FORT WORTH, Texas -- There was a lot of talk going into Saturday’s pivotal Mountain West clash between No. 4 TCU and No. 16 Utah about the defenses and the quarterbacks.
And while both played their part in the Horned Frogs’ decisive 55-28 win, it was the special teams that ultimately made the difference.
TCU’s special teams were both good and bad, and had the other facets of the game not come through, could have turned a big win into a big loss. It seemed like every time the Horned Frogs made a kicking snafu, other members of the special teams unit helped make up for the gaffe.
In the first quarter, TCU forced a fumble on the Utes first kickoff return and got the ball on the Utah 16. The drive stalled and Ross Evans missed a 26-yard field goal.
On the Horned Frogs next possession, Anson Kelton knocked a punt 14 yards off the side of his foot and out of bounds. Utah scored on the subsequent possession.
“I didn’t like the way we punted,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said matter-of-factly.
But after the early struggles, the kick coverage and return teams buckled and actually helped sway momentum in the Frogs favor.
TCU blocked a punt late in the first quarter, which the Horned Frogs ultimately turned into a touchdown. On TCU’s next possession, Jeremy Kerley returned a 52-yard punt 39 yards to the Utah 29 setting up another score.
The special teams were a catalyst that allowed TCU to jump out to a 35-7 lead just over a quarter into the game.
“[Special teams] did a great job tonight,” said linebacker Tank Carder, who intercepted a Jordan Wynn pass for a 15-yard touchdown during the second quarter surge. “That’s probably one of the best special teams games they’ve had in awhile. They caused a fumble and stopped them inside the 30 numerous times on the kick return. They came to play.”