It took another close shave for TCU to pull out a win at Kansas on Saturday, but that’s standard operating procedure for Gary Patterson’s team against the Jayhawks and in Kansas. The last five meetings are all TCU victories, but decided by an average of seven points. For the last three, the average is less than four.
Here are our takeaways from the Horned Frogs’ 24-23 victory, secured on Brandon Hatfield’s 34-yard field goal with less than two minutes to go:
1. TCU is willing to accept a certain amount of risk with Kenny Hill. He’s thrown eight interceptions in six games. In his last 11 starts, including five at Texas A&M, he’s been intercepted 16 times. That’s way too much. But Gary Patterson said Saturday after three interceptions from Hill left TCU down by nine points in the third quarter that he never considered a change in quarterbacks. “This offense, it’s the nature of it,” he said. “You’re not going to win very many ballgames if you do (throw interceptions), but that has a little bit more to do with us, how we call it and what we do.” The Frogs have decided Hill is their quarterback. He has potentially two years to be their starter. For now, he is going to get time to work out his interception problem.
2. It’s easy to see why Patterson likes Kyle Hicks so much. The junior from Arlington Martin does very little wrong. He recorded his second 100-yard game of the season Saturday, averaging 5.8 yards. He had a touchown run on will power against Kansas and has seven for the year. The game-winning drive included his carries of 11, 15 and 9 yards on a stretch play he and the line made effective Saturday. Patterson and the offensive coaches love his versatility – he also leads the team in receptions – and their trust in him is already deep in his first year as a starter. He leads the team in touches with 112, but after six games, is that enough?
They’ll keep coming, I feel like, as long as everyone keeps doing their job and everyone plays together.
TCU safety Nick Orr, on interceptions
3. The faucet on the turnovers might be open now. TCU collected four takeaways against Kansas. Three of those were interceptions, which was one more than the Frogs had coming in for the season. Two of those came from Nick Orr, a junior making his 19th consecutive start. Nine of those have been at weak safety, like Saturday. He’s also made nine at corner and one at free safety. All that experience is adding up. He has three interceptions in the past three weeks, evidence that he is starting to find the ball. “They’ll keep coming, I feel like, as long as everyone keeps doing their job and everyone plays together,” Orr said. Defensive end James McFarland tipped two passes at the line Saturday, and one resulted in Travin Howard’s interception. That’s eight takeaways against the past three opponents. That can win some games.
With 21 sacks in six games, TCU is on pace for its highest sack total since 2008, when it recorded 43. Saturday was the second time this season with a five-sack game for the Horned Frogs.
4. The Air Raid’s going a little too fast for Gary Patterson these days. Saturday, the Frogs faced 89 plays on defense. Their offense ran 66. By halftime, Kansas had gotten nearly 50 snaps. “So what does that mean? It means I already called my whole game plan,” Patterson said. “They had a chance to make a lot of adjustments. And they did. The last quarterback scramble was off a blitz.” Three weeks ago, Patterson was irritated that Iowa State got five possessions in the first quarter. TCU’s offense moves fast, which means when it goes three-and-out, it goes three-and-out fast. The defense hardly sits. “You got to get first downs. It’s OK to take three, four, five yards at a time,” Patterson said. “We don’t have to go down the field all the time.”
5. Field-goal kicking is not hurting the Horned Frogs. In fact, it’s a strength. Brandon Hatfield’s game-winner Saturday made TCU 10-for-12 on field goals this year. One was off the leg of Ryan Graf, blocked against Arkansas or it would have won the game. The other miss was from Hatfield in his first attempt at Kansas. For a team that lost its projected No. 1 kicker, Jonathan Song, to injury just days before the season opener, that’s not bad.