MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) TCU's players spent the week laughing in practice, joking in team meetings, and coach Gary Patterson kept warning them about overlooking a trip to Kansas State.
They finally listened to him at halftime Saturday night.
After digging a big hole over the first 30 minutes, the second-ranked Horned Frogs responded to their coach's pleas with a spirited comeback. Trevone Boykin threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns, the second a 55-yard strike to Josh Doctson with 1:10 remaining in the game, and TCU nipped the Wildcats 52-45 to remain in the national championship hunt.
''The first half they kicked our butts, to be honest with you,'' Patterson said. ''I told our guys what it's like to come here and play and they didn't believe me. Now they believe me.''
The Horned Frogs (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) trailed 35-17 at the break, but Boykin showed the poise of a Heisman Trophy candidate. He added 124 yards and two TDs on the ground, while Aaron Green ran for 121 yards and two more scores and Doctson caught eight passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
None was bigger than his catch-and-run less than a minute after Jack Cantele had connected on a 37-yard field goal, helping Kansas State (3-2, 0-2) knot the game 45-all.
''If you want to win in this conference, you have to win on the road,'' Boykin said. ''Coming from behind shows the kind of fight we have in this team.''
The Wildcats had won 49 straight games when leading at halftime before last week's loss at Oklahoma State. Now, coach Bill Snyder's crew has lost two in a row.
''They just played very well,'' Snyder said. ''They played better defensively than we did offensively in the second half. We got a few plays, but not very many.''
Joe Hubener ran for 111 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Wildcats. But he also threw an interception that was returned 60 yards for a score early in the second half, then fumbled in the final minute, when Kansas State was trying to drive for another tying touchdown.
Charles Jones finished with 75 yards rushing and two scores for Kansas State.
''It's pretty painful to have one of the top teams in the nation on the ropes and not be able to finish,'' Wildcats defensive end Jordan Willis said. ''You can't allow big plays, especially when you have a team that can score quick.''
The Horned Frogs got off to the explosive start they wanted when Green took the opening handoff 86 yards for a touchdown. It was the fourth-longest run in TCU history, and the longest since LaDainian Tomlinson's 89-yard run against UTEP in 2000.
Kansas State marched 64 yards for an answering touchdown, the first of Hubener's scoring runs, before TCU regained the lead on Boykin's 32-yard toss to Doctson in the end zone.
The Wildcats refused to be rattled, though.
Hubener calmly led them the other way, twice converting third downs, before scampering in from 17 yards out. And after the Horned Frogs got a field goal from Jaden Oberkrom, Kansas State struck for two more touchdowns: Jones sprinted 28 yards up the middle for the first, and after Elijah Lee picked off Boykin, Hubener sneaked in from a yard out for a 35-17 halftime lead.
It was the most points TCU had allowed in a half since 2004.
Needing a spark to silence the third-largest crowd in Kansas State history, the Horned Frogs got it immediately out of the half. Derrick Kindred stepped in front of Hubener's pass and ran untouched for a touchdown, quieting what had been a roaring mob of 53,671 purple-clad fans.
''I felt like it brought a spark to our sideline,'' Kindred said. ''It gave us hope.''
The Horned Frogs trimmed the lead to 35-31 on Green's touchdown run, and 42-37 on Boykin's 14-yard run. After forcing a punt, they finally pulled ahead when Boykin took a read-option over the right side and raced untouched 69 yards for a touchdown with 6:07 left in the game.
The Wildcats quickly marched the other way, and TCU's defense was again on the ropes. But the drive stalled, and Cantele's 37-yard field goal knotted the game 45-all with 1:52 left.
Plenty of time for Boykin and Doctson to do their thing.
''The options were run, throw it or kick the field goal,'' Snyder said. ''Obviously the field goal was the wrong thing to do. That's one of those choices.''