It’s all over at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Texas, which was a 3-point underdog today, has beaten No. 17 TCU 31-16.
It’s the Longhorns’ first win over the Horned Frogs since 2013. It’s the Horned Frogs’ second straight loss, after last week’s setback to Ohio State. The win starts Texas with a 1-0 record in Big 12 play and, at 3-1 with back-to-back wins over No. 22 USC and No. 17 TCU, might be good enough to pull the Longhorns back into next week’s Top 25 poll.
This was a 13-10 game at halftime; Texas seemed to be in control for most of the half but TCU scored with 6 seconds left. The Longhorns’ offense cooled off in the second quarter and remained chilly to start the third. But it was the defense that became the spark.
There was a Brandon Jones interception. And then a Marqez Bimage forced fumble that Jones recovered. And there was a Caden Sterns pick that he returned to the 2. And there were touchdowns again — a 31-yard diving catch from Collin Johnson and a short Sam Ehlinger keeper and a 38-yard pass from Ehlinger to Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
Consider this: Texas began the day 0 for 8 on third-down conversions. The Longhorns then went on a 5-of-6 tear on third downs.
Why Texas (3-1, 1-0) won
Defense. And big plays. Ehlinger got excellent protection for most of the day on passing plays. Johnson established himself early and finished with a strong day — 7 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. Yes, TCU looked quick but the Frogs burned the Horns for just one big play. Tom Herman and Todd Orlando will take that.
Why No. 17 TCU (2-2, 0-1) lost
It was a long day for Shawn Robinson, who threw two interceptions. The Horned Frogs committed four turnovers in all, which will result in a loss most of the time. Jalen Reagor got his catches (8) and his yards (96) and scored a touchdown, but on the final balance sheet it was Texas cornerback Kris Boyd who won the day with two pass breakups, including one in the end zone.
So what caused the big turnaround?
After TCU’s third field goal of the day, Texas trailed 16-10 with 8:37 left in the third quarter, and a penalty on the kickoff had the Horns starting at their own 5. Needing a spark, Texas went to the up-tempo offense and fed the ball to Keaontay Ingram, who had carries of 8-, 7-, 2- and 9 yards. Ehlinger hit Collin Johnson for 8 yards on a third-and-4. Ehlinger found Lil’Jordan Humphrey for 23 on the very next play.
That drive ended inside TCU’s 30, but Cameron Dicker missed from 43 yards out. It was the freshman’s second miss of the game.
That’s when the defense turned the game around.
Caden Sterns and Brandon Jones both had interceptions. Boyd had two big pass breakups. Davante Davis was beaten by KaVontae Turpin for a 25-yard catch but had a very big breakup in the fourth quarter; Brandon Jones had two of the biggest hits of the day and recovered a third-quarter fumble.
Sterns picked off a Robinson pass and appeared to run it in 35 yards for a touchdown, putting an excellent move on Jalen Reagor along the way. But a review showed the freshman stepped out of bounds at the 2; Ehlinger kept it for the score on the next play.
Another big play: TCU had third-and-9 at its own 24 and Davante Davis broke up a pass inside the 5. A 46-yard field goal try was no good.
Another big play: A 7-yard catch from Johnson on third-and-7 from UT’s 27; Johnson had to fight for the last two or three yards, and it kept the clock going with 7 minutes to play and the Horns nursing an 8-point lead.
It was on that same drive that Ehlinger hit Humphrey for the big touchdown to make it a two-touchdown game.
A look at Texas’ drives on the day:
First quarter: Missed FG, TD
Second quarter: Punt, FG, downs, punt
Third quarter: Punt, punt, missed FG, TD, TD
Fourth quarter: TD, punt
Next up for Texas
At Kansas State, 2:30 p.m. Saturday
The Longhorns’ problems in Manhattan have been well-documented. The Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) were crushed by No. 12 West Virginia today, 35-6.
Texas hasn’t won in Manhattan since 2002.
The last five Texas-Kansas State games:
2013: Texas, 31-21 (Austin)
2014: Kansas State, 23-0 (Manhattan)
2015: Texas, 23-9 (Austin)
2016: Kansas State, 24-21 (Manhattan)
2017: Texas, 40-34 (Austin)
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