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No. 18 Texas vs. No. 4 TCU: Horned Frogs hold on for 17-10 victory

A largely outstanding defensive performance for the Longhorns wasn’t enough as the offense struggled, producing only three points.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — After College GameDay aired from the Forty Acres on Saturday morning, the No. 18 Texas Longhorns are facing off against the TCU Horned Frogs at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium as the Longhorns try to notch the program’s first home win against a top-five program since 1999.

Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. Central on ABC.


The most significant pregame storyline is the health of TCU star wide receiver Quentin Johnston, who only played one snap last week against Texas Tech because of an ankle injury. According to Horned Frogs head coach Sonny Dykes, Johnston will play against the Longhorns, but that’s not a guarantee that Johnston is close to full health.

For Texas, safety Anthony Cook may be limited once again as he tries to play through a broken forearm sustained in the Oklahoma State game — Cook did not have a tackle last week against Kansas State. But the bigger news is that cornerback D’Shawn Jamison did not participate in warmups with the other defensive backs. Instead, Austin Jordan and Terrance Brooks took Jamison’s reps before the game. Jamison was officially ruled out prior to kickoff.

First quarter

Texas won the toss and deferred to the second half, allowing TCU to start the game with the football at the 12-yard line following a tackle by safety Kitan Crawford and running back Roschon Johnson on the kickoff. After a short gain on a wide receiver screen, an incomplete pass, and a false start, the Horned Frogs faced a 3rd and 10 to continue the drive, TCU quarterback Max Duggan threw incomplete as the Texas defense forced a punt.

When the Horned Frogs punt went only 31 yards, the Longhorns were in plus territory, but also found themselves in third and long following an incomplete pass and a short run by Bijan Robinson. In four-down territory, Johnson gained five yards after coming in motion to take the handoff and Robinson was stuffed on a direct snap for a turnover on downs when he tried to follow the lead block by Johnson to the wrong side, allowing the defender Johnson was trying to block to make the play.

TCU responded by trying to run a reverse throw, but Texas defended it well and forced a loss, although Buck end Ovie Oghoufo was lucky not to draw a flag for hitting Horned Frogs wide receiver Taye Barber out of bounds. On third down, the Longhorns picked up a coverage sack and narrowly avoided a roughing into the punter penalty on Crawford.

But Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian continued to struggle with his opening script as a Wildcat run, incomplete pass, and a sack allowed when right guard Cole Hutson got beat in pass protection forced a punt by the Longhorns.

A personal foul penalty on Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy bailed TCU out of a third and long situation, but the Longhorns continued to fly around defensively, getting a tackle for loss on a run on first down, another sack on second down, and a stop on a third-down running back screen, forcing a 4th and 10. The Horned Frogs tried to draw the Horns offside, then took a delay of game penalty before punting, a strong effort downed at the Texas 1-yard line.

Backed up to the goal line, two runs failed to create much space and then quarterback Quinn Ewers missed tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders open down the seam, the third straight incompletion from Ewers to start the game.

TCU picked up a first down running the ball three times, but Texas brought down Derius Davis for a six-yard loss and then knocked down a pass from Duggan to put the Horned Frogs in a 3rd and 16 situation. Behind strong pass protection, Duggan was able to stand in the pocket and find Johnston for a 29-yard into the Texas red zone. But the Horns inflicted a tackle for loss again on a second-down quarterback run. On 3rd and goal form the 11-yard line, Duggan took his third sack of the game as Texas forced a 34-yard field goal that missed when Crawford got a hand to it.

Second quarter

A one-yard gain by Johnson to start the second quarter marked the first first down by the Longhorns in the game, but Ewers then missed wide receiver Xavier Worthy on a shot play, Texas was whistled for a false start, Ewers missed Worthy again, and misfired on a third-down attempt intended for wide receiver Brenen Thompson.

On the punt, a hands to the face penalty on the Horns afforded the Horned Frogs the football at the Texas 36-yard line. When TCU picked up two yards on a run to open the drive and then completed a pass that lost three yards, it was back in third and long for the visitors with Johnston catching a go route down the sideline out of bounds.

The drive began with promise on a pin and pull for Robinson that produced eight yards, but a play-action throw intended for Worthy was underthrown and intercepted as Ewers started the game 0-of-7 passing.

On the sudden change, the Texas defense continued to pile up tackles for loss with a sack and a completed pass that lost three yards before Duggan threw incomplete on third down before pinning the Longhorns deep in their own territory for the third time in the last four drives.

Ewers completed his first pass of the game to Worthy for three yards to start the drive, then Robinson moved the chains on an outside run, but was stuffed on his subsequent first-down carry before Texas was called for holding on a second-down play-action pass. After left tackle Kelvin Banks left the field and headed into the injury tent, Ewers completed another pass, but it was caught well short of the first-down down marker, forcing the fourth punt by Daniel Trejo.

A third-down completion from Duggan for six yards moved the chains for the Horned Frogs once, a second-down completion for nine yards did earned another fresh set of downs, and former Texas tight end Jared Wiley also picked up a first down with a nine-yard reception. When it looked like the Horns might get a stop, nose tackle Keondre Coburn was called for a delay of game and Duggan completed a third-down pass that went just beyond the sticks. On 3rd and 8 from the Texas 21-yard line, a five-yard run by TCU running back Kendre Miller led to a Longhorns timeout with the Horned Frogs prepared to go for it on 4th and a long 3. Instead, TCU settled for 34-yard field goal by Kell.

