AUSTIN, Texas — Case McCoy scrambled away from the oncoming defensive linemen and kept his eyes downfield, as he had so many times before.
The junior quarterback who rescued the Longhorns this season against Kansas, and who performed magic in a Texas comeback last Thanksgiving in a win over rival Texas A&M, had just led Texas back to within a score on similar plays, dancing away from pressure and finding receivers downfield. McCoy said he saw freshman wide receiver Cayleb Jones open when Jones turned upfield on the scramble, and released the ball.
“The ball slipped and floated up in the air,” McCoy said.
The pass fell into triple coverage and was picked off by TCU safety Sam Carter, sealing a 20-13 victory for the Horned Frogs.
“We came here and we knew we had to win,” Carter said. “We came out and got the win. Those guys caught back. Those guys are tremendous.”
TCU’s first victory over Texas since 1992 and first win in Austin since 1967.
“I was barely born,” Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson quipped of the last time TCU won on the 40 Acres.
But if the Horned Frogs were used to losing in Austin, or even not playing on Thanksgiving — the last time they did so was in 1928 — they didn’t show it. TCU pulled off the win by dominating the running game on both sides of the ball and by taking advantage of three Longhorn first-half turnovers. The first two — both David Ash interceptions — nipped potential Texas scoring drives after the Longhorns drove inside the TCU 30.
“To win a ball game like this you got to have guys make plays,” Patterson said. “Defensively we had guys step up. We had a couple on offense, but the big plays on defense were big. We didn’t want them to get behind our secondary with wheel and post routes.”
But the third might have been the most devastating. Facing pressure, Ash raised his arm to throw the ball, but it slipped out of his hand, untouched, for a fumble. TCU defensive end Stansly Maponga pounced on the loose ball at the Texas 16. Three plays later, Matthew Tucker burst in for his second touchdown run and a 14-3 lead.
“I thought they tried really hard, just didn’t play very well on offense,” said Texas coach Mack Brown. “We can sit here and talk about it, [but] four turnovers to one, you’re going to get beat most of the time. In fact, it’s about 100 percent certain.”
At that point, Texas replaced Ash with McCoy, though he fared no better, and after halftime, the Longhorns jumped back to Ash. Aided by an Adrian Phillips interception, Texas cut into the margin with a Nick Jordan field goal.
TCU responded the same way the Horned Frogs had all night: by running the ball down Texas’s throat. TCU traveled 64 yards on 10 plays without throwing the ball and added a field goal to up the lead back to two scores at 17-6.
“The game usually predicts all that stuff,” said Patterson of the Frogs’ 48-10 run-pass disparity. “I was really worried about that first interception to start the second half. That’s not the way you want to come out.
“We are still making mistakes at the quarterback position,” Patterson said. “We just need to keep growing up.”
The turnover wound up being TCU’s only giveaway of the game, and as the Horned Frogs continued to bull forward with their running game, a fourth-quarter field goal made the margin 20-6.
Shortly afterward, Texas went back to McCoy, hoping for more late-game heroics. And on his second drive of the second half, he delivered. McCoy drove the Longhorns 82 yards in nine plays, with Jeremy Hills diving in from one-yard out with 3:07 left. McCoy was 6-of-6 for 73 yards on the drive.
“Case did a great job, got us back in the game, gave us a chance to win,” Brown said. “I actually thought we’d drive down and score because we scored so easily the time before.”
Texas had all three timeouts, and held TCU to a three-and-out. That set the stage for another potential McCoy comeback effort. But after McCoy ran for 13 yards and a first down, he threw the game-clinching interception on the drive’s second play.
TCU rushed for 217 yards on 48 carries, but even that was a bit deceptive, as the Horned Frogs rolled up 212 yards on 37 carries in the first three quarters before going conservative in the fourth. Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz credited the Horned Frogs with switching their mentality, from a typical empty backfield or one-back team to more two-back sets.
“We didn’t adjust to that as fast as we needed to,” Diaz said. “The credit goes to them. They blocked us better. They were able to possess the football and keep our offense out of rhythm with their running game.”
“The two weeks (off) helped out a lot,” said TCU guard Blaize Foltz. “Texas’ D-line is notoriously good. I think we game-planned well for what they were going to do. I think we executed well.”
On the other side of the ball, the TCU defense smothered the Longhorns with their vaunted 4-2-5 defense, holding Texas to 2.6 yards per carry and limiting Ash, the Big 12’s most efficient passer entering Thursday’s contest, to a 10-of-21 night with three turnovers.
“We are growing up as a football team,” Patterson said. “It wasn’t perfect, but we found a way to win. I’m excited for the kids. I told the team before the game we had an opportunity to get to eight wins, but to do that they’d have to beat Texas and they’d have to beat Oklahoma.”
Check the first part off that list. TCU (7-4, 4-4) now has a few extra days to rest before starting preparations to host the Sooners. After falling on its Senior Night, Texas (8-3, 5-3) also faces a daunting challenge with a road trip to face Big 12 leader Kansas State. Texas hasn’t beaten Kansas State since 2003.
“We have one more game to win,” said Texas guard Trey Hopkins. “We owe it to our seniors to send them off the right way. The season is definitely not over.”