AUSTIN, Texas — Texas ran out of comebacks against Max Duggan and TCU.
The Horned Frogs quarterback ran for the go-ahead score with 4 minutes left and the defense made it stand with a goal-line fumble recovery to beat No. 9 Texas Saturday in a game that had 26 penalties and ended with TCU taking a safety to run out the final seconds of a 33-31 victory.
In doing so, the Horned Frogs (1-1, 1-1) dealt another tough blow to the Big 12’s College Football Playoff hopes now that Texas and Oklahoma, the league’s highest-ranked teams at the beginning of the season, each have early home losses to unranked opponents.
“Find a way. You’ve got to take ball games,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. He’s now 7-2 against Texas since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012.
“Anybody we play in the state … We know their players, so our kids play hard, and our kids, their families get a chance to come to the ball games,” Patterson said. “So, you know, it’s one of those games.”
Even with that history, Texas was stunned to walk off the field with the loss after being so close to another big escape. A week ago, Texas rallied late to win in overtime at Texas Tech.
After Duggan’s touchdown, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger marched the Longhorns to the lip of the end zone. A 52-yard pass to Keaontay Ingram put Texas in scoring position, but Ingram then fumbled on the TCU 1-yard-line with 2:32 to play.
Backed up with little room to move, TCU inched its way forward before Taye Barber ran 9 yards to pick up a critical first down that let the Horned Frogs bleed out the game clock. Duggan took a deep snap to the back of the end zone to run out the final 6 seconds.
Patterson never considered punting.
“It was better to take the safety than it was try and punt it and let them be able to get a long throw. You wanted to take the ball out of their hands,” Patterson said. “”Simple.”
Duggan led TCU’s upset of Texas last season as a freshman. He made his first start of the disrupted 2020 season after missing much of training camp while treating a previously undiagnosed heart condition. He passed for 231 yards and ran for 79 more and scored twice. His late 26-yard TD run caught the Texas defense by surprise as he had a clear path to the end zone.
Ehlinger threw four touchdown passes on an otherwise difficult day for him. Ehlinger was just 17 of 36 for 236 yards. His 14 touchdown passes in three games lead the nation.
Ehlinger last touchdown throw to Malcolm Epps gave Texas its first lead early in the fourth quarter. On the final drive, Ehlinger said he had an option to keep the ball instead of handing off to Ingram on the fumble.
“I talked to him. I reminded him that as much as we love this, it’s just a game. It’s not life or death,” Ehlinger said. “I told him it’s certainly not on him.
Griffin Kell kicked four field goals for the Horned Frogs.
“Griffin bailed us out quite a bit today,” Duggan said.
TCU: Duggan’s play and a rugged defensive effort after an opening loss to Iowa State gives TCU hope the Horned Frogs may be able to compete for the Big 12 title. Duggan was sharp on throws early and late, and had the stamina to find the moves and the speed for the late touchdown even after getting hit hard several times during the game.
Texas: The Longhorns now find themselves in a fight to get to the Big 12 title game with a huge game against Oklahoma next week. Ehlinger can’t do everything for the Longhorns every week. The defense was much better this week and held the Horned Frogs to field goals instead of touchdowns on several key drives, but broke when it mattered at the end.
“I need to have deep conversation with our leadership council and find out the psyche of our team,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “We’ve got to find a way to make sure that whatever it is that caused the breakdowns today doesn’t happen again’.”
Texas will tumble out of the Top 10 in more bad news for the Big 12.
The penalties started from the opening kickoff and never let up. It took three tries just to get the opening kickoff done. The first penalty by TCU wiped out a big tackle that pinned Texas deep and the next one – on the re-kick – negated a Longhorns kickoff return inside the TCU 5. The game officials then picked up a flag on a long run that set up TCU’s first touchdown. On the first possession of the second quarter, Texas starting linebacker Juwan Mitchell was ejected for targeting on a big hit on Duggan.
“We beat ourselves,” Ehlinger said. “We shouldn’t even be thinking big picture right now with the amount of small mistakes that we made.”
The NCAA single-game record for penalties is 36, set in 1986 by Fresno State and San Jose State.
TCU hosts Kansas State next Saturday
Texas plays Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas next Saturday.