FORT WORTH — Against a team it had beaten six consecutive times in as many years by an average of 14 points, Associated Press and Coaches’ Poll No. 4 Texas Christian University did what it was supposed to do.
Beat a one-win Kansas team athletically not on par with it.
The nugget of college football goodness, though, was not the 43-0 Saturday night finish at Amon G. Carter Stadium, it was how they took another step toward legitimacy.
[su_pullquote]“Kansas had nothing to lose coming in. We knew how big this was for us. It’s games like this those top five teams lose, they go in the tank and you never hear about them for the rest of the season.” -senior receiver John Diarse [/su_pullquote]
With five games remaining to sway the decisions away from programs at Alabama and Notre Dame and toward Fort Worth, the victory also inched TCU closer to recognition for one of the four College Football Playoff berths. It also represented a step closer to a punched ticket to either the Rose or Sugar Bowl.
Perhaps more astounding than its 475 yards of offensive production is how TCU’s defense has played through eight games — including holding Kansas to two total yards on 18 plays through two quarters and outpacing the Jayhawks 305-3 by halftime.
HATS OFF TO DEFENSE
Thanks to Ben Banogu, Ridwan Issahaku, Travin Howard and the Horned Frog defense, Kansas earned only two first downs and gained a Big 12 Conference record 21 yards of total offense Saturday — the fewest against an FBS opponent since at least 1996.
The Jayhawk total included minus 25 rushing yards, which is the seventh lowest total in school history and third fewest in the FBS this season.
“I think we did well last week against [ Kansas State] that ran for almost 300 yards in the first half against Oklahoma,” Head Coach Gary Patterson said about moving to 7-0 and tightening the stranglehold on the national ranking. “We said we were going to get better and I think we did with the rotation of people we had. It’s just one ball game, though.”
The Horned Frogs combined margin of victory entering the game after facing Arkansas, Jackson State, Kansas State Oklahoma State, Southern Methodist, and West Virginia was 144 points and their average was 20.6.
With the defense playing steps ahead of where it was in 2016, TCU may have found its missing link to a championship status quo.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]”You can’t win that many games without defense,” Howard said. “When the offense isn’t clicking, we need to let them know we have their backs and get them right back on the field. We want to be the spark of things.”[/su_pullquote]
Senior defensive end Mat Boesen became a living example of Howard’s metaphor after notching three tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one sack and a quarterback hurry.
“That’s all [the defense] talks about — being suffocating. Suffocate. It’s the word we use when we break out [of huddles]. Suffocate,” Issahaku added. “That being said, we still have a long way. We’re just taking it one game at a time. We work hard Sunday through Friday for games like this. This win is amazing but tomorrow we’re moving on. Championship defense? It’s hopefully what we’re working toward but we’ve got a lot of work to do before we get there.”
MORE WEAPONS THAN NECESSARY
With arguably the best Kenny Hill, Jr. (19-26, 278 yards 5 TD) powered performance of the season, they needed less than 15 minutes eclipse that points spread against Kansas. Two of those five scoring passes fell into the waiting hands of former Waxahachie Indian and current TCU freshman Jalen Reagor. one each found John Diarse, Desmond White, and Taj Williams.
Reagor (3 rec, 43 yards, 2 TD) became one of six freshmen to lead his team in both receiving yards and touchdowns. In all, Hill, Jr. completed passes to 12 different receivers at a 67.8 percent clip. One such pass was a Hill, Jr. 67-yard bomb to Diarse late in the second quarter.
One other touchdown — a 90-yard punt return by junior KaVonte Turpin — helped further the notion that TCU may have the country’s most explosive offense. It was the second consecutive game against Kansas at Amon G. Carter Stadium that Turpin returned a kick for a touchdown.
“Every time we give him the ball, I just sit back and watch because I just know something amazing is going to happen. It did tonight,” Hill, Jr. said “That punt return for a touchdown, that was unbelievable. I had never seen anything like that. He ran across the field and I thought he was tackled, but he slipped right through and scored.”
HINGING ON HOMEGROWN BETS
The rub is the type of production TCU is getting from players not named Boesen, Diarse or Turpin that are products of Lone Star State high schools. The Horned Frogs have 72 Lone Star State-based players and 44 others from other pockets of the U.S.
Hill, Jr. (Southlake), Howard (Longview), Reagor (Waxahachie), Banogu (Prosper), Austin Schlottman (Brenham), Shaun Nixon (Austin), Sewo Olonilua (Humble), Jonathan Song (Fort Worth) and Kenedy Snell (Waxahachie) are only a handful of Texas players that have led the Horned Frogs to a 7-0 start for the fifth time in 15 seasons.
Game by game, TCU may be proving why betting its stock on homegrown talent is a big reason why its the fourth best team in the Associated Press Top 25.
ON THE HORIZON
TCU will face Iowa State University — the same Cyclone team that upset nationally ranked Oklahoma 38-31 on Oct. 7 — at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday on the road at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.
Iowa lost to TCU 41-20 at Amon G. Carter Stadium last season, withering under the pressure of 117 rushing yards with a touchdown from Kyle Hicks and 219 yards passing and a touchdown from Hill.
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