Ewers hit Worthy for a 15-yard gain to open the final Texas drive before halftime, but misfired trying to target wide receiver Jordan Whittington before Worthy dropped a crossing route. Whittington did catch a third-down pass for nine yards on the next play, but Sarkisian opted not to risk the 4th and 1 play as the clock ticked down to 11 seconds remaining, then punted the ball away to end the first half.


A little perspective on the first half of football in Austin:

Third quarter

Texas opened the third quarter picking up a first down on a second-down completion to Worthy from an empty set, but then were stuffed on first down and had a tight end screen shut down on second down, setting up 3rd and 13. When Ewers tried to find Worthy over the middle the pass was broken up and no flag was forthcoming despite pleas from Worthy and the Texas sideline.

The defense looked like it was going to get off the field quickly when it forced TCU into 3rd and 10, but a screen pass to Miller resulted in multiple missed tackles and just enough yardage to gain a new set of downs. A second-down sack by cornerback Ryan Watts on a blitz was the fifth of the night for the Longhorns and set up a 3rd and 21 the Horned Frogs were not able to convert.

Texas hadn’t recorded five sacks in a single game since the Alamo Bowl win over Utah to end the 2019 season.

In another empty formation following the TCU punt, Ewers completed a pass to Sanders for 13 yards, then the Horned Frogs were flagged for pass interference for pulling down the Longhorns tight end, but the drive lost momentum when Robinson was tackled for no gain on first down and tight end Jahleel Billingsley dropped a check-down pass on second down before officially stalling on an incomplete pass as Ewers tried to step up in the pocket under pressure.

A 47-yard punt from Trejo flipped field position, pinning TCU back at their 7-yard line. With Texas holding up on the interior against Miller, Duggan pulled the ball on a second-down zone read for a nine-yard gain, the longest run for the Horned Frogs in the game. Until the next play, when Miller found a crease on the right side of the TCU offensive line, hit the sideline, and raced 75 yards for a massive touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

Whittington responded on the opening play after a touchback, making multiple defenders miss and gaining 25 yards on a screen pass before Ewers missed another shot play to Worthy and Robinson was stopped at the line of scrimmage. The Texas offense stayed on the field after a short screen catch by Worthy and Sanders converted the fourth-down attempt with a catch over the middle. Another screen pass to Whittington gained 11 yards and suddenly the Longhorns had something like offensive rhythm for the first time in the game. Returning to the empty look, Sanders extended for a catch down the seam to move the ball down to the TCU 2-yard line, but Johnson was stopped for a loss on a run, Ewers couldn’t connect with Whittington in the end zone, and a pass intended for Sanders also went incomplete, setting up a 22-yard field goal for kicker Bert Auburn, who connected.

Fourth quarter

The Longhorns defense seemingly quickly got off the field following the field goal, forcing a three and out when Horned Frogs wide receiver Savion Williams dropped a pass, but linebacker DeMarvion Overshown was flagged for roughing the kicker trying to block the punt, affording TCU a fresh set of downs. Duggan took advantage, pulling a zone read on 2nd and 5 and running for 10 yards, then running back Emari Demercado found 12 yards up the middle. Scrambling to avoid pressure, Duggan threw the ball away on the next play before wide receiver Jordan Hudson dropped a pass to set up a big 3rd and 10. Texas busted the coverage, allowing Johnston to catch a 31-yard touchdown all by himself when two Longhorns defenders bit on an out-breaking route.

Running back Keilan Robinson responded with a 65 yard kickoff return to put the Longhorns in plus territory to start the drive. A screen pass to Whittington, first-down run by Robinson, and another screen pass to Whittington moved the football steadily prior to a first-down catch by Sanders on a play that Robinson got open on a wheel route. Worthy drew a pass-interference penalty to maintain the momentum, but Ewers then missed Whittington in the end zone on a glance route that was thrown too hard and fumbled on what looked like a run-pass option on second down. The Longhorns had to go for it on fourth down after a pass intended for Whittington was broken up in the end zone and the comeback was not in the works as Sanders couldn’t come down with a jump ball that was also broken up.

Needing the stop the run, the Texas defense allowed two first downs on three rushing plays as TCU opened a drive to end any lingering hope for the Longhorns. But after allowing those two first downs, Texas was able to get off the field when Johnston dropped a pass on third down.

As was the case all evening, however, the Horns weren’t able to respond following a 20-yard completion to Whittington on the first play as Ewers threw three incomplete passes, including on fourth down, and slipped trying to move in the pocket, leading to a sack.

With TCU trying to run clock, Texas used two of its timeouts and then received a big break when Duggan fumbled trying to pull a zone read on third down and Texas cornerback Jahdae Barron returned it 48 yards for a touchdown after Duggan was unable to fall on the football.

After forcing a third down defensively, Texas used its final timeout with TCU facing 3rd and 4 with 3:36 remaining. But the Horned Frogs converted as Duggan found Johnston on a slant against a cushion from Barron. A tackle by Watts saved a potential touchdown run by Demardo on the next play, but the clock was working against the Longhorns, ticking down under two minutes before a second-down play. When the Horned Frogs converted a third down on the ground, the visitors were able to line up in the victory formation and secure the 17-10 win.