It was the first Saturday of October in 2014.
After a week on anticipation, it was finally time to get the show underway.
Fans filed into Amon G. Carter Stadium, decked out in white, only hoping that Big 12 play would bode a bit differently for TCU than it did a year prior.
There was hope for the Horned Frogs, sitting at 3-0, but the pains of a 4-8 season in 2013 were still fresh in the minds of many.
Still, enough with the past. This was TCU’s chance to finally “arrive” in the Big 12 as the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners rolled into Fort Worth on a crystal clear afternoon in North Texas.
And there I was, a college sophomore, positioned along the first row of the student section, as Bob Stoops, Trevor Knight, and some freshman tailback named Samaje Perine jogged out of the tunnel and over to the sidelines right below my seat. They’d soon have a prime view of a botched card-trick in the grandstands — one that turned from “Beat OU” to “Eat OU” as some fans shuffled around, trying to avoid the sun as much as they could.
The memories are still vivid, but I remember one thought quite clearly that day as the Sooners and Frogs took the field for warm-ups — the monotonous tune of “Boomer Sooner” blasting from where the Oklahoma marching band was sitting some 35 yards north of my seat.
“This size mismatch won’t be pretty for the Frogs.”
Sure, speed may have been on TCU’s side, as it soon became clear later that day. But from an initial glance, one would be hard-pressed to believe it would be enough for the Frogs to overcome the force that has dominated the Big 12 for so long. Oklahoma simply had bigger bodies in nearly every corner of the game. This was the team that had found a way past Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide the prior season in the Sugar Bowl, after all.
But hey, this is Big 12 football. For all I knew, Maybe Gary Patterson had some tricks up his sleeve for Trevone Boykin, Josh Doctson, B.J. Catalon and the rest of the TCU offense to execute during this one. After all, offense typically wins ballgames in this league more than defense.
Fast-forward to kickoff and action that ensued.
5:52 1Q | 14-0 TCU
“WE’RE GOING TO DO THE DANG THING!”
0:33 1Q | 14-14
“Okay, so Derrick Kindred probably shouldn’t have let Sterling Shepard blow past for him for a 75-yard touchdown catch but the important thing is that this is still a good ballgame.”
5:27 2Q | 21-21
“Bummer that dead-man in the end zone trick play got called back but we’ll surely have it perfected four years down the road for Ohio State.”
Halftime | 24-24
“Still a great Big 12 shootout!”
9:28 3Q | 31-24 OU
*Slightly Concerned* — “Hey, let’s not overlook the fact that we’re hanging with the team that has won eight Big 12 Championships and will probably be the league’s best shot at making the first ever College Football Playoff.”
6:48 3Q | 31-31
“Thank you, Deante’ Gray.”
14:12 4Q | 37-33 TCU
“DAWSON, WHAT A PLAY”
Indeed, only Gus Johnson could make those four simple words as legendary as they are today.
There was TCU linebacker Paul Dawson, trotting through the clear and into the end zone 41 yards later after Knight’s pass sailed right into his hands.
I present to you the film of that glorious moment that took place in the south endzone of the Carter:
The student section just about exploded. And even with the extra point going the other way for a pair of points for the Sooners, it was at the moment that everyone packed inside a sold-out Amon G. Carter Stadium realized this was no illusion.
The TCU Horned Frogs might be on their way to actually beating Oklahoma, and the new kids on the block were no pushover of a football team either.
Patterson’s defense was rising up to the occasion. Trevor Knight and the Sooners’ offense looked flustered. And hometown crowd was as into it as they’ve ever been since the Frogs got invited into the conference they were left out of some 20 years prior.
Drive-by-drive, the clock ticked away. Soon, Marcus Mallet would stop Perine on 4th and 1 and become the second linebacker to save the day in the 4th quarter. And in what seemed like the blink of an eye, Knight was suddenly forced to throw up a prayer with just 4 seconds left in regulation as everyone held their breath.
FINAL | 37-33 TCU
“LET’S RUSH THIS FIELD.”
In a matter of seconds, the field was a sea of white — players hugging strangers, strangers hugging other strangers. I may have shed a tear of happiness or two as I joined the party, still in utter disbelief of what had unfolded that afternoon. Was this even real life?
The Frogs had done it. TCU, after two years of bumps and bruises, had its signature Big 12 win. Nor was it the last, as the Frogs defeated three more ranked opponents in the regular season en route to an 11-1 finish. Just like that, TCU had gone from near irrelevancy to a legitimate playoff contender by December.
Sure, TCU may have lost a week later in a game which we will never speak of. But four years later, it’s still undeniable that this game was the launching pad for the Frogs in doing some great things as a Power 5 school. And if there’s any single moment, look no further than Dawson’s heroics on that fateful fourth quarter pass.
This is what dreams were made of.
Otherwise, who knows where we might be today.
It was a beautiful sight. Still is. And one that absolutely most certainly won’t be changing anytime soon.
What a play.