FORT WORTH, Texas -- Six weeks ago, TCU quarterback Max Duggan was getting second-team reps. He lost the job out of camp and expected to play sparingly behind younger transfer Chandler Morris. But facing a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter against No. 8 Oklahoma State, Duggan never blinked.
The Frogs trailed 24-7 in the first half, and at one point were down 30-16 with just 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Duggan completed passes of 30 and 25 yards to star receiver Quentin Johnston to march down the field twice in the final minutes to force overtime.
Facing second-and-11 from the 13-yard line in double-overtime, Duggan ran a fake handoff to running back Kendre Miller. When the defensive end bit, Duggan put every bit of his body on the line, absorbing a massive hit and rumbling his way to the precipice of the goal line. Two plays later, Miller punched the ball in and the Frogs finished off a 43-40 victory to emerge as the final undefeated team in the Big 12 and new favorite to win the conference championship for the first time since 2014.
"That's the reason why you stay here," Duggan said. "That's the reason why guys want to be at TCU and play in Fort Worth. That's what college football is all about."
Duggan completed 23 of 40 passes for 286 yards, ran for 57 yards and posted three total touchdowns. Eight of those passes went to Johnston, aby CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso, for 180 yards and a touchdown. But in the biggest moments, TCU handed the ball to its one-time backup quarterback and asked him to make things happen.
Oklahoma State got out to a 14-0 lead but turtled in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys mustered just 32 total yards on 16 plays in the period, including three punts and an interception. Over the same period, Duggan threw for 107 yards to lead the comeback.
"He's just kind of symbolic a little of this football team," TCU coach Sonny Dykes said of Duggan. "We're kind of a team of overachievers in some ways. Just looking where we're projected -- and it's still early, we're only three games into conference play -- but we've won some good games and guys have played really, really hard."
TCU had never won three consecutive games against AP Top 25-ranked opponents in program history. Now it has. Even in the previous game, the Frogs had to go across town to play an emotional matchup against the school Dykes just spurned to take the TCU job: SMU. Even players are surprised that things have come together so quickly under a relatively unheralded first-year coach.
"I didn't," TCU linebacker Dee Winters admitted. "We were ranked at the bottom of the Big 12 Conference. I think that gave us some motivation that we had to prove ourselves."
The Frogs were selected No. 7 in the preseason Big 12 poll, and heprojected them for just 6.5 wins. For comparison, TCU has not won more than six games in an entire season since 2018, including zero bowl appearances in Duggan's four-year career to this point. Now, in perhaps the most rough-and-tumble Big 12 since Colt McCoy graduated, the Horned Frogs emerge from the weekend as the new favorite to win the league.
On the other sideline, it was a day of missed opportunities for Oklahoma State as the Cowboys dropped their first game of the season to fall to 5-1. Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders posted 245 yards passing, 68 yards rushing and three touchdowns in a losing effort to add to his impressive season total offense mark. But with only one completion in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma State couldn't get enough points to keep TCU at bay.
"This game is behind us," Sanders told reporters. "Nothing we can do now. We'll meet them in Arlington."