TCU coach Gary Patterson blamed himself.
“I would tell you it came down to one play call,” Patterson said.
The play call? A zone blitz that Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson read perfectly, keeping the ball himself and running 61 yards down the field in the game-deciding series in the fourth quarter.
Thompson capped that drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, and K-State went on to a 24-17 victory on Saturday afternoon at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. TCU dropped to .500 on the season.
“A lot of other things, but it came down to one call,” Patterson said. “We ran a zone blitz too shallow. He made a check-down draw and it was a good call by him. That call had been a good call for us all day.”
At that point in the game, TCU seemingly had the momentum. True freshman quarterback Max Duggan made it a 17-17 game in the third quarter with a dazzling 46-yard TD run, bouncing off tacklers and stiff-arming his way to the end zone.
And TCU had pinned K-State deep in its own territory at the 5 with 8:03 left in the game. But Thompson completed a 5-yard pass to Malik Knowles on first down, and then ran untouched for much of 61 yards to get into TCU territory.
As much as that play bothered Patterson, TCU still had a chance. K-State faced a fourth-and-1 from the TCU 20, but Thompson picked it up with a 2-yard rush.
The Frogs had a chance to make the stop, but graduate transfer Shameik Blackshear missed a tackle that would’ve given TCU the ball back on downs.
“It was not a question in our mind that we were going for that on fourth down,” K-State coach Chris Klieman said. “I didn’t want to have a three-point lead. We wanted to have a seven-point lead.”
K-State went on to pick up a third-and-9 on a pass from Thompson to Knowles, and scored on a 3-yard run by Thompson.
The 11-play, 95-yard drive took 5:18 off the clock. Patterson repeatedly came back to the 61-yard run, the longest play given up by the Frogs this season.
“We had our missed chances,” Patterson said. “There were dropped balls and a list of things, but it still comes down to one play call. I hold everybody to higher standards and the bottom line is it comes down to one call. If I keep them there, then we have an opportunity to win the ballgame.”
Patterson alluded to a number of other issues for the Frogs.
They got off to slow start once again, failing to score in the first quarter for the second straight game and playing from behind.
Duggan had the highlight-reel TD run in the third quarter, memorably stiff-arming Wildcats cornerback AJ Parker and diving in for the score at the far pylon. He finished with 115 yards rushing on 13 carries, the program’s first quarterback to top the 100-yard rushing mark since Trevone Boykin rushed for 124 yards at K-State in 2015.
But the passing game never got going until late. Duggan finished just 16-of-29 passing for 132 yards with no touchdowns. He was sacked twice.
Defensively, the Frogs limited the Wildcats to only 266 yards of total offense but didn’t generate a takeaway for the third consecutive game.
Special teams had a blunder with a blocked punt in the first quarter, setting up a short field for K-State.
The Wildcats took advantage for an early 7-0 lead and never trailed the rest of the way.
“I think you have an 80 percent chance of getting beat if you have a punt blocked,” Patterson said. “We had been talking to our guys about protecting first the last two or three weeks because we have been running out too soon. Iowa State almost blocked one last week and this time K-State did.
“We have to get the ball off and get ready to go because it came close again after that.”
As stated, TCU is now 3-3 at the midway point and its bowl chances are in jeopardy. The Frogs are likely going to be favored in just one of their final six games.
Next up is a matchup against Texas on Saturday. Despite the frustration the past few weeks, the Frogs aren’t giving up on the season.
“First of all, losing sucks. First and foremost, we came out here to get the ‘W’ and we didn’t do that,” senior offensive lineman David Bolisomi said. “What do I tell the guys? Our back is against the wall. When we start to come out, we come out swinging. Play like street football.
“You guys know who our head coach is, you guys know what kind of football he likes to be played and we didn’t do that today as a whole team.”
Added cornerback Julius Lewis: “Same goals as the beginning of the season — get to a bowl game first and then just keep going from there.”