No. 4 TCU tops No. 18 Texas 17-10 to earn Big 12 title berth

TCU v Texas
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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.

THE TAKEAWAY

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.”

ANALYZE THIS

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.

UP NEXT

TCU plays at Baylor next Saturday.

Texas plays at Kansas next Saturday.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.