The TCU football season was barely one quarter old Saturday night, but fans had already discovered a few key things about the Horned Frogs against South Dakota State.
At linebacker, last year’s leading tackler Travin Howard (105 total tackles) was on the field for every play of South Dakota State’s first three drives, answering any questions about his availability following an appendectomy at the start of fall camp.
Sammy Douglas started alongside Howard in TCU’s first defensive series, but Montrel Wilson, the sophomore out of Keller Fossil Ridge, was beside Howard for the majority of the first half.
Ranthony Texada was back at cornerback after missing most of 2015 with a knee injury. On SDSU’s first offensive snap, Texada gave receiver Jake Wieneke too much room and was beaten for a quick 12-yard gain.
SDSU gained three first downs on its opening drive before the TCU defense held on third-and-11 from the TCU 43.
Redshirt freshman Jeff Gladney was the other starting cornerback after impressing coaches in both spring and fall camps. But he also watched Wieneke catch an 18-yard reception in front of him on the first drive after lining up with a 10-yard cushion.
Wieneke racked up six catches for 113 yards and a score before halftime.
The Horned Frogs came out sleepy on defense, and bore the worst of it in the second quarter when they were outscored by their FCS opponent 21-17.
It started when the Horned Frogs were threatening deep in SDSU territory early in the second quarter. An offensive pass interference call on Emanuel Porter and a false start by Cordel Iwuagwu pushed TCU back to the Jackrabbits’ 21.
From there, Kenny Hill threw his first interception as cornerback Makiah Slade stepped in front of Ty Slanina on the Jackrabbits’ 1-yard line.
On the fourth play of the ensuing SDSU drive, running back Isaac Wallace took an uninteresting run up the middle 87 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest running play that the Horned Frogs have allowed since Greg Hill of Texas A&M had a 95-yard run in 1993.
Hill then threw another pick — this time in TCU territory — on the first play of the ensuing drive. SDSU safety Jordan Brown returned it to the 27-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Taryn Christion scrambled 12 yards for a touchdown that put SDSU up 17-7.
After KaVontae Turpin’s 81-yard punt return touchdown and a 4-yard TD run by Kenny Hill, the Horned Frogs went into halftime tied at 24.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Graf assumed the field goal duties and ricocheted a 32-yarder off the left upright with two seconds to go before halftime.
Kyle Hicks, in his first game as TCU’s lead running back, seemed to have improved on his speed over the course of the summer and fall.
On his 15-yard TD that opened the scoring with 8:25 to go in the first, the senior out of Arlington Martin sprinted past three SDSU defenders on his way to the end zone.
On his second touchdown, which gave TCU a 38-31 lead midway through the third, Hicks bolted left for the corner of the end zone and scored between two defenders after outrunning his spy. Hicks was a steadying presence for the TCU offense on an otherwise jittery night.