TCU finally had things fall its way on Saturday.
A missed point-after attempt proved to be the difference in TCU’s 14-13 victory over Kansas State, and it had everyone in the locker room breathing a sigh of relief.
There is no such thing as a bad win, coach Gary Patterson said, especially for a team that had been in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
“Finally, we got a little luck,” Patterson said. “For today. We’ll take it one at a time. For today.”
It’s been a long year for Patterson and the Frogs to say the least. Patterson acknowledged the trying season when answering a question about whether he believes the cliché that takeaways come in bunches.
“I don’t know, but I hope so,” Patterson said. “Kind of like Santa Claus hopes I had a good year because it hasn’t been very good for me to be honest with you up to this point – on or off the field.”
On the field, Patterson has had to deal with significant injuries seemingly every week and a team that’s gone from ranked to a fringe bowl contender. Off the field, issues have ranged from player discipline to personal grief after losing both of his parents.
Getting back to the win column helps to an extent.
1. Bowl possibility?
Patterson and the team made it clear that reaching a bowl game is the goal for the season. That means winning two of the final three games.
Is it possible? Yes, but probably more unlikely than likely.
TCU will be heavy underdogs on the road at West Virginia on Saturday. Game time has been set for 11 a.m. and the Mountaineers are riding high following a road win at Texas.
The Mountaineers have scored 35 points in every game except a 30-14 loss at Iowa State last month. TCU pulling off this upset seems far-fetched, but stranger things have happened.
The most likely path to a bowl game is winning at Baylor on Nov. 17, and defeating Oklahoma State on Nov. 24. TCU should be able to have a chance in each of those games.
It still feels like the Kansas loss is going to keep TCU from reaching a bowl game this season, but winning Saturday gave the bowl talk more life.
2. Offensive issues
If TCU is going to get to a bowl game, the offense has to produce more than it has of late. Saturday is the first time TCU has won when scoring 14 points since a 14-10 victory over Clemson in 2009.
It starts up front. The O-line has struggled to get the necessary push in consecutive weeks when Patterson has gone for it on fourth-and-short.
Saturday saw TCU RB Sewo Olonilua stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-2 from the K-State 29 in the first half. They also didn’t convert on two third-and-1 attempts.
For the season on third- and fourth-and-short, TCU is 9-of-18.
That is part of the reason TCU finds itself in one of the biggest scoring droughts in decades. The Frogs have scored 28 or fewer points in seven consecutive games, the first time that has happened since the 1998 season.
TCU is averaging a touchdown less in points this season (26.6) compared to last season (33.6).
3. Standout defenders
TCU is missing several starters on defense, but players are stepping up.
Cornerback Jeff Gladney had a career-high 10 tackles, including three for loss. Defensive end L.J. Collier had two sacks and eight tackles. And linebacker Jawuan Johnson tied for the team lead with 10 tackles and also recovered a fumble.
Johnson has seen his playing time increase because of the injuries, making his third consecutive start on Saturday.
“Every day has been a ‘get better’ day for me,” Johnson said. “Every day I take it as I have to get better at one thing. I have to get better at something. It felt good because I’m starting to get the flow of it but my goal is just to get better.”
4. Takeaways, finally
TCU has struggled in the turnover department all season, but found its way against K-State. TCU won the turnover battle 3-1, the first time it’s been on the winning side since the season opener against Southern.
As stated, Patterson hopes the cliché that takeaways come in bunches is true. Everybody knows that’s one of the biggest determinants between wins and losses.
K-State muffed a punt on the opening drive, which led to TCU’s first TD drive. An interception by Markell Simmons happened after K-State struggled on the snap-to-hold exchange on a field goal attempt.
More important is the offense taking care of the ball. That unit didn’t turn the ball over for the first time since the season opener against Southern.
5. Local TD
Area kids are sprinkled on teams across the country, and one is beginning to make his mark with Kansas State.
Wide receiver Malik Knowles, a Mansfield Lake Ridge product, had his first college TD reception on Saturday, hauling in a 21-yard pass from Alex Delton in the first half.
Knowles had a solid high school career, finishing his senior season with 40 catches for 846 yards and 15 touchdowns.