It’s 2021, meaning that it’s “the year” for TCU Football. March Madness was also confirmed earlier today; and the year is just, overall, looking better for TCU Athletics.
Despite the struggles and disappointments that filled 2020, the year was not absent of some pretty impressive showings by TCU athletes. Lets take a look at the top ten.
10. Nichols sets TCU single match conference assist record versus Tech
TCU Volleyball may have faired worse than any other Frog team in 2020, as they won just a single contest. Nevertheless, that one win was surely one for the ages.
In Schollmaier Arena’s first-ever volleyball match, setter McKenzie Nichols tallied a monster 64 assists, as the Frogs racked up 76 kills in a 3-2 win over Texas Tech in October.
The heart and soul of the Frogs’ offense all year, Nichols’ assist total was not only a career-high, but it also set the TCU record for most assists in a Big 12 match. The mark was also the sixth-most in program history and the most since 2004.
Needless to say, Nichols was certainly a diamond in the rough for the Frogs in a largely forgettable season.
9. Rifle boasts 13 All-America honors
It’s been said before that TCU is a rifle school, and that was no different in the spring of 2020. The Frogs finished the season 12-1 before Coronavirus canceled the NCAA Championships.
Though TCU did not get a chance to defend their 2019 national title, more than a few Horned Frogs earned recognition, as the team collected 13 All-America honors following the season.
Stephanie Grundsoee and Kristen Hemphill led the pack for TCU, earning unanimous first team honors. In total, six Frogs were honored.
The best part? Only one of TCU’s honored athletes was a senior, so 2021 could see the Frogs making another national title run.
8. Moehrig silences the Pokes
As one of the smallest schools in the Power 5, TCU often gets disrespect. This hit its peak late in the Frogs’ matchup with No. 15 Oklahoma State in November.
With just under six minutes remaining, Pokes’ signal caller Spencer Sanders was hit out of bounds near the goaline by safety Tre Moehrig on a rush that, if scored, would’ve tied the game.
Several Cowboys took offense to Moehrigs’ hit and got up in his face after the play to start chirping. Moehrig simply responded by walking away while moving his hand in the “all talk” motion.
A few plays later, Moehrig shut Oklahoma State up with a jaw-dropping one-handed interception in the back of the endzone. The Pokes then lost all momentum, as TCU earned their second win over a ranked opponent of the season.
The safety finished the game with six total tackles and two passes defended, as he reminded everyone why PFF had him ranked as one of the top defenders in college football.
Just a few days ago, Moehrig declared for the draft, and it’s moments like this one that prove that he will be just fine in the NFL.
7. Ray shuts out Minnesota at US Bank Stadium
Baseball was another sport that was cut short by the rise of Coronavirus in March (sounds like a sci-fi movie title). In fact, the Frogs knocked off No. 2 UCLA 8-4 on March 7, seemingly implying that TCU was headed back to their Omaha ways.
A few weeks prior, the Frogs had put a beat down on Minnesota in the Vikings’ US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The effort was led by redshirt sophomore Johnny Ray, who started the contest on the mound and pummeled the Gophers from the start.
Ray gave up just two hits and two walks, pitching TCU’s first complete game shutout in two years while striking out seven batters. At one point, the RHP retired 21-straight batters.
After missing the CWS two years in a row, extraordinary play by guys like Ray last season puts hope in the hearts of Frog fans that their once-dominant team can return to prominence.
6. Nembhard single-handedly takes down Iowa State
This game is one that often gets forgotten, which ticks me off; because it was, quite frankly, one of the most clutch performances I’ve ever seen.
In TCU’s Big 12 opener and first contest of 2020 on Jan. 4, the Frogs went back-and-forth with Iowa State in an all-out battle. With just a few minutes left in regulation, the game became a one-on-one matchup between guard R.J. Nembhard and now Sacramento King Tyrese Haliburton.
Haliburton would hit, then Nembhard, then Haliburton again, then Nembhard again. I kept expecting one to slow down, but they wouldn’t.
Haliburton then got fouled with eight seconds remaining, hitting both free throws to put the Cyclones up 74-71. Then Nembhard dribbled down the floor and pulled up from 30 feet, banking the heave in to send the game to overtime.
The sophomore had scored 12 of TCU’s last 14 points in the second half. He would then score four more points in overtime to help TCU win 81-79 in a thriller to start conference play.
Nembhard finished with 31 points in a Mamba Mentality like performance. This was fitting, as the guard later told me in a interview that the late Lakers legend was who he modeled his game after.
Hot take: this was actually more impressive in terms of clutch factor that Desmond Bane’s Baylor pop off. That doesn’t mean you won’t see that later on this list, though.
5. Heard and Berry get Frogs’ first-ever win in Austin
Easily the most disappointing part of coronavirus halting sports in March was that women’s basketball missed out on the March Madness ticket they had worked so hard for. They really had been so impressive all season.
In fact, women’s sports have really run TCU Athletics this year, if we’re being honest, but that’s a story for another article.
Possibly the highlight of the Frogs’ season was a 65-63 win over No. 25 Texas on January 3 that was TCU’s first win in Austin in program history.
