By Jay Betsill
TCU fell behind 21-3 due in no small part to quarterback Kenny Hill‘s struggles in the first half. The Horned Frogs clawed their way back to make it 21-10 going into halftime, far from the 2015 Alamo Bowl deficit when TCU trailed Oregon 31-0 before their furious 47-41 comeback win in triple OT.
“The bottom line is we need to start faster,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said after the win. “We fought back tonight.”
Hill, playing in the final game of his collegiate career that began at Texas A&M when he followed Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, put on a show in the second half, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for one and catching another.
“To come back to win with this group of guys who accepted me from the minute I came in, means everything to me,” said Hill, who set a TCU bowl record with 401 yards of total offense (314 passing, 60 rushing and 27 receiving).
Hill was named the Valero Alamo Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player.
For the second time in his career, Travin Howard was selected as the Valero Alamo Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player. Howard, also the 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP, had a team-best 10 tackles to reach double figures in stops for the 16th time in his career.
Howard added two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry. He finished the season with 108 tackles, becoming the first Horned Frog in history to top 100 stops in three consecutive seasons and his 343 tackles in his career are the most by a player in the 17-season tenure of Patterson.
After Stanford had retaken the lead, TCU drove back down the field and Cole Bunce kicked a 33-yard field goal with just over 3 minutes left to put TCU ahead for good and seal the team’s second Alamo Bowl win.
Heisman Trophy finalist Bryce Love rushed for 145 yards for Stanford, including a 69-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Love suffered a left thumb injury in the fourth quarter where he went into the medical tent and ESPN cameras showed footage of what appeared to be a laceration with blood all over his glove. Love did not return to the game for Stanford’s final drive that ended on quarterback K.J. Costello’s second interception of the game.
TCU played in the 33rd bowl game in its history and is now 16-16-1 and the Horned Frogs improved to 10-6 in bowl games with Patterson as head coach and 12-6 with him on the coaching staff.
TCU reached 11 wins for the 10th time in the last 15 seasons under Patterson and the third time in the last four years.
This was the 160th win for Patterson and the 40th win for this senior class. Over the last four seasons, TCU’s 40-13 overall record and 26-10 conference mark ranks second in the Big 12.