead.

Then, after KU had taken a 27-24 lead, Collins had the offense moving late in the fourth quarter on what appeared to be a game-deciding drive. TCU had a first-and-goal from the KU 9, but running back Darius Anderson fumbled after hitting the backside of an offensive lineman.

The “butt fumble” did the Frogs in.

“I always talk about the football gods, you can call it whatever you want to call it,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “I’ve been reading what you guys say, you guys call it the ‘butt fumble.’ I’m not sure that I would do it.

“There’s no good loss. Every loss, there’s no good loss.”

But there is good that comes out of losses and Collins served as one of the bright spots.

“The thing I thought we did that we hadn’t done on third down is we were able to complete some third and longs, he was able to have composure, stay in the pocket, wait for the guys to get open, do some things,” Patterson said. “That’s tough to do in your first ballgame.

“He just doesn’t get — even after the interception at least from my standpoint — I didn’t think he really got rattled.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram