The TCU Horned Frogs pulled off a thrilling come-from-behind victory Saturday night, taking down 8th-ranked Oklahoma State in double overtime. The Frogs never held a lead during regulation and trailed by 14 points into the 4th quarter before a furious comeback powered by a stingy defense that never let the game get out of reach as OK State didn’t score a 2nd half touchdown. Going into the first season under Sonny Dykes, it may have been a reasonable pre-season goal for TCU to reach a bowl game; the Frogs have earned bowl eligibility and remain undefeated through six games to open the new era.
Saturday’s game opened with polar opposite opening drives. TCU got conservative and decided to punt on 4th-and-inches after going for it eight times so far this season. OSU took the ensuing drive and promptly waltzed down the field on chunk plays, capped by Spencer Sanders strolling into the end zone from 29 yards out.
Drive two was more of the same for both teams. TCU picked up a few first downs, pushing the pace to get it near midfield. The the offense turtled with two short gains and an incomplete pass, setting up a 4th & 5. Again Dykes sent out the punt team, for a short punt that gave OSU the ball at the 22. Spencer Sanders again led a simple drive, eating on easy tosses to crossing WRs guarded by LBs, culminating in yet another lovely walk into the endzone for a 14-point Cowboy lead.
Fear not, Max Duggan and Quentin Johnston came to play the next drive. Again TCU picked up some quick first downs, but a false start and a timeout had the Frogs looking out of sorts. That feeling didn’t last, as the next play was a deep shot to QJ that put the ball just outside the goal line, pushed across by Max Duggan 3 plays later to narrow the gap.
The TCU D finally looked rejuvenated after the score, forcing a strong 3-and-out, only to be nullified when Derius Davis dropped the resulting punt, giving the Pokes the ball just outside the redzone. It’s the type of game flipping mistake that you absolutely cannot commit against a Top-10 opponent, especially when already trailing. The Horned Frog D held tough though, not taking the cheese on the reverse, and Josh Newton defending a pass into the endzone. the Davis fumble was only punished with an OSU field goal.
It looked like the Frogs would get a similar lucky break as the next TCU drive led to a punt that appeared to clang off the OSU returner’s facemask, however it was called a kick catch interference, hitting a TCU defender helmet first - allowing OSU to start in TCU territory. The drive ended with an incredible catch by the OSU WR in the endzone on 3rd and long, despite tight coverage from Josh Newton, to put the Cowboys up 24-7.
The TCU defense held firm for the remaining 10 minutes of the half, forcing a pair of punts. Duggan and the Frogs’ offense got a bit of a rhythm with three drives into scoring position inside the 35. Those three prime opportunities produced just six points. The first of those three ended with nothing, as TCU decided 4th and 5 from the red zone was the right time to go for it and pull out an attempted trick play reverse that was dead on arrival. The following two solid drives each stalled and produced a FG each, converted by Griffin Kell.
As Coach Dykes said after the game, “We made every mistake humanly possible in the first half and it was still a 2-score game,” so the Frogs went into the break with a deficit to overcome, but a belief that they could improve and go take this one back.
The 2nd half saw TCU’s defense survive on a bend but don’t break status, despite giving up some big plays and drives into the red zone, only allowed Oklahoma State to get FGs on those drives. Similarly, TCU’s offense looked efficient before breaking the 30 yards line, as power running and tempo had the drive rolling, couldn’t break through for a touchdown, settling for a FG to turn the 2 possession game into a 2 possession game.
It was deja vu for OSU’s 2nd drive of the 2nd half: an easy screen for big yards into the red zone and a TCU D stand to force a FG, returning the OSU lead to two TDs. TCU was driving, across midfield but a shot to QJ fell incomplete, a run for no gain and a blitz that forced a bad throw led to a TCU punt. TCU’s defense gave up nothing on the ensuing drive, with the OSU punt returned by Davis back to where the previous drive ended. This drive would end with the Frogs in the endzone and the life returned to the crowd at Amon G. Carter Stadium, as Max Duggan hits QJ for a nice gain, then takes the option himself inside the 10, with Kendre Miller busting it in for a TD to cut the Cowboy lead to 7, 30-23.
