No. 7 TCU stays unbeaten, but misses chance to make point to CFP committee

When the College Football Playoff selection committee released its initial set of rankings on Tuesday, many were surprised to see undefeated TCU sitting at No. 7 behind Alabama, Clemson and several others.

“We’re looking for a balanced team, offense and defense,” said committee chairman and NC State athletic director Boo Corrigan. “They’ve fallen behind in the games.”

If the Horned Frogs felt slighted, the team didn’t seem to use it as extra motivation heading into its “Big Noon Kickoff” debut Saturday against a Texas Tech team facing a narrow path to a bowl game in 2022. Instead, Sonny Dykes’ team did exactly what it has done all season, fell behind early before coming back late, using another impressive fourth-quarter performance to pick up its ninth win thanks to a 34-24 win over the Red Raiders.

As a result of overcoming this sleepy start, TCU not only stayed in the thick of things when it comes to the Playoff, but also moved one step closer to a Big 12 Championship Game appearance next month in AT&T Stadium.

Highlights: No. 7 TCU pulls away from Texas Tech

Highlights: No. 7 TCU pulls away from Texas Tech

Kendre Miller rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown as TCU remained undefeated.

Here are three key points from Fort Worth:

1. Special teams lend a helping hand

TCU’s normally prolific offense was hit hard most of the afternoon, but used a decisive lead in the third period of the game to pull out a victory.

That was highlighted by Derius Davis’ 82-yard punt return for a touchdown as the speedy receiver weaved through the hash marks multiple times as the home team took an early lead with less than two minutes left of the party In addition to bringing the Amon G. Carter Stadium crowd to its feet, the score set a new school record for punt return touchdowns in the process, breaking a tie with the recent USFL MVP turned Dallas Cowboy returner KaVontae Turpin, as it was Davis’ sixth special. the teams score and the fifth point brought it back to the house. He also added 36 yards receiving and

Kicker Griffin Kell also hit a pair of field goals, including a 30-yarder just seconds before halftime.

Considering how the Horned Frogs have been living on the sidelines all season, having special teams come in to keep them in the game was a huge plus for Dykes and company.

Derius Davis is back in action at home

Derius Davis is back in action at home

TCU took a 7-0 lead over Texas Tech on Saturday thanks to an 82-yard punt return by Derius Davis.

2. Exit the stage to the left

While the outcome was naturally decided by a handful of big plays throughout by both teams, each felt the impact of some key absences that could have led to a different outcome.

Perhaps most notable was TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston, a leading candidate for the Biletnikoff Award and a potential Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year selection. Although he suited up for the game, he didn’t see any time on the field after aggravating a right ankle injury, according to FOX’s Jenny Taft.

The Horned Frogs also went down starting linebacker Dee Winters, who had four tackles and two sacks in the first half, but was ejected for targeting in the third quarter.

Texas Tech wasn’t immune to having key players on the sidelines either. Quarterback Tyler Shough (9-for-22, 84 yards, one touchdown) was inserted midway through the second quarter after starter Behren Morton was ruled out with an undisclosed injury.

The Red Raiders scored on two of their first four plays under Morton, including when Jerand Bradley found a weak spot up the middle of the field and took it 47 yards for a score to cap a 41-second drive. After that, things got decidedly mixed with Shough at the controls, as the offense mustered just two sustained scoring drives in the second half and turned it around on downs with a questionable fourth-down call on their own 34-yard line (which TCU converted). on a touchdown the other way three plays later).

Max Duggan finds Emari Demercado for TD

Max Duggan finds Emari Demercado for TD

Max Duggan connected with Emari Demercado for a 16-yard touchdown as TCU pulled away late against Texas Tech.

3. Duggan regroups late

Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan has been floating around the fringes of the Heisman Trophy race behind others like Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud. If he wanted to add weight to his dark horse campaign, the performance against Tech did not end well.

Duggan went just 12-of-23 for 195 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the day, really looking like he was losing his primary target in Johnston on nearly every dropback. The signal caller also had trouble looking downfield, connecting on just a couple of passes of 30-plus yards when he normally does in a quarter.

It didn’t help that their offensive line allowed four sacks and several pressures throughout the contest, including Duggan being tackled on fourth down in the red zone during a key third-quarter possession.

Not that it mattered in the end, in large part because of QB defensive linemates Kendre Miller and Emari Demercado. The former rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown, including a remarkable 50-yard scamper where he stumbled a few times, but still managed to keep his balance and elude a few tacklers. Demercado chipped in with 43 rushing yards and a 16-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that allowed the Frogs to breathe easy.

Still, even if it wasn’t the cleanest of performances, Duggan got what mattered most: TCU’s ninth win of the season to keep the Horned Frogs undefeated and in the running for the College Football Playoff.

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Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets including NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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