Typical TCU-Boise State. Tight throughout, a chance to drive the dagger late, a turn of momentum, a lead change and a finish with one team on top by a score or less. If we played Boise State every year for a hundred years (Giving Patterson and Petersen eternal life through magic), I would honestly expect to still be tied at 50 wins each. This one wasn't the biggest game these two programs have played (the Fiesta Bowl was the biggest) and it may not have even been the best (I was at that Fort Worth Bowl and I can't remember ever seeing a better game with two more evenly matched teams), but this was the one that Boise probably wanted the most- National title dreams were still very much on the table, they were at home and their best QB in school history is in the midst of his career defining senior season. They needed this. And TCU won anyway.
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So after running around my block three times to attempt to burn off some of this incredible energy let's have a look at the game that was.
The first key play of the game was on Boise's second possession- a stop on Shoemaker on third down stopped a Boise drive early and kept the teams heads up- if Boise had gone ahead by two TDs after only two possessions then the complexion of the game changes. The stop got the players fired up, and after one Boise punt and one Pachall pass TCU had the game knotted at 7. Game on, Broncos.
In this game Pachall really showed off his exceptional arm with three touchdown throws that went for over 200 yards total, with all three deathstrikes coming in the first half. Ross Evans missed the extra point on the last of them, which would prove to be a key point later in the game, but the first half had everyone feeling Froggy as TCU took a 20-14 lead into the tunnel and would get the ball to start the second half. Then in one of the worst first play of the second half outcomes in football history, TCU was stuffed, stripped and Boise rumbled into the end zone to take a 21-20 lead without their offense touching the ball. Game on, Frogs.
Then after forcing a TCU punt Boise drove down the field once more, putting another 7 points on the board in quick succession, mixing effective runs from Harper in with highly accurate throws from Kellen Moore and the Frogs found themselves in a 28-20 hole. Pachall was utterly unfazed though, and sparked another TCU drive with another big play through the air, a 35 yard pass to James setting up an absolutely amazing touchdown catch by Boyce, losing his helmet but not control of the ball as TCU pulled to 28-26.
Two point conversion time, and Pachall took it on the bootleg, got hit by a Boise defender well short of the goal line, but dragged him over anyway in dramatic fashion. And from that point, I said out loud that TCU was going to win the ball game. Casey was not going to be denied this one. Of course, a 54 yard touchdown pass from Kellen Moore on the next Boise possession rattled me somewhat, but Pachall drove the troops calmly down into Boise territory... before throwing an interception.
Echoes of the Baylor game flashed through my mind, but unlike in that game I still had unquestioning faith in Pachall when he got the ball back. Then TCU got the ball back and... Three and out. Were the football gods just screwing me around with this? Boise drove down into TCU territory once more, but this time they weren't able to keep control of the ball and Forrest (my defensive MVP of this game) came up with the ball.
In true TCU comeback mode now, Pachall moved the ball down the field with relative ease, only facing one third down, and he delivered a fifth touchdown, which would surely cause the game to be knotted at 35.
Then despair hit me. There were gobs of time left, and Boise only had to march down and kick a field goal to win the game and send us back home to Fort Worth with nothing to show for our effort- a worst case scenario for Boise in that state? Overtime. They could play easy and loose and still be able to fall back on OT to have another shot to win the game. I started wishing that Patterson would go for two, but remembering his passivity at the end of the SMU game I didn't have even a glimmer of hope that the call would come.
Then I realized why Patterson constantly has to hitch up his pants: because he has balls of steel, and the weight of them drags his pants down over the course of the game. Patterson went for two- through the air (almost unthinkable for a defensive coach) and Pachall made a rare poor throw that Boyce corralled but was short of the end zone. Boyce manned up though, turned and moved towards the sideline, keeping his feet moving until he burst free into the end zone, and it was 36-35 TCU. No overtime today, the pressure was all on the Broncos.
And Moore didn't seem to handle it well. Three incompletions in succession is understandable and forgivable in a lot of situations, but Moore seemed to be missing by a lot more than is typical for him- he is one of the most accurate QBs in college football history, and fourth down came and went with Moore escaping pressure and sailing a throw over his stumbling wide receiver's head. Ball game. But very late, after the ball struck the turf and three heartbeats had passed, a flag came flying down. Pass interference on TCU. And then they showed the replay and I saw red. You could not give them that call. The refs were performing a disservice to both teams, the greatness of this game and the hard- yet fair nature of the rivalry by giving them that call there, and even on OBNUG a poster admitted they had gotten away with one there- an admission that the beneficiary will almost never make. Moore picked himself off the ground, and cool as ice picked up another first down, and suddenly they were knocking on our door. Boise centered the ball on the 22, and this great game was going to be won by the wrong team thanks to an awful call (visions of the 2006 NBA finals were flashing through my head at this point)... and Goodale missed it. Ball game, part 2. All's right with the world.