FORT WORTH – The Week Two schedule was “meh,” they said.
ESPN, which has to label and stamp everything, called it “Style Points Saturday.” Translation: Ranked teams would run up lopsided victories to impress voters.
It was the first time since Week Two of 2012 that there wasn’t at least one game matching two ranked teams, they said. (They were right about that fact.)
But don’t bring your “It’s a weak schedule” thoughts to the Big 12 Conference. “Style Points Saturday” became “We Lost Too Many Games Saturday.”
No. 12 TCU prides itself on finishing, but the Horned Frogs couldn’t seal the deal Saturday night at Amon Carter Stadium. Arkansas rallied in the final minute to force overtime and then won it in the second overtime when quarterback Austin Allen barged in on a 5-yard run for a 41-38 victory.
“We’re used to this up and down stuff,” TCU defensive end Josh Carraway said. “We usually finish, that’s what we’ve been doing, that’s one thing we pride ourselves on. This time, Arkansas took the game from us.”
Earlier in the day, No. 22 Oklahoma State lost in even more improbable fashion. An officiating error by the Mid-American Conference crew gave Central Michigan an untimed play the Chippewas converted with what might be the first Hail Ladder touchdown play in college football history.
Back in Week Two of 2012 when there were no games matching ranked teams, four ranked teams lost to unranked teams. Maybe the Big 12 should have seen this coming.
TCU’s loss stings on several levels.
- Arkansas was a former foe from the Southwest Conference days who regularly beat up on the Frogs. The Razorbacks’ last trip to Fort Worth before leaving for the Southeastern Conference was a 22-21 victory in 1991.
- Like Oklahoma last week, TCU (1-1) is now faced with a run-the-table scenario if it hopes to reach the College Football Playoff. Style points? Hardly. This loss is like wearing white after Labor Day or brown shoes with a tuxedo.
- TCU played an abysmal first half. Penalties and turnovers helped Arkansas build a 13-0 lead. Quarterback Kenny Hill threw his second pick six in as many games, an ill-advised pass under pressure that Hogs’ linebacker Brooks Ellis returned 47 yards for a TD.
- Despite their inept play, the Frogs staged a spirited comeback with 21 fourth-quarter points to take a 28-20 lead with 2:05 remaining.
“We didn’t play very well,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “The way everything went in the first it was a positive we were only down 13-0. We made too little mistakes. Like the celebration. You want to beat good teams, you can’t make those kinds of mistakes.”
Hill, making his second start as TCU’s quarterback, was 36-of-56 for 377 yards and a TD. He also led the team in rushing, gaining 93 yards on 15 attempts. His 5-yard keeper gave the Frogs their 28-20 lead.
The success and celebrating was premature. Hill, who was not made available for interviews, was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty. He made a throat-slash gesture.
“Now that you tell me that, I’m even more unhappy,” said Patterson, who didn’t know what Hill had done to get the flag.
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) September 11, 2016
The penalty was assessed on the kickoff. Cole Bunce’s kick only reached the Arkansas 20 and was returned to the 42. The Hogs went 58 yards in four plays and 56 seconds with Austin Allen (17-of-29, 223 yards, three TDs) hitting Keon Hatcher for a 16-yard touchdown. Hatcher returned the favor on a gadget play, hitting Allen for the game-tying 2-point conversion.
KaVonte Turpin, who had 126 yards in receptions and returned four kickoffs for 136 yards, gave the Frogs a chance in regulation with a 64-yard kickoff return to the Arkansas 27. But redshirt freshman Ryan Graf’s 28-yard field goal attempt was swatted away by Arkansas’ 6-foot-10 Dan Skipper, the team’s starting left tackle.
While Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will be second-guessing his last play decision for the rest of this season, Patterson wanted to go for two after Hill’s touchdown.
“We could have gone up nine, I wanted to go for two but got talked out of it,” he said. “They told me they didn’t think they had a play ready that would work.”
Such is the college football world in which we live. TCU was the dark horse favorite to make a run at the Big 12 title. That’s still in play, but the Big 12 outlook is considerably more jumbled. The CFP chances probably disappeared when Allen muscled his way into the end zone.
“I told ‘em they’ve got 10 more chances,” Patterson said. “We lost one game, we didn’t lose 10. “Great players make great plays, good players make good plays, average players make average plays. We need the great and the good plays.”