The #8 TCU Horned Frogs simply have no quit. After falling behind by 18 points in the second quarter Saturday night, the TCU Defense shut out the #17 Kansas State Wildcats over the final 38 minutes of game time and the Max Duggan-led offense produced four unanswered touchdowns. It was the third straight week TCU has completed a 2nd Half comeback over a Top-20 team and 4th straight win over a ranked opponent.
The Frogs actually took the lead early this week, forcing a quick punt on Adrian Martinez’s only series as KSU QB, followed shortly by Duggan finding Derius Davis on a deep crosser where Davis hit the turbo button, flying past the Wildcats’ defense.
The ensuing KSU drive saw Will Howard enter as the signal caller, a name Frog fans may recall from the 2020 season as he carved up that TCU team for a Wildcat win in Fort Worth. Howard looked ready to pick right up where he left off two years ago, finding Kade Warner in the endzone, who somehow snatched the ball from Josh Newton who was in tight coverage.
After a TCU drive that ended in a Griffin Kell made Field Goal, Howard again led the Wildcats on a long drive that included picking up a 3rd and 16 with a pass to Malik Knowles down to the goal line, punched in by Howard on the first play of the 2nd Quarter. The Frogs’ inability to get off the field on third down was a theme in the first half, as the Defense put KSU in tough spots that it was able to wriggle out of.
TCU looked ready to strike back, but after driving to midfield Max Duggan took a massive sack for a loss of 13 yards on a first down that offense was never able to recover. The punt into the wind went just 32 yards and the TCU coverage team let the punt hit them in the back, adding a 15 yard penalty for kick catch interference. Will Howard took that short field, completed three easy passes, capped off with a 9-yard toss to Sammy Wheeler to put the Wildcats up 11.
The spiral continued for the Frogs as the offense was again held to a 3-and-out and Deuce Vaughn did Deuce Vaughn things, getting loose in the open field and darting into the endzone to give KSU a 28-10 lead in the 2nd Quarter. It was certainly approaching the moment where lesser teams would have thrown in the towel, as the ensuing drive ended on a turnover on downs as Duggan threw short to a wide open Taye Barber a play after Quentin Johnston let one bounce off his chest.
Facing the possibility of falling behind 4 scores, the TCU Defense arrived for the next drive and made its presence known the remainder of the contest. Shockingly, KSU did not get Vaughn involved in the drive that could have buried TCU, instead it was a 3 plays for 1 yard and a punt that pinned TCU inside the 10 with under 4 minutes in the first half. Got ‘em just where we want ‘em. Just as in a similar situation vs. Oklahoma State last week, TCU went on a clinical drive: Kendre Miller big runs, big 3rd down conversion to Spivey, Johnston inside the 10 and a beautifully designed motion play action leaves Jared Wiley all alone in the middle of the end zone to score just before half.
TCU received the 2nd Half kickoff and went on a 77-yard drive that included four first downs and chewed over 6 minutes of clock. The drive closed with a 4th and 1 from the 2 yard line that Kendre Miller powered just across the goal line to cut the KSU lead to four points. But that score can’t happen without perhaps the play of the game as a 3rd and 17 was converted on a screen pass to Kendre Miller
Kansas State went on an answering drive before honorary player of the game Hypnotoad arrived as Kansas State decided to attempt a 44-yard field goal into the heavy wind rather than attempt the 4th and 2. It was a curious call, but with Howard shaken up on the 3rd down play it may have been the preferred option over the 3rd stringer taking the play. The kick was short and wide right. The Frogs took over and Max Duggan released a bomb down the sideline that caught the wind at its back and flew into the waiting arms of Quentin Johnston, who shook off the KSU defenders and rumbled into the endzone to give TCU the lead.
It was a lead that TCU would later extend with another Kendre Miller TD scamper. and never surrender as a Johnny Hodges stuff of a QB sneak on 4th and 1, a doinked KSU FG and interceptions by Bud Clark and Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson would close things out. Just to reiterate the dominance of TCU’s Defense over the final 38 minutes, this is the Kansas State drive results after taking a 28-10 lead: Punt, Half, Missed FG, INT, Downs, Missed FG, INT. For whatever heat Frog fans may want to give regarding the rough start early, you must also give flowers for the adjustments to shut it down.
The win is the fourth consecutive win over a Top 25 opponent, only the second such occurrence in Big 12 history, in front of another packed Amon G. Carter Stadium, including another record student attendance; the 6,512 students represents over half of TCU’s enrollment. Max Duggan was again a warrior, taking huge hits, including multiple roughing the passer penalties and a targeting, but finished 17-26 with 280 yards and 3 TDs. Tight End Jared WIley and Quentin Johnston each finished with 74 yards and a TD. Kendre Miller was a dominant force again, amassing 153 yards and 2 TDs, adding 1 catch for 18 yards.
Sonny Dykes, on the Defense “Coach Gillespie made some fantastic adjustments and our players played with a lot of confidence and played physical, played really tough...we created some havoc, got some turnovers because of that.”
Dykes, on Max Duggan: “Max continued to do what Max has done all year, play good football, smart football, winning football...it’s hard to put a value on how valuable he is to our team. That toughness he brings, that never-say-die mentality and attitude just permeates the entire program.”
Dykes, on the TCU home atmosphere: “The crowd was awesome tonight, the student body was fantastic, there’s an electricity in the stadium.”
Dykes, on Kendre Miller: “He’s just someone we can rely on. He gets those tough yards every single week...just really finishes runs strong.”
Johnny Hodges, on early game struggles: “We were just shooting ourselves in the foot...lights were a little bright at the beginning and then a tidal wave effect, a snow ball effect. Fortunately we got the stop before half then came out in the second half, made some adjustments and everyone seemed to calm down a bit.
Jared Wiley, on his role after transferring to TCU: “They told me they had big plans for me, it took time and it will keep getting better and better, but I’m just very happy with the decision that I made and just really happy to be here
Kendre Miller, on being 7-0: “It’s just another win, we just gotta keep going, keep our focus...just gotta keep winning. I’ll be satisfied when we win the National Championship
Max Duggan, on the team’s focus: “Coach Dykes has done a good job of making it week to week and continuing the process. That starts on Sunday practice tomorrow...We’re trying to go 1-0 and I think if you have that mindset then everything will figure out itself at the end.”
Kansas State drops to 5-2 on the season and 3-1 in Big 12 play, tied with Oklahoma State for 2nd in the conference behind TCU. The Cowboys and Wildcats will face off next week in Manhattan.
TCU now stands alone atop the Big 12 standings at 4-0 in the conference; at 7-0 overall the Frogs are one of just six FBS teams still undefeated. The Horned Frogs will next travel to Morgantown, WV for an early Saturday kickoff against the Mountaineers.