It seemed inevitable that TCU football was in for a dose of ultimate humiliation on Oct. 8, 2016.
A 54-yard field goal with no time left on the clock was all that Kansas — fresh off an 0-12 finish in 2015 — needed to complete an unlikely 26-24 victory over the Horned Frogs. Only the Jayhawks decided to save such theatrics for another Texas team about a little more than a month down the road, as the attempt sailed wide of the uprights to give the Horned Frogs a one-point win.
An ugly win, at that.
TCU trailed by nine points to the lowly Jayhawks — seeking their first Big 12 win of the David Beaty era that afternoon — entering the fourth quarter. Quarterback Kenny Hill was picked off not one, not two, but three times. Kansas ultimately even out-gained the Frogs by more than 100 yards of total offense during the thriller that shouldn’t have been at Memorial Stadium.
And somehow, such as the above has been the norm — not the exception — for TCU football amid recent treks up the interstate to the Sunflower State.
Of course there was the record-setting 43-0 blowout of the Jayhawks in Fort Worth last October, a game in which TCU held Kansas to a Big 12 single-game record-low 21 yards of total offense. Apart from that, however, those birds have been a tough puzzle for Gary Patterson and the Frogs to solve ever since joining the Big 12 six years ago.
And those struggles have been punctuated on the road.
2016 was far from being the first time that TCU nearly fell to the perennial cellar-dweller of the Big 12. In November 2014, the No. 4 Frogs — fresh off a thrilling top-10 victory over Kansas State and in position for a College Football Playoff bid — inexplicably found themselves trailing the Jayhawks by double-digits in the third quarter amid freezing conditions in Lawrence.
Heck, part of it may have just been some bad luck, if you recall:
Spoiler (as hinted at): TCU went on a 17-0 run to ultimately pull out a 34-30 victory, but not without the Frogs’ playoff perception — at least for that week — taking a hit before a 48-10 bounce-back win over Texas on Thanksgiving day. Still, some folks in Lawrence will argue that Kansas’ showing was enough to ultimately keep TCU out of the inaugural playoff, even if Ohio State’s 59-0 Big Ten Championship Game victory over Wisconsin was the final dagger.
And about that too-close-for-comfort win at home in 2015....we’ll go ahead and forget that one for now.
To the point though: TCU may have a bit of a Kansas problem, even if the Frogs are a perfect 6-0 in Big 12 play against the Jayhawks. Before 2017, TCU had never defeated Kansas as a member of the Big 12 by more than 14-points. From 2013-2016, every meeting was decided by 10 points or less. A little concerning against an opponent who hasn’t won a conference game in regulation since 2014, no?
If you want to be reminded of the full picture, here are the year by year results for the TCU-Kansas game dating back to 2012.
2012: TCU 20, KU 6
2013: TCU 27, KU 17
2014: TCU 34, KU 30
2015: TCU 23, KU 17
2016: TCU 24, KU 23
2017: TCU 43, KU 0
And here we are again, with TCU in relatively rough waters ahead of its latest trip to Memorial Stadium. The quarterback change from Shawn Robinson — who is set to undergo season ending surgery at some point this week — to Michael Collins will certainly take some getting used to, even if Collins did see considerable playing time against Oklahoma. The dismissal of star receiver and kick returner KaVontae Turpin on Tuesday, and the questions regarding how much TCU did or didn’t know about the March arrest in Las Cruces, N.M., are bound to affect the team’s morale in an entirely different way. None of those effects will be crystal clear, either, until the Frogs take the field for their latest contest.
Could the rough patch this week serve as motivation for TCU? You bet — though we haven’t exactly seen that from a turnover-ridden offense after previous hurdles that were already thrown their way this season.
Bottom line: best be prepared for anything against a Kansas team that leads the nation in turnover-margin this season. Kansas may not be used to winning football games in the Big 12, but Beaty and the Jayhawks know from experience that they have the ability to give the Frogs an unsuspecting fight. There won’t be any freezing temperatures this time, as the forecast calls for a high of 72 degrees in Lawrence on Saturday, but you just never know with this Big 12...um...rivalry, if you will.
As Patterson often says, win by one point. Quite frankly, that’s all the Frogs need to get back to .500 in a season that is all but lost when considering how much hope was present in early September. The fight right now is one for bowl eligibility — not championships of any sort.
And the easiest — or at least what should be the easiest game left for TCU in 2018 — stands right in front of the Frogs.
Step one: beat the Jayhawks.