The #3 TCU Horned Frogs saw its perfect season come to a close on Saturday in the Big 12 Championship, dropping an overtime thriller to the Kansas State Wildcats. TCU QB Max Duggan put the team on his back in the 4th Quarter to will a furious comeback, finishing with 361 total yards with 2 total TDs and an interception. But in the end Deuce Vaughn, Will Howard, and a super defensive front kept the pressure on TCU and it was ultimately enough to end TCU’s undefeated season. The Frogs also suffered from costly mistakes that were uncharacteristic of its 2022 for, including a missed field goal, a Quentin Johnston red zone fumble and a Max Duggan interception in the endzone.
TCU got off to a hot start, forcing a punt from the KSU offense and marching a 13 play, 92 yard drive culminating in a Max Duggan TD pass to Taye Barber. However, K-State was able to hit big plays while TCUs drives kept stalling or resulting in turnovers. With the score 14-10, the Frogs were once again trailing at the halftime break, looking to kick the offense into gear after the break.
The opening of the 2nd half was about as opposite from kicking into gear as one could imagine, as a poor kick return started the Frogs in bad field position and the Wildcats appeared to force a Max Duggan fumble that the Frogs recovered in the endzone for a safety. Luckily the review on that one found that Duggan’s arm was moving forward and was thus ruled an incomplete pass. That good fortune as the drive still ended in a punt and Will Howard carved up the TCU defense for a quick score: 4 plays 62 yards in 95 seconds to take an 11 point lead.
The TCU offense stalled on its ensuing drive and there was an opportunity for the game to get a bit out of control, but Jordy Sandy’s punt sent Phillip Brooks to call for the fair catch. Brooks did not catch it, as the ball went through his arms for a muffed punt, recovered by the Frogs at the 30. Max hit Trent Battle on a beautiful adjustment then Kendre Miller eventually brought it home for 6 from 6 yards out, continuing his streak of games with a TD that extending to last season.
The ensuing WIldcat drive went 12 plays, eating 6:43 of game time, but was ended when Dee Winters got a monster sack of Will Howard for a loss of 12 to force a 4th down outside of field goal range, resulting in a punt. The next play was a Duggan deep ball to Quentin Johnston for 51 yards, then QJ drew a pass interference penalty that was determined to be just outside the endzone got the Frogs set up in the red zone to close the 3rd quarter with a chance to take the lead with a TD. The first play of the 4th quarter was perhaps Max Duggan’s worst of the season - a 3rd down fade to Johnston in the endzone - already a playcall most despise - that was thrown short and low to where QJ couldn’t make a play on the ball and it landed in the lap of the Wildcat DB. It was a massive missed opportunity for the Frogs, as K-State quickly strutted 80 yards the other direction to return the lead to 11 points with under 12 minutes to play thanks to a signature Deuce Vaughn run.
Frogs go on a drive that includes a remarkable play by Taye Barber to hold onto a pass as he’s getting crunched on 4th down. A big play on a Max Duggan scramble was negated by an Andrew Coker hold that put the Frogs in a deep hole. A pass to Jared Wiley set up a 4th and 4 and the Frogs settled for the FG with just under 8 minutes to play to cut the deficit to 8 points.
TCU’s defense forces a punt after the Wildcat drive stalls despite picking up a first down, as Mark Perry was able to keep pace with Deuce Vaughn on the deep throw from Howard and force the incompletion, beathing life into TCU by giving the Frogs the ball at the 20 yard line down 8 points with under 5 minutes to play. Regardless of the final outcome of the game, what happened on the next drive will go down in Horned Frog history. Max Duggan put it all on the line in an all-time effort to bring the Frogs down the field to tie the game. Duggan put on his running shoes, with rushes of 15, 13, 19, and 40 yards before bringing it into the endzone himself from 8 yards out. TCU put the two-point conversion in his hands too, as Duggan found Jared Wiley for the game-tying points with under 2 minutes to play. TCU’s defense forced a punt on the Wildcats’ attempt to win the game, but it was downed inside the 10 and TCU chose to kneel out the final 40 seconds and take the game to OT.
OT opened with a Kendre Miller runs to the 6 yard line. Duggan then took off for what looked to be another all-time, Heisman-caliber moment on a scamper to the goal line. The side judge ruled that he was down right outside the goal line, upon review the play was upheld and TCU and 2 more shots from inches away. Both plays were Kendre Miller runs up the gut - the first also appeared to have crossed the goal line, but was not reviewed, while the 4th down opportunity was stopped cold. It’s a series of plays that will get analyzed and second-guessed and looked back upon with regret. Kansas State was able to nail the FG in its OT possession and the confetti rained down on as the Wildcats celebrated and the Horned Frogs exited with defeat for the first time this season.
With the loss the Horned Frogs have put their potential Playoff fate in the hands of an ever untrustworthy Committee. The College Football Playoff Selection Show is Sunday December 4th at 11:00 AM Central on ESPN when we will find out if the TCU resume hold up in the eyes of the Committee.