Frustration. Elation. Consternation. Celebration. Deflation.
TCU welcomed back an old foe to Fort Worth tonight, and decided to show just about everything that we've seen in the 25 years since the programs last met all in one game. Things started darkly, as the Frogs committed numerous penalties and fumbled on their way into the end zone, spotting the visitors a 13-0 halftime lead. After the half the Frogs started to wake up a bit, immediately cutting the lead to 6 with a strong TD drive on the back of Kenny Hill, but Arkansas answered and things slowed, with the Hogs finally taking the ball and grinding back down the field on what looked like it was going to be a game clinching drive. TCU would find a combination of skill and luck, stuffing the Hogs in the goal to go situation, and then benefited from the Arkansas kicker doinking his field goal attempt off the right upright.
Momentum had clearly swung, and TCU not only scored on their next drive, but forced a three and out and promptly scored again to take a 21-20 lead that everyone was sure would stand. Arkansas' offense again struggled to get on track against the hyped TCU defense, and TCU again quickly squirted down the field on the back of Kavontae Turpin and Kenny Hill punched in the TD himself to give TCU what would be a seemingly insurmountable 8 point lead with two minutes to play.
Then, shades of the 2014 Baylor game flashed as Kenny Hill drew his thumb across his throat as an exclamation point on his run, drawing an immediate unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that would force the Frogs to kick off another 15 yards back. Buoyed by the swing in momentum, Arkansas drove down the shortened field and scored in just over a minute, converting the two point conversion on a reverse/receiver pass that Meacham and Cumbie would have been proud to draw up. Still, Arkansas scored so quickly that the Frogs had around a minute to work with, and Turpin made sure that we would have another opportunity- ripping off a scorching kick return that brought us to the Arkansas 27 and into field goal range in one fell swoop. After a quick first down, Hill found Porter in the back of the end zone for the game clinching touchdown... except in another mental error, he had stepped out of bounds while running his route and was the first to touch the ball, resulting in an illegal touch penalty. TCU would make an (in my opinion) poor playcall on second down, and we trotted out our walk-on kicker to attempt to win the game... on third down, with 16 seconds left. One block later, and we were heading to overtime, with all the momentum on the Arkansas side.
Still, after both teams traded TDs, it looked like TCU had set itself up to convert another TD drive in the second overtime, only for another mental miscue that wiped out a great second down play and resulted in TCU having to settle for a field goal which, to his credit, Graf banged home. However Arkansas would not be denied, as Arkansas QB Austin Allen ran in the winning TD himself, not in Kenny Hill or Trevone Boykin fashion, but by simply pounding and keeping his leg pumping while the two teams shoved in a battle of wills. He crossed the line, and the game was over, Arkansas wins a heartbreaker and it feels like the SWC all over again.
This is a game that TCU should have won, gave themselves chance after chance to win, but in the end, the Frogs just didn't have the mental toughness and fortitude to keep ahold of themselves and actually secure the win. In some ways, that can be a good thing- Big 12 conference play is yet to begin, and there are no perfect teams in the conference, and TCU's mistakes were mostly mental. Whether it becomes a catapult to make the team take things more seriously or is another sign (with last week's struggle against SDSU) that this season isn't going to be as successful as we'd hoped is something that we'll spend the rest of the season learning. For now, it hurts. Hopefully something good will come of it.