An anticipated defensive struggle between the Michigan State Spartans and TCU Horned Frogs did not lack drama as Michigan State kicker Dan Conroy kicked the game-winning field goal with just over a minute to give Michigan State the victory over TCU 17-16 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
TCU was looking good early, especially entering the locker room for halftime. Running back Matthew Tucker scored the first touchdown of the game with a four-yard scamper in the first quarter to give TCU a 7-0 lead. Jaden Oberkrom added a couple of field goals in the second quarter to give the TCU Horned Frogs a 13-0 lead headed into halftime. The TCU defense really did a nice job of containing Michigan State’s offense in the first half; they held the Michigan State offense to just 76 yards, and they bottled up any potentially explosive plays from running back La’Veon Bell.
Michigan State came out looking like a different team in the second half. They rallied back to take a 14-13 lead midway through the fourth on a four-yard touchdown run by Bell. TCU’s offense, which hadn’t been able to do much of anything in the second half up until Michigan State’s second touchdown, answered by driving down the field to set up a 53-yard field goal by Oberkrom with 2:42 left in the game. That kick gave TCU a 16-14 lead. Oberkrom was three for three on the game and finished the year making twenty-two of thirty field goals.
Given the amount of time and the way TCU’s defense had played for most of the game, it seemed like they would be able to make one final stand and thwart any last effort by Michigan State to win the game. Wrong. The Spartans moved down the field (forty-five yards in eight plays) to set up Conroy for the game-winning field goal. He split the upright with the 47-yard field goal to give Michigan State a 17-16 lead they would not relinquish. TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin’s efforts to win the game for TCU on the last possession of the game came up short.
The difference in this game was Spartan RB Bell. Coming in, the key to TCU winning the game was whether or not they could contain the powerful rushing attack of the Spartans led by Le’Von Bell. They did a good job of that in the first half, but could not do it in the second half. It was Bell that got the Michigan State offense going in the second half. By the end of the game, Bell had rushed for 145 yards on thirty-two carries and a touchdown.
Unfortunately for TCU, they had no answer for Bell as Horned Frogs rushing attack couldn’t get anything going. Just like throughout much of the season, TCU failed to have any consistency running the ball or have any one guy who could take over the game with his legs. The leading rusher for the Frogs was QB Bokyin with 37 yards. Overall, TCU had thirty carries for a paltry 87 yards. You won’t win many games with those types of numbers.
The defensive tenacity in this game did not disappoint. Neither team reached 300 yards of offense and neither team reached twenty points. Coming into the game, twenty points seemed like the benchmark to get to. If either team reached twenty points first, they would win. Michigan State did not, but seventeen points was enough Saturday night in Tempe, Arizona.
It’s a disappointing loss to end a somewhat disappointing season for the TCU Horned Frogs. Their QB, Trevone Boykin, did not play exceptionally well against a pretty good defense; he completed 13 passes on 29 attempts for 201 yards and an interception. There are definitely growing pains when starting a freshman quarterback and TCU found that out at times this season, but there is definitely reason to be excited and optimistic about the future for the TCU Horned Frogs football program. Boykin gained valuable experience as a QB at the collegiate level, so he should learn from his mistakes, work hard in the offseason, and come back ready to lead TCU to competing for the Big 12 title.
For the year, TCU was 7-6, a disappointing inaugural season in the Big 12. But given everything that happened with the injuries and starting quarterback Casey Pachall leaving the program to enter rehab following his arrest on drunk driving charges in October, the TCU Horned Frogs and their fans have to look at the year as laying the foundation for bigger and better things. This year was trying, but with head coach Gary Patterson, the team is in the right hands; they will come back better and stronger next year.