Kansas has always played TCU well. In their last three matchups, TCU has won all three, but only won by a combined 11 points. On Saturday afternoon, it would be the same fate for the Jayhawks, who lead most of the game. Matthew Wyman’s 54 yard field goal attempt fell short as time expired, marking a disappointing finish to a great game.
Here’s how it played out for the Jayhawks, now 1-4 on the season:
Ryan Willis’ first drive as a starting quarterback didn’t go exactly as planned. After the Kansas offense pushed the ball 26 yards down the field, Willis’ deep pass ended up in the hands of the Horned Frogs. TCU, though, turned the ball over itself on its first two possessions. Brandon Stewart came up with an interception of QB Kenny Hill, and following a great punt that pinned the Horned Frogs inside their own five, the Jayhawks forced the quarterback to fumble. Willis & company utilized the great field position, as KU took the football 44 yards on just nine plays. Capping the drive, Taylor Martin scampered into the end zone for a one yard run.
It was the first lead for the Jayhawks since September 3, the season opener against Rhode Island. Kansas went over 190 minutes of game time without having a lead, spanning more than three games.
The teams traded miscues back and forth for the majority of the first half, as Willis threw two more interceptions and lost a fumble, and TCU missed a 37-yard field goal. The most costly turnover came when Willis was hit from behind, resulting in the ball squirting out of his hands. TCU fell on it at the 3 yard-line, setting up a short touchdown blast by running back Kyle Hicks took the ball into the endzone on first down. 7-7 tie.
Willis’ 119 first-half pass yards were shadowed by all of the turnovers, but he played well in the first half. Most Kansas fans would agree that he proved to be a massive upgrade Montell Cozart. However, the story of the first half, and probably the entire day, was the Kansas defense. TCU was unable to do anything despite constantly stealing possessions with takeaways.
Kicker Matthew Wyman punched in a 50 yard field goal to put the Jayhawks back on top, 10-7. With the assist of a fast offense and defensive penalties, TCU quickly answered with a 18-yard Kenny Hill touchdown run. TCU’s first lead came with 1:31 left in the first half. Neither team would pick anything up following the score, as the Horned Frogs walked off the field for halftime with a four point advantage.
To open the second half, the Kansas defense forced another Hill interception. Willis hit Shakiem Barbel with a 32-yard pass to get KU close, but the offense stalled in the red zone. Wyman kicked his second field goal of the day, a 29-yard chipshot to bring Kansas within one. 14-13, Horned Frogs.
Kansas’ scoring wouldn’t stop there. On its next drive, Ryan Willis found Laquvionte Gonzalez, who cut up and around the Horned Frog secondary all the way to the 2 on a 67-yard completion. But once again, the Jayhawks were stopped short on the one one, forcing Matthew Wyman to return to the field. Wyman drilled the 21 yard field goal, putting the Jayhawks back in front, 16-14.
By this point, some fans were frustrated with head coach David Beaty’s lack of aggression. The Jayhawks came into Saturday afternoon as a 29-point underdog. On 4th and goal inside the 5, when your defense is playing well, you might as well go for it. However, Beaty opted to play conservative, taking the points and, for the time being, the lead.
Who wanted to see more turnovers? Well, Kansas did, as Greg Allen picked off Hill to set the Jayhawks up inside the TCU 30. Ryan Willis had proved his stuff through the air, but it was time that he showed us his run game. The starting quarterback sprinted 21 yards all the way to the house, extending the Jayhawks lead to 23-14 with a successful PAT.
Kansas’ score would close the third quarter. Suddenly, nursing a two-possession lead, KU was 15 minutes away from its first Big 12 win of the year. In fact, Kansas’ last conference win came on November 8, 2014, a 34-14 rout of Iowa State.
Things looked good on the following drive for the Jayhawks. It was 3rd and 20 for TCU, and the Jayhawks appeared to wrap up the quarterback Hill. Things went wrong when the ball squirted out of Hill’s hands. The Jayhawk players around Hill, believing the play was over because of a face-mask flag thrown, allowed Hill to pick up the loose ball and pick up a big gain on the ground. Making matters worse, the facemask call was assessed after the big gain, putting TCU into scoring position. Moments later, Hill found Jaelan Austin, who found the endzone on a 25-yard completion. With the PAT, it was once again a two point game in Lawrence: 23-21 Jayhawks.
Kansas kept things moving on their drive, marching all the way to the 20, but Matthew Wyman would later miss a 37 yard field goal. On Kansas’ next drive, Wyman would miss a 41-yarder. Six points squandered to the side of the uprights. With well over three minutes to go, TCU had a shot to take the lead via field goal or touchdown. They would end up taking a field goal, making a 34-yard chipshot with 1:21 to go.
In order for Kansas to win, it needed to persevere. KU did just that, saving the game on fourth down with the classic hook and ladder play. Despite the miracle set, Kansas was charged with offensive pass interference, pushing the offense back 15 yards. Willis found Sims for 23 yards, putting the ball at the TCU 36. This set up a 54-yard field goal with 0:06 on the clock. After TCU burned through its remaining timeouts, Wyman came out for the try. Wide right.
TCU escapes Lawrence with a slim win over the Jayhawks, 24-23.
Kansas controlled the whole game. Offensively making big plays, and defensively making stops or picking off Hill three times. None of that mattered to the scoreboard though, as it still read 24-23 in the end. Kansas lost the game in the final five minutes. The Jayhawks couldn’t stop the Horned Frogs from getting into scoring position, getting just what they needed: three points.
TCU: 0, 14, 0, 10
KU: 7, 3, 13, 0
R. Willis (KU): 31/45, 318 yds, 3 INTs, 0 TD
K. Hill (TCU): 17/32, 210 yds, 3 INTS, 1 TD
L. Gonzalez (KU): 8 rec, 131 yds
S. Sims Jr.: 9 rec, 101 yds
K. Hicks (TCU): 18 rush, 104 yds, 1 TD