TCU rallies again, tops Kansas State to stay undefeated

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FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU continued its charmed season Saturday night with another comeback win, this time rallying from an 18-point first-half deficit to beat No. 17 Kansas State 38-28 and stay undefeated.

Under first-year coach Sonny Dykes, the No. 8 Horned Frogs (7-0, 4-0 in Big 12), who finished 5-7 last season, joined 2016 Oklahoma as the only teams in Big 12 history to win four consecutive games against opponents ranked in the AP poll. The Frogs are among six undefeated teams in the country.

After rallying from 17 points down last week to beat No. 8 Oklahoma State in double overtime, TCU became the third team in the past 20 seasons to come back from multiple 17-point deficits against ranked teams in a season.

Dykes would prefer the Frogs not dig themselves into a hole, saying the team has played tight in the first half the past two weeks, something he said he needs to get fixed. But he said he has seen confidence take hold among his team in the locker room at halftime.

“We just settled in and started playing with more confidence,” Dykes said. “I think that knowing that they could do that, having done it last week, we walked in at halftime and there was no sense of panic. I think there was a little bit of frustration from everybody because we felt like we certainly hadn’t played a great half of football, but I didn’t sense any kind of panic.”

Despite losing starting quarterback Adrian Martinez, Kansas State scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions in the first half behind Will Howard, who went 13-of-20 for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Howard was briefly knocked out of the game in the third quarter, and redshirt freshman Jake Rubley threw an interception on his only passing attempt.

After giving up 303 yards and 10.1 yards per play in the first half, the TCU defense surrendered just 87 yards and 3.8 yards per play in the second half, holding Kansas State scoreless as the Wildcats missed two field goals.

“We started to get some pressure, and as we got pressure we created some turnovers and the offense did a good job taking advantage of it,” Dykes said.

Max Duggan had another efficient performance, completing 17 of 26 passes for 280 yards and throwing touchdowns to three different receivers.

“What can you say about Max?” Dykes said. “I mean, it’s hard to put a value on how valuable he is to our team, just the toughness he brings and that never-say-die mentality and attitude just permeates the entire program. That unselfishness has kind of taken over our team.”

Kendre Miller, who ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns, said Dykes’ laid-back persona has helped the team deal with the deficits and the required second-half comebacks.

“He’s completely chill, calm,” Miller said. “I think it keeps everybody stable. If the head coach is going crazy, everybody kind of gets to panicking and stuff. He stays chill, everybody’s chill.”

Duggan said being undefeated hasn’t changed the Horned Frogs’ focus.

“No one talked about us before the season,” Duggan said. “We never listened to them. I think now when people start talking about you, you do the same thing. You don’t listen to them.”

Dykes said he has seen that approach take hold among the team.

“I’ve kind of been waiting to start hearing some talk about … conference standings or bowl games or rankings, and I just haven’t heard it ever with this group,” Dykes said. “I mean, never once. And that sounds absurd. I think the guys just have adopted that mentality of, ‘Hey, let’s just show up on Tuesday and have a good Tuesday practice.’ I think these guys kind of buy into the whole thing.”

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