In a microcosm of its entire season, TCU watched an immensely winnable game slip away thanks to mistakes in the kicking game and bad decisions by quarterback Kenny Hill, as the Frogs watched a 16-7 lead turn into a 31-23 loss to Georgia in the Liberty Bowl.
After Georgia staked a 7-0 lead, TCU took control of the contest when it ripped off 16 consecutive points over a 7-minute stretch, but should have stretched the run to at least 20 points. The Frogs got on the board with a 40-yard Brandon Hatfield field goal, then immediately took the ball back at the Georgia 21 when Tipa Galeai sacked and stripped Jacob Eason. Hill (18-of-27 for 146 yards with two touchdowns plus 17 carries for 72 yards and a score) raced in for a 10-yard touchdown dash one play later, but Hatfield’s ensuing extra point clanked off the right upright and ricocheted wide left.
After forcing two more three-and-outs, TCU added another touchdown when Hill hit John Diarse for a 10-yard score at the 9:15 mark of the second quarter. (Hatfield’s extra point was good this time.) After another Georgia three-and-out, Hill set the Frogs up with a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 20 with a 45-yard rush, but a sack and an incompletion forced a 41-yard field goal — which Hatfield missed.
Hill compounded his sack by costing the Frogs another scoring opportunity late in the half, losing a fumble at the Georgia 44 with 30 seconds still remaining before the half.
Running back Kyle Hicks (15 carries for a team-leading 88 yards) opened the second half with a fumble of his own, handing Georgia (8-5) the ball at its own 48. The Bulldogs marched 52 yards in 12 plays, aided by another TCU special teams error when holder Brice Ramsey converted a 4th-and-6 with an 11-yard fake field goal rush. Eason hit Javon Wims for a 4-yard strike three plays later, putting Georgia on top 21-16.
TCU (6-7) see-sawed back in front when Hill and Diarse hooked up for their second score of the day, this one a 9-yarder with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter, but Georgia’s offense was fully alive after a first half stretch in which it registered four three-and-outs and a lost fumble. The Bulldogs moved 56 yards in seven plays to set up Rodrigo Blankenship‘s 30-yard field goal to push Georgia back in front at 24-23 with 13:27 remaining.
Just like in the first half, Hill once again positioned the Frogs with a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 20, but he once again took a sack he shouldn’t have taken on third down and, once again, Hatfield missed his ensuing 47-yard field goal. Georgia took advantage of the miscue, riding Nick Chubb most of the way on a 9-play, 70-yard march to push the lead to 31-23 with 2:48 left to play. Chubb and the Georgia running game came alive in the second half; the Dogs finished with 247 yards on 5.6 per carry after mounting only 49 yards in the first half. Chubb led the way with 17 carries for 142 yards and a score, while Sony Michel added 15 totes for 87 yards and a score. Eason hit 12-of-21 passes for 164 yards with two touchdowns and one fumble.
Needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to push the game to overtime — instead of simply a field goal to win without Hatfield’s missed kicks — TCU moved to the Georgia 44 when Hill’s 4th-and-4 pass to Taj Williams was broken up by Georgia’s Deandre Baker.
The win lifts a struggling SEC to 2-4 in bowl play while the Big 12 falls to 3-2. The two conferences have split their two meetings thus far, with the rubber match between Oklahoma and Auburn coming in Monday night’s Sugar Bowl.