ARLINGTON, Texas. TCU’s #3 2022 Unforgettable Season was defined by having its best players succeed at the most important moments in order to somehow, somehow, survive in the end. Perhaps that’s why Horned Frogs quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender Max Duggan was in tears after his team’s 31-28 overtime loss to No. 10 Kansas in the Big 12 championship game.
After 10 games in a row without a goodbye, with possibly the busiest schedule in major college football, TCU has finally failed. It’s something that probably seemed inevitable at various points in the team’s exciting run to the college football playoffs, but it nonetheless came at a difficult time when the program’s first direct Big 12 championship was on the line.
“I want nothing more than to bring this school a championship,” Duggan said excitedly. “Today we failed. I didn’t make enough plays to help us on offense… I think what hurts the most is that you were so low before, so low. Got so close and it’s not. ”
Without Duggan, it might not have been close.
The TCU quarterback put together one of the signature individual efforts of the college football season as his team lost 28-20 with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Facing third and 15 off the TCU 30-yard line, Duggan rushed 32 yards in straight games to cross into Kansas State Territory. He then interrupted an incredible 40-yard scrimmage down the sideline to set up an 8-yard touchdown through play. Duggan then found tight end Jared Wylie, who converted a 2-point conversion to force overtime.
After running 95 yards on an 80-yard touchdown due to a penalty, Duggan collapsed to the turf, face red from exhaustion.
“Typical Max Duggan performance,” said TCU coach Sonny Dykes. “Brave, tough, played when needed. He did everything he could to give us a chance to win. Did exactly what Max does. if you don’t win the Heisman Trophy, then by all means be in the conversation.
“This guy is one of the best players in college football,” Dykes continued. – I think it’s pretty obvious.
Duggan was far from a perfect Saturday. An end zone interception late in the third quarter missed TCU’s goal opportunity and his shots were slightly higher to start the game. However, Duggan has shown how important he is to organizing one of the most unexpected seasons in Big 12 history.
Despite coming off the bench during Game 1, Duggan gained 3,000 passing yards, 400 rushing yards, and 35 touchdowns. He had four winning drives and was inches away from fifth. No player other than USC quarterback Caleb Williams has made more college football games this year or lifted a team that just recently missed a bowl game.
There is no doubt that Williams is a more talented player than Duggan; every school in the country wanted Williams expelled from high school and he can make any throw and he can still win the Heisman Trophy despite losing his biggest game of the year in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game. But in the fourth quarter of the Big 12 championship game, Duggan showed how critical he was of TCU’s success, sacrificing his body to the point of exhaustion. Despite playing several games without healthy versions of receiver Quentin Johnston and running back Kendra Miller, Duggan took the Frogs to 12-0.
Heisman voters, don’t discount it.
“[Max] really uplifting every time we get into some dark place, the usual ups and downs throughout a football game,” said wide receiver Quentin Johnston. “He always comes, especially on offense, like that spark.”
TCU’s attention is drawn to the 13 people who are in the future at Gaylord Texan who make up the college football playoff committee. The Frogs have been screwed before, missing out on the 2014 playoffs for missing a Big 12 title game and being eliminated in the 2017 New Year’s Six qualifiers because of it. Prayers will fly through Fort Worth, Texas, in the hope that the same fate will never happen again.
“Look, we were literally inches away from winning the game or certainly had a chance to win and the score was 13-0,” Dykes said. “I hope they see it the way I do and understand, ‘Hey look, this is a team that certainly has a pretty good resume and we deserve to be part of it. We were hoping we wouldn’t have to rely on a beauty pageant. We were hoping to kick down the door and make sure we were the Big 12 champions, and there was no discussion about that.
“Of course I’m concerned, but then again, I have faith in the committee. I know we deserve to be in it, so I guess we’ll be in it.”
Playoff status – The Frogs are most likely on the CFP field at number 3 anyway.— and Heisman’s chatter doesn’t strike Duggan as the main topic, but the latter is clearly inevitable. Even during TCU’s first loss of the season, Duggan showed the kind of game that should have taken him to at least New York.