The TCU defense finally got a long-awaited Cowboy turnover, as Sanders had a streaking receiver deep, but the pass floated enough that Bud Clark could get in position and make a play on the ball, securing the first TCU-forced turnover of the day and the first interception of Clark’s career. TCU was unable to gain anything out of the possession, punting back to OSU, but a 3rd down stop on Sanders gave the TCU Defense another 3-and-out.
TCU got pinned inside the 10 to start the drive, but nice plays by the three-headed monster of Duggan, Johnston, and Miller brought the Frogs into the red zone. TCU pulled a trick from up its sleeve to cap the key drive: the direct snap went to Demercado, who gave it to Duggan, who tossed it to Jared Wiley and the big TE dove in for the big TD. After trailing all day, the Frogs tied the game at 30 with 1:57 left in regulation.
That may have felt like too much time to give OSU, but the Cowboys had to punt back to TCU who was also unable to get a game winning drive in regulation, so it required extra time to settle this one
The Frogs got the ball to open OT and on play two Max Duggan hit Quentin Johnston on a big body route into the endzone, giving TCU its first lead of the day. The TCU defense forced OSU into a 4th and long on its OT drive, but with the game on the line Spencer Sanders hit Braydon Johnson to the 1 yard line and Dominic Richardson punched it in a play later to send the game into 2OT.
The Cowboys’ 2OT drive started with a holding and they never moved closer, however OSU kicker Tanner Brown was true from 52 yards to give OSU the lead going into the bottom of the 2nd overtime period. Knowing a field goal could extend the game, TCU returned to its power run game as Kendre Miller bullied for 13 yards then Max Duggan took off on one of his signature never-say-die runs for a first down at the 1 yard line. That single yard was all that stood between the Frogs and victory. Kendre Miller would take the hand off from Duggan, make a Cowboy defender miss in the backfield, and slice past the goal line for a walk-off win as the crowd poured onto the field at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The Horned Frogs picked up their third consecutive win over Top 25 foes, a feat never before accomplished in TCU Football history, doing so in front of a record student attendance (6,224) and 2nd largest home crowd ever (49,594). The stars came out to play for the Frogs on Saturday: Max Duggan continued his impressive play with 343 total yards and 3 total TDs; Kendre Miller added another 100+ yard multi-TD game to his ledger; Quentin Johnston went wild under the national spotlight again with 8 receptions for 180 yards and a TD.
Sonny Dykes, on his QB: “Max Duggan continues to play as good a football as any quarterback I’ve been around. He just does everything that he can to help your football team win.”
Dykes, on early game issues: “I thought we played tight tonight...we played to not make mistakes in the first half instead of playing free.”
Dykes, on bucking trends: “Historically our teams have gotten off to good starts and not finished very well. It’s going to be a challenge for us to finish down the stretch, we know that. This is a different team; it doesn’t matter what happened in the past here or where I’ve been. We’re gonna write a different story.”
Dykes, on Quentin Johnston: “He’s a really talented young man that works incredibly hard and really has a burning desire to be a great player.”
Dee Winters, on difference between first and second half performances: “We went in too hyped up. Coaches just told us to calm down, play our defense and just keep doing what we’ve been doing all year.”
Quentin Johnston, on thriving in key moments: “I like to think of myself as a player that rises to the occasion. With that mindset, I just have to go out there and prove it every week.”
Kendre Miller, on what he was thinking before the final play: “Finish.”
Max Duggan, on bouncing back from a deficit: “I think it shows the culture of this team, the mindset that we have: never doubting ourselves, never panicking, always believing in each other, believing in our coaches. You saw that tonight.”
The Cowboys drop to 5-1 on the season, 2-1 in the Big 12. Next for Oklahoma State will be a return home to Stillwater to host the Texas Longhorns.
The Horned Frogs improve to 6-0 on the season, 3-0 in conference play, and will host #17 Kansas State next Saturday night for sole possession of first place in the Big 12.