Whatever John Diarse was looking for when he transferred to TCU, he found it Friday night.
With their ranks thinned by injuries and their winning chemistry still in flux, the Horned Frogs needed somebody, anybody, to step up against a stubborn SMU Mustangs team.
“We had to have somebody step in and make plays,” coach Gary Patterson said, after TCU had silenced its neighboring rivals 33-3.
Diarse didn’t need the coaches to ask twice.
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At LSU, as the story goes, the 6-foot-4 wide receiver from Neville High in Monroe, La., watched as his role was diminished more and more in an offense that wasn’t that enamored of the forward pass to begin with.
Diarse caught 15 passes as a redshirt freshman at LSU, but his first season was tainted by untimely drops. He started five games the next season and, though the dropped pass problem did not resurface, he still caught only 13 balls for 137 yards.
It was time for a change, Diarse decided. He finished his LSU degree at the end of that fall semester and enrolled at TCU. Patterson’s coaching staff had recruited Diarse in high school.
“He came here for a reason,” Patterson said Friday night.
Whatever forgotten corner he felt he had lapsed into in Baton Rouge, Diarse has found a new spotlight to shine in in the Frogs’ high-octance offense.
He finished the night featured in two of the game’s biggest plays.
Early in the second quarter, with the Frogs’ offense still trying to find a rhythm, Diarse worked his way free in the end zone, but quarterback Kenny Hill’s pass was intercepted by SMU middle linebacker Anthony Rhone.
A few yards behind the play, SMU safety Darrion Millines rocked Diarse with a bone-jarring collision just below the chin. Millines was flagged for a targeting foul and ejected from the game, and Diarse walked slowly to the sideline to be checked for a possible concussion.
Diarse reportedly passed every checkpoint and returned to the game, catching a 23-yard pass before halftime.
The TCU offense had seven possessions, in all, during the first half, and all but two of them ended with the football in SMU territory. Yet, all the Frogs had to show for their sweat were two field goals and a 6-3 lead.
There was nothing to rewrite, the TCU offensive coaches told the team during the intermission. The Frogs just needed to stop making drive-killing penalties and start catching passes.
To prove the point, perhaps, TCU’s first play of the second half was a quick slant route by Diarse that he caught in stride and galloped 75 yards to a touchdown.
Hill, after yet another slow start, rebounded grandly to finish with 452 yards and two touchdowns. Six of those catches were made by Diarse. The 139 yards he gained in one night eclipsed the 137 he had the entire 2015 season at LSU.
Patterson’s fondness for the senior transfer is readily apparent.
“He’s been in big games,” Patterson said. “This is not his first rodeo. He played in a lot of big games when he was at LSU.
“He transferred because he wanted to catch more balls.”
Diarse’s undergraduate degree came in sports administration. His attitude and maturity have impressed the TCU coaching staff.
“When he first got here, he was slower than most of our guys,” Patterson said. “He saw that. But he’s leaner now. He gives us a big body, almost like a tight end.
“And he’s very mature. A lot of guys go through what he did right before halftime, and they don’t come back. But he did.”
Nobody forgot about John Diarse on Friday night.