FORT WORTH — Kenny Hill had been enjoying such a perfect season of being the ultimate game manager.
That’s all TCU really asked of him. The senior quarterback could make the throws when needed. He could run, keeping defenses from concentrating solely on Horned Frogs tailbacks. But it was requested that he not try to force anything, to choose the vanilla play as opposed to audibling into a more difficult throw.
That was working perfectly until last Saturday afternoon in Ames, Iowa. In a 14-7 loss — TCU’s first of the season — Hill threw an interception inside the Iowa State 10. His pass was between two receivers who didn’t appear to be expecting the ball thrown their way.
The Frogs were threatening again inside the 10 later in the game. A Cyclones defender had the sack, but Hill tried to throw it away. He pulled the ball back, then it was swatted away and recovered by Iowa State.
On TCU’s final possession, Iowa State picked him off for a second time.
So this is the biggest question coming into Saturday’s game against Texas: How is Hill, mentally? Was his performance against Iowa State a 2017 outlier or is he reverting back to his past troubles, when he was known to offset any brilliant plays with bone-headed risks.
Hill wasn’t made available for interviews this week. His teammates and coaches were rallying around the senior who transferred from Texas A&M in 2015. Hill represents TCU’s best chance at winning a Big 12 title and competing for a national playoff spot.
“Inside our walls, why we’ve lasted 20 years here is because we don’t beat each other up,” said TCU coach Gary Patterson. “It’s like your own home and your own family. You correct your problems within your family. Nobody else needs to know about it. And then you let the rest of the world think what they want. … It’s not so much Kenny, just our own offense. “
Hill has thrown 15 touchdowns and is averaging 233 passing yards a game. He’s trimmed his interceptions to five. Conversely, through eight games in 2016, his first year starting at TCU, Hill had thrown 13 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions. His completion percentage also is significantly higher. A year ago, it was 61 percent. This year, it’s nearly 68.
His most impressive stat this season has come on third downs, when he’s completing 69.2 percent of his passes. That’s jumped to 72.4 over the last three games. On those third downs during the three-game stretch, he’s thrown for 386 yards and four touchdowns.
But after Iowa State, the questions still linger. He threw for only 135 yards, his second worst performance as a starter in his career dating back to his days in College Station.
“You never want to see your quarterback go through a day like that,” said TCU receiver John Diarse. “They get a lot of the praise and they get a lot of the flack as well. He understands that. Kenny was able to understand that. He handled it well. It’s never a great feeling, but after watching film, you put it behind us.
“You can see the same energy, the same competitiveness, the same leadership you’ve seen ever since we started. … He’s able to put it behind us, to rally us, understand, hey, we’ve still got something to play for.”
TCU may run more against Texas. Darius Anderson has rushed for 627 yards while Kyle Hicks has run for 394. Patterson also says TCU must find more opportunities for dynamic receiver/returnman KaVontae Turpin.
It can’t all be on Hill’s shoulders — he’s best when he’s managing a game, not creating.
“It wasn’t so much Kenny’s deal as everybody’s,” Patterson said. “I think you can put the load on everybody.”
The post TCU needs Kenny Hill to manage, not create (or take risks) appeared first on Hook ‘Em.
News on Bevo Beat is free and unlimited. Access to the rest of Hookem.com is included with an Austin American-Statesman subscription in addition to Statesman.com and the ePaper edition. Subscribe today at statesman.com/subscribe.