FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin finished the last game by encouraging the kicker before the game-winning field goal and apologizing to teammates in the locker room for his subpar performance.
"He was unbelievable," Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson said of the 31-30 victory over West Virginia. "He's come a long way when it's come to that. .... He did a great job with that, because nobody prompted him to do that."
Now solely a quarterback this year after time at receiver, running back and behind center his first two seasons, Boykin keeps improving — from his performance as the Big 12 leader in total offense (362 yards a game) to how he leads the playoff-contending No. 6 Horned Frogs on and off the field.
"He's the vocal leader, then he goes on the field and he plays," receiver Kolby Listenbee said. "He goes out and stands up for everybody. He apologizes when he makes mistakes. He talks to everybody. He respects everybody. ... It's cool having somebody with a personality like that that leads you. He gives everybody else confidence, so everybody else believes in him too."
After playing four ranked opponents the past five games, the Horned Frogs (7-1, 4-1 Big 12, No. 6 CFP) face their biggest test of the season Saturday night, against Big 12-leading and No. 9 Kansas State. There are implications in the races for a league title and a spot in the new four-team College Football Playoff.
"This will be the game that he'll be judged on," Patterson said of Boykin, who hasn't been made available to reporters this week.
The Wildcats (7-1, 5-0, No. 7 CFP) also happen to be the Big 12's best defense, allowing only 321 yards and 18.6 points a game. Texas and Oklahoma State combined for 456 total yards against K-State the last two weeks.
Boykin had a record seven touchdown passes in TCU's 82-point performance against Texas Tech that started to generate some Heisman Trophy buzz for the junior quarterback. But he then completed only 12 of 30 passes for a season-low 166 yards with an interception at West Virginia, though he had a big 40-yard completion to Listenbee on the final drive before Jaden Oberkrom's 37-yard field goal for the one-point win last Saturday.
"Before that final field goal, (Boykin) walked out to him, and told him we love you either way, just do your job," Patterson said.
Two years ago against K-State, Boykin went 17 of 30 for 164 yards, was sacked five times and his only touchdown pass came in the final minute as the Wildcats won 23-10 to take over the No. 1 spot in the BCS rankings.
Boykin wasn't the quarterback in last season's game, when he instead caught four passes for 25 yards, ran five times for 17 yards with a score and threw a 1-yard TD on his only pass before Kansas State won 33-31 on a field goal with 3 seconds left.
Both of those games were before the Horned Frogs switched to an up-tempo offense this season.
"The system fits Boykin. He is a very gifted athlete," Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said. "He can run the ball and do the option with it. He can do the quarterback run stuff, and he is throwing the ball extremely well and throwing it down the field.
"It just is not the short stuff. I think that is a major element in the great improvement that they have made and the progress and success that they have had this year."