Junior Lauren Heard was outstanding, scoring a season-high 26 points, but senior Michelle Berry was the story of the game.
The forward scored the game-winning layup with 6.7 seconds remaining to give TCU a 1-0 start to conference play. She had put together the second double-double of the year with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The game was a resounding message to the entire conference that TCU was there to stay and had a powerful duo in Heard and Berry.
4. Hollins starts “End Racism” campaign on TCU campus
Athletes are often active on social media or other platforms when fighting for causes, but they rarely organize anything concrete. That is understandable, especially when considering their busy schedule, young age, and lack of resources.
This only makes the “End Racism” campaign started by center Kelton Hollins in August more impressive. The campaign was in line with the protests that had occurred all around America following the death of George Floyd in May.
Hollins had worked with Chancellor Victor Boschini and Athletic Director Jeremiah Donati over the course of the summer to organize the painting of a mural with the words “END RACISM” on the walkway between Schollmaier Arena and Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The guard was inspired by a similar mural painted in downtown Fort Worth, and he wanted to give athletes, coaches, students, and faculty at TCU something to rally around in a fight against racism in America.
Dozens of TCU athletes came to support Hollins in the painting of the mural, with even more athletes and students signing it afterwards. The mural is still up to this day, and though Hollins has only played a handful of snaps in his five years with the Frogs, his legacy is now engrained forever on TCU’s campus.
3. Duggan topples Texas yet again
Three things are certain in this life: death, taxes, and TCU beating Texas every year. It’s become a tradition, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet.
A year ago, quarterback Max Duggan established himself as a Fort Worth celebrity by knocking off No. 15 Texas with a run that will one day be etched in the Louvre.
Well, the young signal caller did it again in October 2020; and this time, it was in Austin over the, at the time, ninth-ranked Horns.
The game began with some of the weirdest officiating ever witnessed and sloppy play on both sides. TCU was able to keep control amidst the mess and take a 20-14 lead into halftime.
Texas would then battle back and take a three-point lead with ten minutes remaining, looking to get revenge on the Frogs from the year before. Mad Max wasn’t going to let that happen, though.
Following a nice punt return by J.D. Spielman, Duggan led TCU on a five-play, 43-yard touchdown drive that was capped by his 26-yard touchdown run. Typically known as a pretty laid back guy, the sophomore high-stepped through the endzone and let out a yell in a moment that felt chillingly reminiscent of his 2019 score in the same matchup.
Duggan finished with 231 yards passing, 79 yards rushing, and two rushing scores. He had not been perfect, but his determination and grit had, once again, given Fort Worth a win to salivate on for the rest of the season.
2. Collins nails third consecutive game-winner in Big 12 title game
For the first time ever, TCU soccer won the Big 12 in November, and it was glorious.
It felt like the whole city and school was behind the team as they followed up a season-opening tie with Baylor with seven-straight wins, putting them in the Big 12 title game against West Virginia.
You know what they say, “Big time players make big time plays,” and that was ever-so true for TCU in the big game. Sophomore Grace Collins scored her third-straight game-winning goal to earn the Frogs a 1-0 victory over the Mountaineers and cement the 2020 soccer team as one for the ages.
The goal came in the 51st minute, as Collins told everyone, “I got this,” and snuck it in the upper corner. It was anything but an anomaly for the Houston native, as she was later awarded Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. She became the first Horned Frog to ever earn such honors.
For a school like TCU, Big 12 titles come few-and-far-between, and the Frogs most certainly could not have done it without the brilliance of Grace Collins.
1. Desmond Bane is “that guy” against No. 2 Baylor
I said Nembhard was more clutch, but I didn’t say his moment was more impressive. No one on TCU’s campus gained more national attention in 2020 than Desmond Bane.
Now, the dude is balling out on the Memphis Grizzlies, and it feels like he is a national icon. Ten months ago, though, he was just the standout player on a mediocre TCU basketball team.
That permanently changed on February 29, though, as Bane showed No. 2 Baylor that their pretty uniforms and national rankings were not immune from upset.
With five minutes remaining, the teams were locked at 55. Then, Bane went bezerk. First, he knocked down a three to give the Frogs the lead. Then, he hit a turnaround jumper, putting his hand down afterwards to signal that his defender was two small. At this point, Schollmaier Arena was buzzing.
Finally, Bane put Baylor’s Freddie Gillespie in a damn blender, hitting him with a nasty crossover before hitting a step back three.
The play turned the arena into a frenzy, and the Bears were forced to call time out. There were three minutes remaining, but the Frogs rushed the court to mob Bane for his unconscious play. Meanwhile, the guard was proclaiming to the crowd, “I’M LIKE THAT!”
It was a display of incredible play and overflowing swagger that has rarely been topped in the history of TCU Athletics. From that point on, it just felt like the Frogs had the game in the bag; and they did, winning 75-72.
Even Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green took notice of Bane’s performance, shouting him out on Twitter. The guard finished with a game-high 23 points to go with five boards, four assists, a steal, and a block.
Anyone else miss DBane?