Taye Barber

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TCU picks Sam Ehlinger four times to beat No. 15 Texas

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TCU entered Saturday’s game with No. 15 Texas having forced five turnovers in six games. Sam Ehlinger entered with three interceptions in 255 attempts. Naturally, the Horned Frogs picked Ehlinger four times, and true freshman quarterback Max Duggan played a sensational second half to lead TCU to a 37-27 win in Fort Worth.

Ehlinger finished the day 22-of-48 for 321 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions, while Duggan overcame his early interception to go 19-of-27 for 273 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 13 times for a game-high 72 yards and the game-clinching touchdown.

The win is TCU’s (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) sixth in eight tries over Texas (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) — including three in a row in Fort Worth.

With the score knotted 20-20 with 4:25 to play in the third quarter, Ar’Darius Washington cut in front of a 3rd-and-7 Ehlinger pass at the Texas 44, TCU’s second pick of the day. The pick gave TCU a chance to take its second lead of the game and the Frogs immediately took advantage, as Jalen Reagor ran right pass cornerback D'Shawn Jamison and caught an easy 44-yard touchdown pass, putting the Frogs up 27-20.

Then, on the final play of the third quarter, TCU picked Ehlinger inside UT territory for the second time in the frame. It was truly a horrendous throw, as the junior forced a 2nd-and-13 throw to freshman tight end Jared Wiley; Trevon Moehrig had a better shot to catch it for TCU and catch it he did, handing TCU the ball at the Texas 36. The Texas defense held this time, forcing a 33-yard Jonathan Song field goal to go up 30-20 with 11:28 to play.

Needing a drive, Texas got one, as Ehlinger ran for two first downs over the course of 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that brought the Longhorns with 30-27 thanks to a 2-yard Roschon Johnson run with 6:50 to play.

A punt or even a field goal would have given Texas the ball with a chance to win the game, but instead the Frogs found pay dirt. True freshman Max Duggan converted a 3rd-and-11 from his own 24 with a 16-yard strike to John Stephens, Jr., and then hit the dagger — a 36-yard rainbow, on 3rd-and-14, in the face of a blitz, to Taye Barber, putting the ball at the Texas 11. Duggan did the deed himself one play later, putting TCU up 10 with 1:59 to play on a zone-read keeper.

Leading 3-0 in the first quarter, Texas appeared to take control when Brandon Jones became the first player to intercept Duggan and returned it near midfield, but freshman safety Tyler Owens was flagged for unnecessary roughness, taking the ball all the way back to the 12-yard line. That proved consequential when Garrett Wallow nabbed the first of Ehlinger’s quartet of interceptions at the Texas 32 and returned it to the 20, setting up Song’s 32-yard equalizer.

The score remained 3-3 until Duggan found Pro Wells for a 24-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-17, giving the Frogs a 10-3 lead at the 12:18 mark of the second quarter, a drive extended when nose guard Keondre Coburn erased a 3rd-and-5 incompletion by driving Duggan into the grass, drawing a drive-extending roughing call.

But as Duggan made up for his pick, so did Ehlinger, immediately responding by hitting Devin Duvernay for a 47-yard score, knotting the game at 10-10 with 10:57 to play in the half.

Texas then had another chance to take control of the game when Byron Vaughns forced Jalen Reagor to fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but the Longhorns could not capitalize as Ehlinger threw incomplete on 3rd-and-7 from the TCU 8 and Cameron Dicker‘s 26-yard field goal pushed wide left.

An exchange of punts gave TCU the ball at its own 2, but the Frogs got out of it when Duggan scrambled for 11 yards on 3rd-and-9 from his own 3, escaping a sack from Malcolm Roach deep inside his own end zone. The Frogs successfully flipped the field when Jake Smith muffed a punt, giving Texas the ball at its own 17. Taking over with 3:22 left before the half, Ehlinger marshaled an 8-play, 83-yard drive capped by a 17-yard toss to a wide open Keontay Ingram. Ehlinger closed the half 11-of-23 for 211 yards with two touchdowns and a pick, while Ingram totaled 77 yards on 12 touches.

TCU responded with a 52-yard field goal by Griffin Kell on the final play of the half — after Tom Herman iced an initial attempt that landed 20 yards wide.

Texas whiffed on another opportunity to take control early in the third quarter, when Duvernay ripped off a 63-yard catch, setting the ‘Horns up with a 1st-and-goal at the 6. Offensive pass interference on Collin Johnson (who otherwise played a sensational game with seven catches for 101 yards) pushed the ‘Horns backward and forced a 38-yard Dicker boot.

As has been so often the case in this increasingly-doomed Texas season, the defense surrendered the lead and did so quickly: a 51-yard bomb to Barber served as the key in a 5-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. Sewo Olonilua scored two plays after the Barber completion, and TCU never trailed again.