TCU's 23-17 win at Minnesota wasn't the biggest or most exciting game of college football's opening Thursday night, but it did teach us something about each team involved.
First, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is the same guy who passed for almost 4,000 yards and finished fourth in Heisman voting last season, but he may be a little rusty. He finished the game 26-of-42 passing for 246 yards, one touchdown and one interception, as well as 92 rushing yards on eight 18 carries. The effort was a bit sloppy, but he's still the same Heisman candidate.
Second, Minnesota is a threat to come out on top in the Big Ten West. Many times throughout the game, it seemed like TCU was a big play away from putting significant space between itself and Minnesota, but the Gophers' defense was stingy, holding TCU in check, forcing two turnovers and keeping matters from getting out of hand.
TCU started slowly, only opening the scoring midway through the first quarter with a 53-yard field goal from kicker Jordan Oberkrom to take a 3-0 lead.
Oberkrom does not skip leg day. #TCU- Matt Jennings (@MattAJennings) September 4, 2015
After the Oberkrom boot, TCU was back to the powerhouse we all got so familiar with last year, for a while at least. Two plays into the next drive, TCU defensive end Terrell Lathan sacked Mitch Leidner, forcing a fumbled that was recovered by Josh Carraway on the Minnesota 15. Two plays later, Boykin hit Josh Doctson for an 11-yard pass for a touchdown, giving the Frogs a 10-0 lead.
As TCU marched down the field two possessions later, the rout looked to be on, but cornerback Eric Murray forced a fumble on the Minnesota 12 to deny a Horned Frogs scoring opportunity. The third fumble of the game came as Minnesota was in the TCU red zone in the second quarter. Tailback Rodrick Williams carried the ball six yards down to the Minnesota 11 when it was knocked away by Derrick Kindred and recovered by Nick Orr in the back of the end zone.
Fumbling into the end zone seems counterproductive IMO. pic.twitter.com/B4qE4vuKKl- SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) September 4, 2015
The Gophers finally got on the board with less than six minutes to go in the first half on a 42-yard field goal from Ryan Santoso. The Frogs took the ball and capped the half off with a 15-play, 52-yard drive, but Oberkrom's field goal attempt ricocheted off the upright to keep the score at 10-3.
Gophers keep gnawing away
TCU established the run early in the third quarter and broke the game pen. With the ball on the Minnesota 19, Boykin ran an option to his right, chose to keep and ran in for the touchdown untouched, giving the Frogs a 17-3 lead.
But Minnesota -- being the pesky Gophers they are -- refused to go away. It mounted a 12-play, 77-yard drive, which included a 30-yard pass from Leidner to Drew Wolitarsky, capped off by a one-yard Rodney Smith touchdown run, bringing the score to 17-10.
Field goals from Oberkrom in the third and fourth quarter gave TCU a 23-10 lead and effectively sealed the game for TCU. Though Minnesota's defense looked up to the task, its ultimate undoing in the game was its offensive struggles. Leidner finished the game 19-of-35 passing for 197 yards and a touchdown, while the Gophers rushed for only 144 yards. The offense did show a spark late in the game, going 91 yards in eight plays to cut the lead to 23-17. But Minnesota failed to recover the onside kick, and TCU sealed the win.
Even the Gophers' use of Dramatic Chipmunk to distract opposing kickers (a tactic they've tried before) didn't work, because it's not 2007. Find a new meme, guys.