AUSTIN, Texas – TCU was far from pretty against Texas, yet the Horned Frogs are still undefeated and playing for a Big 12 championship.
And maybe even bigger things to come.
Kendre Miller rushed for 138 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter that broke open a tense defensive struggle, and No. 4 TCU beat No. 18 Texas 17-10 on Saturday night to clinch a berth in the Big 12 title game.
TCU’s Max Duggan, who was sacked four times in the first half and hounded all game, connected with Quentin Johnston for a 31-yard touchdown over broken coverage in the fourth quarter.
“Nobody expected this kind of game,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes said. “We have tremendous confidence in our ability to take over the game late.”
The TCU defense turned in its best game of the season. The Horned Frogs held Texas running back Bijan Robinson to 29 yards, gave up just 199 total yards, and forced Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers into a miserable passing night. The Horned Frogs allowed Texas a single field goal on consecutive drives inside the TCU 10 in the second half.
“I think our defense has a little chip, a little something to prove,” TCU linebacker Johnny Hodges said.
The win keeps the Horned Frogs (10-0, 7-0) undefeated and in the hunt for even bigger prizes in Dykes’ first season. They are No. 4 in the College Football Playoff ranking after being picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big 12.
TCU is also 10-0 for the first time since 2010, when the Horned Frogs played in the Mountain West Conference, finished 13-0 and won the Rose Bowl.
“I think we’ve just decided, ‘Look, let’s go on this journey together, and not worry too much about the destination,” Dykes said.
Texas (6-4, 4-3, No. 18 CFP) hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in the second half of each of the last three games. The Longhorns’ only touchdown against TCU came on Jahdae Barron‘s scoop-and-score on a 48-yard fumble return late in the fourth quarter.
TCU: Duggan stayed composed on a tough night. TCU was grinding the game away when his unforced fumble resulted in the Texas touchdown that nearly swung the game. But Duggan came back with a critical third-down completion that helped TCU’s run finish out the final 4 minutes. He was 19 of 29 passing for 124 yards.
“Crazy chain of events,” Dykes said. “He moved on, put it behind him and did a great job managing the team the rest of the game.”
Texas: Ewers has had a wildly up-and-down freshman season but he’s now had another bad outing in the second half of the season and is struggling badly with accuracy. He was 17-of-39 passing for 179 yards and an interception, but it appeared coach Steve Sarkisian never considered going to backup Hudson Card.
“It wasn’t all on Quinn,” said Sarkisian, who is 11-11 in his second year. “Everybody took turns tonight. We were just off.”
Texas had the advantage of having former TCU head coach Gary Patterson on the sideline as a Longhorns special assistant. Patterson’s fingerprints seemed to be all over a Texas game plan that threw everything it could at Duggan until the Longhorns finally wore down late.
BATTLE OF THE BACKS
The matchup featured the two top rushers in the Big 12 in Robinson and Miller. But Robinson was often left with nowhere to run and carried just 12 times. He rushed 32 times for more than 200 yards against the Horned Frogs last season in a Texas win.
Miller was asked if he’s the best back in the Big 12.
“Yes,” Miller said.
TCU plays at Baylor next Saturday.
Texas plays at Kansas next Saturday.