- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
MINNEAPOLIS -- Perhaps it's not quite right to say No. 2 TCU got an upset scare at Minnesota on Thursday night.
The Horned Frogs were never seriously in danger of losing their opener at TCF Bank Stadium, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get pushed. Hard. They led just 10-3 at halftime and 17-10 late in the third quarter. They had to recover an onside kick with 1 minute, 23 seconds left and make one final defensive stand in the final 23 seconds before finally exhaling with a 23-17 win over the Gophers.
This certainly represented unfamiliar terrain for a team much more used to track meets than meat grinders. TCU never scored fewer than 30 points in a game all of last season but had to sustain drives and settle for field goals Thursday against a physical Golden Gophers defense. Even Heisman Trophy contender Trevone Boykin had his ups and downs.
In the end, the Horned Frogs rode off with a victory low in style points but heavy in grit. And knowing they can squeeze out a difficult road game when the offense is not zipping by people may prove beneficial down the road.
What the win means for TCU: Despite the unexpectedly close final score, a solid road win over an underrated Minnesota team could carry weight with the playoff selection committee when it matters. TCU coach Gary Patterson also learned that his defense -- which lost six of its top seven tacklers from last season and played Thursday without leading sack artist James McFarland -- can still play up to its usual high standards.
What the loss means for Minnesota: When asked about this game this week, Gophers head coach Jerry Kill responded with his own query: “What do we have to lose?” No one expected Minnesota to win, but it gained some respect with the strong effort against one of the nation’s top teams. If the Gophers can play defense like they did Thursday night, they will be serious contenders in the wide-open Big Ten West.
Player of the game: Boykin. He made some questionable decisions, missed a few open receivers and threw a bad interception. But the Horned Frogs quarterback does so many other things well to make up for mistakes. He finished with 338 total yards (246 passing, 92 rushing) and his 19-yard shake-and-bake touchdown run early in the second half provided his Heisman moment of the night.
Stat of the game: Minnesota is a team that likes to run the ball first and foremost, but the Gophers averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and had only two runs longer than eight yards versus TCU. That should come as no surprise, since Patterson routinely fields one of the best rush defenses in the nation. But with a rebuilt unit that featured no linebackers with any starting experience, it was still impressive.
1dMax Olson and Brian Bennett