If it’s true that football is a religion in Texas, then consider TCU’s 27-17 victory over Kansas on Saturday a 60-minute illustration of gridiron blasphemy.
The Jayhawks (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) lost for the 21st consecutive time on the road, and their 23rd straight conference game. But even the hideous nature of those streaks couldn’t compete with the sloppy brand of football in Fort Worth.
TCU committed five turnovers and still won. Kansas, which averaged 331.8 yards before Saturday, managed just 198. And in some ways, this is exactly what KU coach Charlie Weis had wanted.
In the minutes after the game, as Weis stood in a corridor tucked inside Carter Stadium, he retraced his vision for a potential upset. With the memory of last week’s 54-16 loss to Texas Tech still fresh, Weis wanted to wage a conservative war on the Horned Frogs.
“We were gonna put the bats away,” Weis said. “We were gonna play conservative. We were gonna try to put ourselves in a position where we could win in the fourth quarter.”
After KU cut the lead to 24-17 on a touchdown pass to Jimmay Mundine with 7:28 left in the third quarter, that’s right where the Jayhawks were. But part of the comeback came courtesy of a horrid third-quarter stretch from TCU, where it would have felt appropriate if the public-address system blared the theme from “The Benny Hill Show.”
There were two muffed punts, one fumble, and bad offense — a mish-mash of comical football. And there was also TCU pulling off this pretty incredible feat. After committing three first-half turnovers, the Horned Frogs coughed up the ball twice more in the third quarter — once on a fumble and once on a misplayed punt return by Brandon Carter — and they still managed to turn a 10-10 halftime score into a 24-17 lead.
But part of that achievement, of course, should be credited to the Kansas offense, which had 17 points off those five turnovers. Freshman kicker Matthew Wyman doinked a 51-yard field-goal attempt off the crossbar late in the third quarter. And plagued by poor field position, Weis never felt comfortable opening up the offense as KU punted three times in the fourth quarter.
“You’re frustrated as an offensive coordinator and play-caller,” Weis said. “But we came into the game … this is the game plan.”
The Horned Frogs had broken the stalemate on the first play after halftime, a 75-yard touchdown pass from TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin to receiver David Porter. Cornerback Dexter McDonald and safety Cassius Sendish each had an angle but whiffed, nearly crashing into each other in the process.
The Jayhawks’ defense played the second half without leading tackler Ben Heeney, who suffered a knee injury during the first half. Still, the overworked defensive unit provided opportunities, especially in the first half.
Junior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd had an interception return for a touchdown and forced a fumble. Sophomore safety Isaiah Johnson added an interception in TCU territory, setting up a Wyman field goal for a 3-0 lead.
“I feel like this is all on the offense to get more points on the board,” Mundine said. “And we gotta figure out something.”
KU quarterback Jake Heaps was under heavy duress most of the day, finishing 13 of 26 for 152 passing yards. He also threw an interception in the red zone that went through the arms of receiver Justin McCay.
“It was right where I wanted it to be,” Heaps said. “And from that, it’s just quarterback-receiver … there’s no blame.”
KU also was playing without leading receiver Tony Pierson, who suffered a concussion last week. And the biggest play of the day came on a 50-yard connection to receiver Andrew Turzilli, who was injured on the play and didn’t return.
It was that kind of day for Kansas. It could be that kind of month. To peer ahead at the upcoming schedule is to see a ghoulish stretch. The Jayhawks will play host to Oklahoma and Baylor in consecutive weeks before a road game at Texas. They’ll surely hope their next trip to Texas is more enjoyable than this one.
“There were moments that we brought back the physicality as an offense that we haven’t had,” Heaps said. “That will definitely help us keep some balance going forward … but I think overall, our offense knows we have to get going.”