FORT WORTH, Texas — Kenny Hill kept smiling Saturday night, even after interceptions on consecutive throws in his TCU debut.
The junior transfer — almost two years removed from losing the starting job at Texas A&M — was just trying to keep the team’s spirits up despite an early deficit.
Coach Gary Patterson had a slightly different view before the 13th-ranked Horned Frogs rallied and pulled away late in a 59-41 victory over South Dakota State on Saturday night.
“I told him it wasn’t that funny,” Patterson said. “Then after they scored a couple of touchdowns, then it wasn’t that funny. It’s not about how many yards, how many touchdowns. It’s about winning.”
Hill eventually came around, accounting for five touchdowns after KaVontae Turpin sparked the Frogs with an 81-yard punt return in their 15th straight home-opening win since losing to Northwestern State — another lower-division team — in Patterson’s first year as head coach.
“I was just trying to let everybody know, like, ‘Hey man, I got you, I’m not going to make any more mistakes,'” said Hill, the son of former major league pitcher Ken Hill and a former high school standout not far from the TCU campus. “I made a mistake, but we’re about to bounce back right here.”
Playing for the first time since a 59-0 loss to Alabama in his last game with the Aggies, Hill was 33 of 49 for 439 yards with two touchdown passes, ran for three scores and converted a critical third down with a 13-yard scramble while the Frogs were up four points in the fourth quarter.
That drive ended on a 46-yard scoring pass to Taj Williams for a 52-41 lead. Williams, who had 11 catches for 158 yards, made the grab after the ball deflected several yards forward off the hands of TCU receiver Desmon White and South Dakota State linebacker Dallas Brown.
Hill’s consecutive interceptions led to a 10-point lead for the Jackrabbits of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Turpin started the recovery from the surprising second-quarter deficit with his return, sparking the Frogs to their 14th straight home win, third among Power Five schools behind Florida State and Clemson. The 5-foot-9 speedster added a 33-yard run and finished with 177 all-purpose yards.
Taryn Christion threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns — two to Jake Wieneke, who had eight catches for 196 yards.
Isaac Wallace had an 87-yard touchdown run after Makiah Slade intercepted Hill at the South Dakota State 1. Wallace finished with 112 yards rushing. Christion’s 12-yard run put the Jackrabbits ahead 17-7 after Hill’s second interception.
“I told you on Tuesday they were good players. Now they’re still good players,” Patterson said of the Jackrabbits. “We didn’t do a very good job.”
Kyle Hicks ran for two touchdowns, including a 3-yarder that put TCU ahead for good in the third quarter.
TCU: The Frogs might fall even with two teams in the top five losing (No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 5 LSU). In fact, the Frogs likely won’t be the highest-ranked team in Texas for the coming week. No. 15 Houston’s 33-23 win over the Sooners is likely to vault the Cougars into the top 10.
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE: The Jackrabbits have to feel pretty good about a fifth straight trip the FCS playoffs. A year after its first win over an FBS opponent (41-38 at Kansas), South Dakota State kept making big plays after TCU went ahead by two scores for the first time at 45-31 in the third quarter.
TCU: The fiery Patterson built his reputation on defense, and that took a hit with South Dakota State rolling up 461 yards. The Frogs sacked Christion four times, but he still had time to drop perfect passes into coverage several times. Practice won’t be fun for the Frogs this week. Still, the offense looked good without Trevone Boykin, finishing with 662 yards.
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE: The Jackrabbits open their newly renovated stadium against Drake in the first of three straight home games. The rest of the South Dakota State schedule is FCS teams.
TCU: Perhaps Arkansas was guilty of the same thing as the Frogs — peeking ahead at Week 2 as a heavy favorite in the home opener. The Razorbacks visit Fort Worth coming off a 21-20 win over Louisiana Tech. It’s the first meeting of the former Southwest Conference rivals since 1991, when Arkansas was an independent for a season after leaving the SWC to eventually join the SEC.