Game Review: Kansas State Wildcats vs. TCU Horned Frogs, 12/3/2016, 11 am
Final Score: Wildcats 30 – Horned Frogs 6; Attendance 42,746
Weather: Rough – Cool (50), Wet, Overcast; Parking $25
“Weathering the Storm” by Tree
The TCU Horned Frogs call Fort Worth, Texas home and play their games at Amon G Carter Stadium. The program is rich in tradition with two national championships, albeit from the 1930’s. One was against my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, in the Sugar Bowl. The program dropped from national prominence in the early ‘60s, but became relevant again in the mid ‘90s. As recently as 2010, the Horned Frogs finished the season undefeated and ended up number 2 in the nation.
I was attending the game with some K-State’rs, so we needed to secure some parking spots in advance of game day. Otherwise, the eleven a.m. kickoff would have required some very early morning coordination. As with most of the Power Five conferences, game day tailgate parking can be more expensive than a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. Luckily for us, there was an easier, more affordable option. There was a local high school just a few blocks away from stadium. For $25 you could pre-order a spot and they provided free shuttles to and from the game. The lot was about half full which was pretty good considering it was December and it had rained hard all morning, with the afternoon’s forecast not much better. The lot was mostly full of K-State fans with the odd group of TCU fans. With the early kickoff, we did a breakfast tailgate of kolaches and bacon. We never quite got to the pancakes but the plentiful mimosas made sure no one cared. The downside to the tailgate was that we did not get to see much of the TCU campus and the famous “buff” bricks for which it is known.
Amazingly, the weather cleared for the tailgating and most of the game. Nonetheless, the warm bus ride to the stadium was quite enjoyable. This despite making us wait an extra five minutes to fill the bus when there were three more empty buses in the que. We got a brief tour of the campus on the bus and I am not sure I bought into the buff (read beige) brick scenery. My northeast roots have conditioned me to red bricks and grey stones covered in ivy.
The stadium, which is on campus, seats about 45,000 and is well-designed. The back end of the stadium connects to the basketball arena and closes it off nicely. Our seats were in the corner of the end zone on the lower level and we could see everything. With two video scoreboards in the reasonably sized stadium any seat would be a good one. An extra bonus with the scoreboard was that they would throw up the live feed from the Oklahoma game that was being played at the same time. The concessions were fairly pedestrian, but they did have the infamous Walking Taco. I steered clear having been haunted throughout the Iowa State game by that concession staple. The bathrooms were clean; so clean that one member of our crew spent the entire game there. Of course, that was more likely due to the ample supply of mimosas than the ambiance of the ladies room. The stadium did have a couple of flaws. The video ribbon was so low on the stadium wall that you couldn’t read it half the time. The stadium walls also listed the bowl games that TCU played in, and I mean all the bowl games. It looks great when you see the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, but not so much when it is the Mobile, Alabama Bowl. Given that this was the last game of a down year for TCU and the poor weather forecast, ticket availability was very good. They were going for as low as $6 on the internet. However, thanks to my buddy Brett, my ticket was free.
The stadium was about three fourths full for the game which was pretty good considering the weather. It was very hard to tell how many of those were Horned Frogs fans because both schools sport a similar shade of purple. It would be fair to say the K-State fans were very well represented. I did manage to pick up a couple of Horned Frog rituals. The hand sign for the Frogs is fist with the index and middle fingers bent at the first knuckle. On third downs, the TCU fans would make the “OK” sign their hands to fire up their defense. The fans were fairly vocal, but the K-State fans were just as loud. There were a couple of other items that I thought added to the TCU experience. One, the souvenir cup was very sharp. It was one of the best I have seen with a sweet picture of a horned frog on a white background. The other thing I liked was the simulated sports desk analysis they would put up on the video scoreboards. It was clearly students from what I would guess was either the Communications or Sports Information department honing their skills, but it was entertaining nonetheless.
I made the three and half hour drive from Houston to Fort Worth in a horrendous storm. The early start required 4:30am wake up and made for a miserable commute. In clear weather, the drive would be easy. Of course, if you fly into Dallas-Fort Worth airport, it is a short half hour drive. Signage to the stadium was good and I found it was easy to navigate the streets. I haven’t spent lots of time in Dallas Fort Worth, but one would think that the city easily has enough to offer to make a weekend visit enjoyable.
TCU came into this game at 6 – 5, knowing that even with a loss, they’d still be bowling. K-State was coming in 7 – 4 and looking to get a shot Texas A&M at the Texas Bowl in Houston. I had seen a little of both teams on TV prior to the game and knew the Frogs would have to have an answer for the K-State running attack. K-State took the first kickoff and drove down the field and kicked a field goal. The drive was a mix of runs and passes but was certainly heavier on the run. Despite the wet weather, the game was fairly clean with very few turnovers. The teams traded drives while TCU slowly flipped field position. Taking the ball on the K-State 44, the Horned Frogs got down to the 12 before having to settle for a field goal and a tied score. The teams struggled to sustain drives until K-State had a short drive of four plays highlighted by two 30+ yard runs. The last one was 32 yards for a TD by their quarterback, Jesse Ertz. TCU eventually got back in the groove, kicking a field goal to cut the Wildcat lead to 10 – 6 right at the end of the half.
TCU got the ball to start the second half but could do nothing with it. They punted deep to K-State who started their drive at their own 17 yard line. On third and ten, K-State scored on an 83 yard pass play to go up 17 – 6. TCU answered with a dismal three and out. Nonetheless, there was lots of time left so the Horned Frog defense just needed to answer. As I had mentioned, it had been raining all day. In our Texas neighborhood, such rains drive the frogs to the roads where they are squashed to death by larger, faster, heavier cars. K-State’s next drive was eerily reminiscent of that road carnage. It was punctuated by the K-State’s running back Justin Silmon running over a hapless Horned Frog defender for a five yard touchdown. It was at that point that TCU gave up. K-State scored one more touchdown to go up 30 – 6. K-State was dominant with both Ertz and Silmon rushing for over a hundred yards. It was a disappointing performance by the Horned Frogs and much less than what I expected given the program’s recent success on a national scale.
Far be it from me to cast aspersions on scantily clad college students, but I am still amazed to see kids, male and female, wearing insufficient garb for late season games. I saw more than one miserable student shivering wet in his/her jeans and t-shirt ensembles. Remember kids, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. It may not be attractive but layering up and adding a poncho can make any type of game day weather manageable. Sometimes such wisdom only comes with age. In the end, my experience at TCU was a good one, despite the weather. It may not make the must-see list, but a visit to see the Horned Frogs is not likely to be a regretted one. Instead, it will likely be a safe and enjoyable experience in well-designed stadium.