TCU's official entry to the Big 12 is only a month away now, and though the Big 12 has always seemed like the promised land to TCU fans the Mountain West years have been good to the Frogs. So every day until the Big 12 becomes official Frogs O' War will be counting down its staff's top ten TCU sports moments in our Mountain West tenure. Number ten was beating Oklahoma in 2005, number nine was the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, number eight was TCU's winning every Mountain West Championship in baseball, number seven was TCU's three consecutive Mountain West Championships in football and number six is the 2011 TCU/Boise State football game.
It's amazing to think that one game can salvage a season in which you lose to your two most hated rivals, but a few factors tied in together to make the upset of the 2011 season sweeter than any other.
It was supposed to be our home game. Then the Mountain West Schools we had just given two BCS bowl shares to moved it to attempt to secure one more share for themselves, resulting in a mad scramble for us to try and find any team to play at home. Taking our home game.
2010 was supposed to be our crowning season. Then an extra second in the Big 12 championship game sent us to the separate-but-equal bowl, where a fired up Boise State team fake punted it's way to victory. Taking our first BCS game.
They would have even taken our Rose Bowl bid, if not for one last second mistake.
And in just one game we made up for all of those unfortunate circumstances by taking four things from them that were just as dear. We took their home winning streak. We took their Mountain West Championship. We took their Heisman Trophy runner up finish (at worst). We took their shot at a national championship.
Things didn't exactly start off for the best, though. Boise started the game by immediately marching down the field and undrafted all-star Kellen Moore did in three minutes what he failed to do the entirety of his first two games against TCU: threw a touchdown pass. TCU followed with a quick three and out, but the defense started to pull themselves together on the next drive, getting a big negative yardage play and forcing a Boise State punt. Then this happened. One seventy four yard Pachall to Boyce special and Boise knew it was game on. A quick trade of punts, a promising Boise drive derailed by a fumble and in typical TCU fashion the frogs went to the running game. In atypical fashion, the runs were for zero and three yards, and with the Boise secondary thinking "first down pass" Ebenezer Makinde made a move to try and jump the slant he saw coming. The problem? It was a slant and go, which left Makinde on his backside and Brandon Carter running free with no Boise State players in sight. Another 70+ yard pass, 14-7 Frogs. Boise managed to answer quickly back on the ground to tie it up, but the psychological effects seemed to be creeping in to the defense as Boyce torched the bronco secondary again, getting acres of separation from the Boise corner and fairly easy long touchdown, this one 69 yards and in one half TCU had put up 20 points on the bronco defense, one less than SEC East champ Georgia managed in a full game with the broncos. Sadly, it was a 20-14 lead rather than a 21-14 lead as fan scapegoat Ross Evans missed an extra point- but that missed extra point would come back to be a very good thing by game's end. As it was, it was 20-14 TCU leading at the half, the first time Boise had trailed at halftime since 2007.
Then out of the blue (no pun intended) disaster struck, as on TCU's first offensive snap of the half Antoine Hicks was hit in the backfield, stripped of the ball and the fumble was carried into the end zone by Boise State to quickly undo all of TCU's momentum from the first half, and then the Frogs appeared to be pulling a Fiesta Bowl redux by going away from what had been working so well: the frogs picked up a quick first down by air then managed to pick up three total yards on forays into the teeth of the Bronco d-line. Boise State quickly methodically marched down the field and put up another touchdown, making the score 28-20 and putting thoughts of an upset on life support very early in the third quarter. However the game was far from over, as the frogs actually managed to gain some traction on the ground game as Waymon James came in, picking up a few first down on the ground before a quick slant to Boyce made it 28-26. With nothing to lose (a field goal would put us ahead from two points down or one point down) Patterson went for two and on a sprint to the corner by Pachall the score was tied going into the fourth quarter. Finally Moore started to assert himself, connecting on a bomb of his own, 54 yards to put up another Bronco lead and wearing the doofy grin of victory, especially after Casey made his lone mistake of the game on the next series, bailing the Broncos out of another strong TCU drive. The teams traded punts and Boise started to grind down the clock, moving slowly into TCU territory to try and ice the game when Boise's back up running back Doug Wright put the ball on the smurf turf and TCU came up with it with 2:32 left to play. Finally freed of any of coach Patterson's desires to establish the run, Casey did what he did best, moving the frogs down the field by air in chunks, knocking off a seven play drive which culminated in Brandon Carter's second touchdown catch of the day though with substantially less cushion this time. 35-34 Boise, with the point after yet to come. Coach Patterson had managed 105 victories before this game in Boise, and he had done the majority of them through conservative offensive play and a stellar defense that shut down opposing offenses, but here he was on the cusp of an upset with a kicker who had already missed an extra point once this game and a quarterback who had proven to be the best player on the field all day long. Patterson sent the offense out and jaws all around Fort Worth hit the floor.
Pachall rolled back, tossed it to Boyce where he could catch it, but short of the goal line... and Josh Boyce showed that he was not just a speed receiver, powering through the arms of a bronco defender into the end zone to give the frogs a 36-35 lead with 1:05 left to play. Kellen Moore came back onto the field one more time hoping to dash the frog's hopes one last time, but this time there wasn't enough time for fake punts and reverses, they'd have to earn it straight down the field. From the fifty after a penalty on the return, Moore threw down the middle, incomplete. Moore threw to the left, incomplete. Third down, pressure on, Moore threw to the left again, not even close. The all time wins leader in college football was absolutely blowing it, and on fourth down Moore dropped back barely avoided losing his head and hurled up an off balance prayer that sailed harmlessly over the head of his intended receiver. Ball-game. If Boise State had a played fifteen feet tall, that might have been a catchable ball, but somehow falling down at the feet of the intended receiver as the pass sails far, far overhead constitutes grounds for a flag that rivaled Miami-Ohio State in lateness, giving Boise State an undeserved first down and saving Kellen Moore from the choker tag. It was not right that TCU was about to lose this game. There was simply no way that Boise State should be bailed out of their ultimate home choke, and as Moore's fifth try finally resulted in a gain, thoughts turned back to last year, where Boise had their hearts ripped out by a pair of missed field goals. Moore centered the ball, setting things up for a thirty seven yard attempt. And wouldn't you know it. Sometimes karma kicks in, and when it does all that's left to do is wave goodbye.