In his first game at TCU, Kenny Hill found himself in a battle.
Against South Dakota State quarterback Taryn Christion.
Hill, the former Southlake Carroll and Texas A&M quarterback making his first start for TCU, threw two interceptions in the second quarter, but then delivered five straight scoring drives as the Horned Frogs pulled away for a 59-41 victory Saturday night in the season opener at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
“I was a little too pumped up there at the beginning, but we settled down and got it going,” Hill said. “A win’s a win.”
The five straight scores helped TCU take a 45-31 lead in the third quarter, but it was a one-score game into the fourth quarter because Christion and his 6-foot-4 target, Jake Wieneke, were matching Hill and the Horned Frogs offense. Christion, a sophomore making just his fifth start, threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns, and Wieneke caught eight passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
After his two interceptions, which South Dakota State turned into touchdowns for a 17-7 lead, Hill was itching for a chance to keep up.
He said he told his teammates, “I got you, I’m not making any more mistakes, we’re about to roll after this.”
Sure enough, following the interceptions on back-to-back throws, Hill was 22-for-34 for 328 yards and a touchdown and ran for three touchdowns.
“I just got more comfortable in the game,” he said. “I was real amped up to start it off, and then I was able to just calm down. That’s a testament to our coaches and the rest of the players on the team. They were like, ‘Hey, man, you got this. Go back out there and pick it up.’ That’s what I did.”
It took Taj Williams’ catch off a tip from Desmon White for a 52-41 lead with 8:36 left in the fourth quarter before Hill and the Frogs could feel even close to comfortable.
Christion’s 34-yard scoring pass to Wieneke had cut the lead to 45-38 with four seconds left in the third quarter.
Williams had 11 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown in his first FBS game since transferring from junior college.
Kyle Hicks scored two touchdowns, and KaVontae Turpin had seven catches and a punt return for a touchdown.
“We’ve got to play better across the board,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “We’ve got to tackle better, we’ve got to play better.”
South Dakota State led 17-7 after converting two second-quarter interceptions against Hill into touchdowns.
Then the Frogs had to punt when Hill was stopped a yard short of the first down on a scramble.
But momentum turned when Turpin returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown and Aaron Curry forced a turnover that TCU turned into a touchdown and a 21-17 lead with 1:37 left before halftime.
That was still enough time, however, for South Dakota State to get the ball in Wieneke’s hands again. His 31-yard catch with 49 seconds left before halftime returned a 24-21 lead to the Jackrabbits.
But Hill, given a chance at a two-minute drive, drove the Frogs to Ryan Graf’s 32-yard field goal and a 24-24 tie with two seconds left before halftime.
Hill and the Frogs got the ball to start the second half, and Jaelan Austin hauled in a 60-yard scoring play for a 31-24 lead.
Christion matched it with a 16-yard pass to tight end Dallas Goedert, who slipped behind the TCU linebacker duo of Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson to tie the game 31-31.
Hill put together two more scoring drives, of eight plays and nine plays, ending in touchdown runs for a 45-31 lead.
Hicks had two touchdown runs for TCU, the first game with two or more scores for the Arlington Martin product.
Turpin’s punt return for a touchdown was his second at TCU, matching Jeremy Kerley for the most for the Frogs since 1998.