MORGANTOWN, W.V. -- If Big 12 realignment did nothing else, it brought TCU and West Virginia together every year, and for that, Bob Bowlsby, America thanks you.
Since the Horned Frogs and the Mountaineers joined the league in 2012, they have played two overtime games and the thrilling comedy of errors staged Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium. It was every bit as exciting as it was dangerous to the Horned Frogs’ chances of charming the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Five weeks from Sunday, when the committee selects the Golden Four, TCU’s 31-30 victory likely will be a distant memory. At least the Horned Frogs hope so, after they needed every second to come back from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Ever dependable Jaden Oberkrom, who has made 14 of 18 field goals this season, nailed a 37-yard field goal as time expired for the victory.
TCU won despite spotting West Virginia a 13-0 lead before making a first down, despite producing only 14 points out of five Mountaineers turnovers and despite a C-minus game from quarterback Trevone Boykin.
Of course, if you were the head coach of a team that won in spite of all that, you might see the victory as a selling point to the committee. One member, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, watched from his press box suite.
“If they didn’t think that was enough substance, they’re not watching the right film,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said, “because we just did it not playing very well. ... Everybody’s got their own opinion. To me, we just went on the road against a team that beat, at the time, No. 4-ranked Baylor, beat them 41-27, and we beat them at their house. If that’s not a good enough win for them, I can’t help them. But I’ll be 7-1, whether they like it or they don’t. That’s all I can do about it.”
Boykin, who threw seven touchdowns in the Horned Frogs’ 82-28 humiliation of Texas Tech this past week, responded with his worst game of the season. The nascent Heisman campaign for the junior won’t live to see next week, as Boykin completed 12 of 30 passes for 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“Trevone stood up in the locker room just a minute ago and said, ‘Look, my bad. I got to play better, and we got to move forward,'" Patterson said.
Boykin didn’t stand up in front of the media because Patterson does not allow Boykin to speak publicly. It’s a form of punishment after Boykin bragged about himself earlier this season.
If Patterson really wanted to teach Boykin a lesson, he would have made him answer questions about how he kept throwing behind receivers or how confused he was by West Virginia. Boykin looked out of sorts, maybe as a product of leaving Texas for the first time. TCU didn’t cross the state line until its eighth game of the season, and once they did, they played in raw, intermittently rainy, low-40s weather.
To Boykin’s credit, he completed four of his six fourth-quarter passes. The Horned Frogs forced a punt and took possession on their own 24 while trailing 30-28 with 2:07 to play and only one timeout.
On second down, Boykin threw to Kolby Listenbee for a 40-yard gain to set up the game-winning field goal. How Listenbee got so open is something that will keep West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson awake until, oh, Thursday or so.
“We blew a coverage,” Gibson said. “We didn’t have a guy where he was supposed to be.”
TCU found a way to win, which sets up its next game, at home Saturday against No. 9 Kansas State, as a playoff elimination game. The winner will carry the Big 12’s flag for the rest of the season.
What’s that, you say? What about No. 13 Baylor?
The only way the Bears will go to the playoff is if every other one-loss team in the five equity conferences gets hit by a bus. Go back and re-read the Baylor’s nonconference schedule: SMU, Northwestern State, at Buffalo.
The committee is paying attention to strength of schedule. If the committee pays attention to how TCU beat West Virginia, the Horned Frogs will have to come up with something better to watch in their last four games.
“I can’t do anything about the committee,” Patterson said. “All I know is we just beat the 20th team in the nation. And we play a ninth-ranked team next week. Or they’ll be higher. Or maybe we’ll drop. Who knows? All I can do is control my own destiny. Kansas State is a really good football team. They played Auburn to the wire. They got to come to our house. Coach [Bill] Snyder does a great job. I’m going to worry about the things I got control over.”
Until then, just a reminder: When the Big 12 announces its 2015 schedule, circle the date West Virginia goes to TCU. History dictates it will be one Saturday to clear your schedule.