No. 3 TCU football set to face No. 10 Kansas State in Big 12 Championship



Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman, left, and TCU head coach Sonny Dykes, right. TCU and Kansas State will play in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, Dec. 3. Oct. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez, File)

By Micah Pearce, Staff Writer

The No.3 TCU Horned Frogs will face the Kansas State Wildcats for a second time this season. This time, a conference title will be on the line.

“Now it’s the next game and I don’t think we’re supposed to make it a bigger deal out of it then we need to,” said quarterback Max Duggan.

Head coach Sonny Dykes and TCU finished the regular season a perfect 12-0, making Big 12 history.

The Frogs capped off their undefeated season with a 62-14 win over Iowa State last week. The Cyclones came into the game averaging 16.5 points given up per game, the lowest in the Big 12.

After TCU put up 62, the Cyclones’ average went up to 20.2. That put them in second in the Big 12 in that column. Who swooped into first?

Kansas State, with 19.4 points given up per game.

The Frogs and the Wildcats will meet for the 17th time, with each team winning eight games and losing eight games. It will be the first time they play at a neutral site: AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

The game is about 18 miles away from TCU, so it won’t be too far of a trip for any students.

“We love when they show out and be loud,” said Duggan. “We’re hoping they make the short trip over to Arlington and help us out again.”

The last time TCU faced Kansas State was this season. TCU won 38-28 after trailing by 11 at halftime. The Frogs would hold the Wildcats to 0 points in the second half.

QB Max Duggan hands the ball to RB Emari Demercado in a game against Kansas State. Saturday’s rematch against the Wildcats will be for the Big 12 Championship. Oct. 22, 2022. (Esau Rodriguez/Staff Photographer) (Esau Rodriguez)

“They’re physical, they’re disciplined and they’re not gonna to make mistakes,” said Duggan on their matchup against Kansas State earlier this season. “They got up on us early and we were able to rally because our defense played one heck of a second half.”

Safety Mark Perry said the TCU defense “took their foot off the gas” in the first half of that Kansas State game because of the quarterback change. This time, they’ll know who they’re working with and plan to “be the attacker.”

Offensive lineman Steve Avila reflected on their last matchup with the Wildcats and facing a deficit at halftime.

“No one was panicking,” he said.

The Frogs will most likely be facing quarterback Will Howard, who threw for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns in their last matchup against the Wildcats. He also had a rushing touchdown.

Howard took over the duties after Kansas State’s original starter, Adrian Martinez, left with an injury in the first quarter.

They will also have to watch out for K-State’s star running back Deuce Vaughn, who has tallied over 1,200 rushing yards. TCU’s defense kept him under 100 yards. This time, they’ll need to shut him down, like they did to Texas RB Bijan Robinson, who only rushed for 29 yards against TCU.

Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn, right, rushes for a first down as Kansas safety Marvin Grant (4) and linebacker Craig Young (15) give chase. Nov. 26, 2022, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley) (AP)

If they can hold Vaughn to a similar number, they should be able to take care of the pass defense with cornerbacks Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and Josh Newton, who both earned all-Big 12 First Team honors.

Dykes said it’s hard to beat the same team twice in a season.

“It’s a unique deal, playing against someone twice in a year,” said Dykes. “But what happened last time has no bearing of what’s gonna happen this time.”

Avila said the Frogs will have to treat Kansas State like “any other team.” The Frogs are 2-3 when they play at AT&T Stadium. The last time they played there was in 2018 against No. 4 Ohio State. They lost 40-28.

The time before that, in 2017, the Frogs lost 41-17 to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship. Dykes was on staff as an offensive analyst at the time.

Running back Kendre Miller should be playing after taking some time off with an injury. He’s been a big part of the Frogs’ success, leading the team with 1,260 yards rushing. He remembered the moment he knew this TCU team could go 12-0.

After the OU game, he knew “we really got a chance to do something special,” said Miller.

Avila had the same moment, but after the final drive in the Frogs’ win over Kansas.

“It was like a movie,” said Avila. “We huddled up and said ‘we can do this’ before the final drive.”

On Saturday, TCU will look for its first outright Big 12 Championship. The Frogs are looking to make history with with a new head coach and a Heisman contender who started the season as a backup.

Duggan lost his starting job after three seasons, but made the most of his opportunity when starter Chandler Morris got injured in the first game of the season.

Duggan has been praised for his leadership and performance on the field, but he means something more to TCU football off the field.

“When we were signing autographs after the spring game, there were kids looking for Max [Duggan],” said Perry. “He means a lot to this program and a lot to this city.”

The Frogs will kickoff against the Wildcats at 11 a.m. The game will be aired on ABC. ESPN’s pregame show GameDay will be in attendance for their third 4TCU game this season.

The Frogs are 8-1 all-time when GameDay is present and 2-0 this season. Their lone loss was against No. 4 Ohio State at AT&T Stadium in 2018.