AUSTIN, Texas -- Upon further review, the Frogs aren't princes. And the Longhorns are far from kings.
The replay reversal of an apparent third-down lost fumble by Texas quarterback Colt McCoy deep in TCU territory late in the third quarter led to a tying field goal one play later. Five plays after the Horned Frogs fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the No. 7 Longhorns tacked on the go-ahead touchdown, then feasted on TCU mistakes as they rallied for an often sloppy 34-13 victory Saturday night at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Upstart TCU's bid for Lone Star State credibility sputtered as the No. 19 Frogs lost for the 28th time in their past 29 meetings with the Longhorns. Texas, hoping to regain momentum lost when it fell from No. 4 to 7 in both polls after a poor showing in a 21-13 season-opening win over Arkansas State, erased a 10-point lead late in the third quarter but still failed to grasp as decisive a victory as it sought.
"We're still a team that's a work in progress," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "We're a team that made a bunch of mistakes. And we still have to figure out who we are offensively."
The Horns had no doubt what they were in the first half -- immensely frustrated.
McCoy, who a year ago was seven games into a stunning redshirt freshman season before he had thrown three interceptions, reached that total after only six quarters this year. His two interceptions, both in the final three minutes of the first half, led to 10 TCU points.
One interception came on a read he said he'd make all over again. The other came on a tipped ball.
"You didn't want to touch me in the second quarter," McCoy said. "I had some bad luck."
TCU appeared to have added to the Longhorns' frustrations late in the third quarter when McCoy's scramble on third-and-10 led to a fumble the Frogs recovered. The Longhorns, who had exhausted all their timeouts, including one on a challenge of an incomplete pass to receiver Limas Sweed a few plays earlier, got a break when, with TCU about to snap the ball, the officials called for a review.
The subsequent reversal seemed to surprise the crowd of 84,621, which gasped audibly when referee Jon Bible announced that video review showed that McCoy's left knee was down before John Fonua ripped the ball loose. The Longhorns said they knew it all along.
"I knew I was down," McCoy said. "We needed that. We were inside the 20, and we had to get points on the board."
"I knew it was a bad call," said Texas linebacker Rodd Muckelroy. "When they turned that over, I knew right away we were going to win the football game."
Ryan Bailey kicked a 28-yard field goal on the next play to tie the score 10-10, and when Frogs returner Steven Hodge dove for the kickoff only to have the ball slide through his hands and into those of Texas reserve running back James Henry, the momentum turn was complete. On second-and-goal from the 1, redshirt freshman Vondrell McGee, playing in his first game and making only his second career carry, scored to make it 17-10.
Texas blew the game open in the fourth quarter, following up a 20-yard Bailey field goal with a 20-yard return of a muffed punt snap for a touchdown by Brandon Foster and a 39-yard Jamaal Charles touchdown run that was set up by a failed onside kick attempt. Charles' run gave him 134 yards, the first time an opponent had rushed for more than 100 in the Frogs' past 22 games.
TCU turned the ball over four times, including three fumbles lost, and was penalized 13 times for 100 yards.
"You have to finish," said TCU coach Gary Patterson, ironically invoking what the Longhorns' mantra had been all week after failing to dispatch Arkansas State until an unsuccessful onside kick in the final minute. "And little things are big in big ballgames."
McCoy had been successful probing the outside of the Frogs' pass defense, but when he tried to hit Sweed on a quick slant near midfield with a little less than four minutes left in the first half, he didn't get it over leaping TCU cornerback Torrey Stewart, who had started to blitz only to pull up and jump as the ball was thrown. Stewart returned the interception 45 yards for a touchdown with 3:33 remaining.
Five plays after the kickoff, on second-and-10 from his own 30, McCoy threw to Nate Jones over the middle, but David Hawthorne tipped the ball and safety David Roach intercepted. TCU took over at the Texas 28, and Frogs quarterback Andy Dalton took advantage of a Longhorns coverage bust to complete a 24-yard pass to Walter Bryant down to the 4. Three inside runs netted 3 yards, and Chris Manfredini kicked a 19-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the half.
For most of the first half, neither team scored, and they barely seriously threatened. Through the first 27 minutes, the teams combined to run 67 plays, only three of which began inside the opponent's red zone. Texas' best shot to score in the first half came after Longhorns end Lamarr Houston sacked Dalton from the blind side and jarred loose the ball, which was recovered by Muckelroy at the TCU 48.
McCoy, using quick posts and passes in the flat, passed the Longhorns to the TCU 13. Consecutive offensive pass interference calls against Sweed, who set an illegal pick, and tight end Jermichael Finley, who pushed off, pushed the Longhorns back to a second-and-40 at the 43. Bailey's 42-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright flush -- and fell into the end zone.
Mark Wangrin is a freelance writer who lives in Austin. He has covered the Big 12 since 1996.