By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
ARLINGTON, Texas – TCU coaching legend Dutch Meyer is known for inspiring his team’s effort with, "Fight 'em until hell freezes over. Then fight 'em on the ice!"
It was hotter than hell but hell didn’t freeze over Saturday. The last day of August in North Texas and the thermometer spent much of the afternoon and early evening in triple digits. Even with the roof closed and AT&T Stadium a temperate 72 degrees, the Horned Frogs never got the water to freeze.
No. 12 LSU kept the heat on during the Cowboys Classic. No. 20 TCU didn’t wilt, but it didn’t win. The Tigers kept the Southeastern Conference as kings of the castle here as they pulled away with a late touchdown to post a 37-27 victory.
“I think this is a confidence boost for us,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “Usually I’m pretty critical. We won’t play a team that is as athletic at all positions as what we played tonight. I don’t think there’s any doubt we can play with them. Everybody who says we can’t compete against the SEC is wrong.
“The bottom line is you can’t make mistakes. We were the team getting stronger in the fourth quarter.”
Indeed. TCU spent the game scrambling to hold on and hang in. Trailing by 13 points early in the fourth quarter, the defense produced a momentum shift. After downing a punt at the LSU 1-yard line, the Horned Frogs recovered a fumble. Waymon James’ 5-yard scoring run made it 30-24.
“I thought that was a big game changer for us, but we’ve just got to find a way to finish,” TCU senior defensive back Jason Verrett said. “I felt like we played the way we had to play.”
LSU’s ensuing offensive possession was a three-and-out capped by a shanked punt that set up TCU at the Tigers’ 48. The Frogs’ drive reached the 26 before stalling. Jaden Oberkrom’s 39-yard field goal pulled TCU within three at 30-27.
“We get the ball on the 48, and that's when we need to drive the spike,” Patterson said. “When they had their opportunities they did in the second half, and we didn't.”
LSU drove two spikes to seal the victory. The first was Odell Beckham’s 75-yard kickoff return. That set up Zach Mettenberger’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry. With 6:09 remaining, a 10-point deficit was too much for an offense that generated just 259 yards total offense.
“He wanted to make a play,” LSU coach Les Miles said of Beckham’s kickoff return. “That was a big play. That was an emotional play.”
Landry’s scoring reception came on a slant pattern where he over powered TCU defensive back Sam Carter to make the catch and then broke free into the end zone.
“We knew it was a slant,” Patterson said. “We called the coverage, they were going to throw the slant, and we didn't stop it.”
TCU senior quarterback Casey Pachall (9-of-16, 75 yards) started but the offense didn’t click until sophomore Trevone Boykin replaced Pachall. Patterson said that Pachall will start the Frogs’ next game.
“Nothing’s changed,” Patterson said of his quarterback plans. “They were making our quarterback move his feet. We had to get an extra running back in the back field. It was simple. So we tried to go change of pace, and I thought it worked.”
Landry’s clinching touchdown reception illustrated something that didn’t work for TCU. The play came on third down. The Tigers converted 13 of 19 tries on third down. Last season, the Horned Frogs led the Big 12, limiting opponents to just 29.9 percent on third-down conversions. Playing keep away meant LSU had an 80-54 edge in plays and a 36:01 to 23:59 advantage in time of possession.
“It’s pretty tough to win when you can’t get the other team off the field,” Verrett said. “That’s one thing I know I know for sure, when we go and watch film, coach is gonna get on our butts about that.”
The Tigers, who have won all three times they’ve played at Jerry World, jumped to a 13-3 lead and twice led by 13 points. And each time it appeared LSU was about to cruise to a comfortable victory, TCU would reverse the momentum and close the game.
After LSU scored the game’s first touchdown to take a 10-point lead, sophomore B.J. Catalon countered with a 100-yard kickoff return. To start the second half, the Tigers’ Terrence McGee scored the first of two rushing touchdowns on a 52-yard scamper to make it 23-10. Catalon again responded with a 26-yard scoring jaunt.
“We weren’t scared, we just went out and played it like any other ball game,” Catalon said. “Against an SEC team, you have to fight until the end.”
Even if Hades doesn’t freeze over.