TCU coach Gary Patterson is counting his blessings as key players begin to trickle back onto the field from injuries and suspensions.
Last week it was Davion Pierson back at defensive tackle after getting over a concussion, and this week it was defensive end Mike Tuaua making his first start of the season after charges of assault and robbery were dropped against the senior.
But one of the Horned Frogs’ biggest blessings has come in a 5-foot-9, 152-pound package in receiver KaVontae Turpin. The true freshman broke out against Texas on Saturday for six catches, 138 yards and four touchdowns, bringing his total for the season to six, second behind Josh Doctson (eight).
With Kolby Listenbee sidelined with a hip injury and Emanuel Porter not dressed against Texas either, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“He was one of the last guys we took in the class,” Patterson said. “And he’s turned out to be one of the most exciting guys we’ve ever had here.”
Turpin showed his signature straight-line speed on two of the scores. In the first quarter, he took a pass in the flat 49 yards past three Texas defenders on his way to the end zone. The game was, at 23-0, as far out of reach for Texas as Turpin was for the Longhorn defenders he eluded on that play.
On a 50-yard touchdown off a slant route just before halftime, Turpin crossed in front of Texas linebacker Peter Jinkens and no one else was in position to stop him on his way to the end zone.
“Turp’s got the juice right now,” quarterback Trevone Boykin said. “He’s just so fast and quick and twitchy. You just really try to get that guy the ball in open space and watch him make moves.”
With Tuaua and Pierson making their first starts, TCU managed to contain Texas’ dual-threat freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard after he had produced highlight plays in close losses to California and Oklahoma State.
Tuaua finished with three tackles, and one of Pierson’s four came in the Longhorns backfield.
“They just give you stability. That looked like a whole different defensive line than it was the previous four weeks,” Patterson said. “Davion played better this week, Mike Tuaua will play better next week, hopefully we’ll get [Terrell] Lathan back and have another pass rusher, and we’ll get ready to play.”
Heard was sacked three times and finished with just 48 yards passing and 23 rushing. Patterson said keeping Heard bottled up was a focal point all week in practice.
“Sometimes we wanted two guys spying,” Patterson said. “Even in our zone, we gave up a zone to make sure we were watching the quarterback.”
Redshirt freshman safety Ridwan Issahaku became the 15th Horned Frog this season to make his first career start on defense. Issahaku was third on the team in tackles (9) against the Longhorns.
Freshman linebacker Montrel Wilson led the team with 13 tackles (one sack), and sophomore linebacker Travin Howard had 12. Cornerback Nick Orr forced a fumble in the first quarter when he hit Texas receiver Daje Johnson head on.
Wilson, Howard and Orr also are on the list of new starters.
Throught the first half, when the Horned Frogs built a 37-0 lead, Texas was nearly doubling TCU in time of possession. In the second quarter alone, a 19-play Texas drive that ended in a missed field goal ate nearly nine minutes of clock.
TCU’s six touchdown drives went an average of 4.8 plays but accounted for 378 combined yards, a hefty chunk of the Horned Frogs’ 604 total yards. But they took up an average of just under a minute and a half of game time apiece.
Two of Turpin’s four touchdowns came on plays of 49 or more yards, and Doctson’s second came on a 29-yard double pass from running back Shaun Nixon with 26 seconds left in the first quarter to put TCU up 30-0.
Boykin and Doctson piled up more big offensive numbers in the win that saw both break TCU offensive records.
Boykin came into the game with 69 career passing touchdowns, and his second, a 15-yarder to Doctson in the back corner with Texas cornerback Holten Hill draped all over him, tied Boykin with Andy Dalton for first on TCU’s all-time list.
He watched as Turpin took his third touchdown pass from the flat to the end zone late in the first quarter for the score that put Boykin’s name at the top of the record books. But he said he didn’t keep the ball.
“It’s really just another conference win for us,” Boykin said. “This week the goal was to get to 5-0, and next week the goal will be to get to 6-0. We’re just trying to build a resume and leave a legacy that will be remembered forever.”
The 15-yarder to Doctson tied Josh Boyce’s career mark of 22 receiving touchdowns. Late in the second quarter, Doctson got his 23rd to set a TCU mark on a 29-yard double pass from Nixon down the right sideline.
“It’s just the confidence level that [Doctson] and Trevone have,” Patterson said. “From my perspective, it’s just fun to watch.”
TCU’s game Saturday at Kansas State will kick off at 6:30 p.m. and air on KDFW/Ch. 4
Saturday’s blowout win gives TCU two in a row over Texas, the first time the Horned Frogs have beaten the Longhorns in back-to-back seasons since 1958 and 1959.
And they’ve now won the past two by a combined score of 98-17.
Patterson is 3-2 against Texas at TCU.
Quotable in context
When asked about the biggest challenge facing his defense in a pregame interview with ESPN, Patterson said he had told his team “we’ve beaten better with less.”
Taken on its own, the soundbite made its rounds on Twitter and throughout the blogosphere with the implication that Patterson and his defense did not consider the Texas offense to be much of a challenge.
But Patterson took the opportunity in the postgame press conference to clear up what he meant.
“That had nothing to do with Texas,” Patterson said. “That had to do with the media, and I’m getting tired of watching shows that say we can’t play football.”
When asked to clarify, Patterson said that several criticisms of his team in the media after TCU’s 56-37 win over SMU and 55-52 win at Texas Tech centered on the Frogs’ supposedly porous defense.