When I found out TCU was going back to the Alamo Bowl, I was a little disappointed. Not because I don’t love San Antonio (it’s a great Texas city), not because I don’t like the bowl game itself (they put on a first class affair), and not because I wasn’t happen to see the Frogs in a well-respected game to send off a special senior class. I just felt that there was no way that we could possibly match the excitement of the Frogs’ first trip to the Riverwalk just two years prior.
But, when I found out we would be playing Stanford, and thus, it would be a family affair for me, I got a little more into it.
Many of you know that my brother-in-law works for Stanford Athletics, and we have bonded over our shared love of college football by attending several games together. I love the Cardinal, and going to games at The Farm is an amazing experience - as was watching them in the Rose Bowl. My bro has also supported the Frogs with me multiple times, and we have made it out to Boston College and Northwestern games together as well (all affiliated to our family in one way or the other). So, when my sister and he presented me with tickets to the Alamo Bowl for Christmas, I was pretty excited to watch a game with him that we were both equally as invested in.
Leading up to the game, I got to take a walk down memory lane to that insane comeback just a couple seasons prior, interviewing a handful of the many characters involved in one of the most exciting college football games in recent history for what became my favorite piece that I have ever written. I traveled to Texas from California after Christmas to meet up with my BIL, and since it was a gift from him, stayed in the Stanford hotel and sat in the Stanford section.
The first half was... not great. I was pretty bummed out by seeing TCU put forth a no-show effort for the bulk of two quarters and, frankly, getting a little annoyed by the happy fans in my section when all I wanted to do was curse and pout. It was 21-3 before I could blink, as Bryce Love ran all over the highly-touted TCU D and the connection of K.J. Costello to JJ Arcega-Whiteside produced a pair of long scores. But, we got a glimmer of hope late when Kenny Hill found the end zone from six yards out after engineering a nine play, 76 yard drive with time winding down in the half.
At halftime, in between laughing at the Stanford Band and taking a little too much joy in them mocking Whataburger, my BIL tried to make me feel better by reminding what the Frogs did after halftime the last time they were in San Antonio. But, I told him, “there’s no way that happens again - this team is not that team.” Lightning doesn’t strike twice after all, and when Gary Patterson came out IN THE SAME COLOR SHIRT I had all but given up hope.
Well... that was dumb.
The second half picked up where the first left off, with Kenny Hill getting TCU into the end zone - this time with a little trickery, as he tossed a backwards pass to former DeSoto QB great Desmon White, who flicked it back across the field, allowing Hill to follow a caravan into pay dirt from 27 yards out.
Suddenly, it was 20-16 (after a missed extra point, natch) and the momentum had shifted.
But lest things be easy, Love got loose a handful of plays later, breaking free for a 69 (nice) yard run into the end zone, and Stanford had created a little bit of a cushion, it seemed. Things got, as the kids say, “LIT” from there, as the two teams traded scores through the third, ending with the Cardinal on top 31-23.
The fourth quarter though, was all Frogs.
I have heard some loud stadiums before, and some loud TCU games. But the sound and fury that went up when Jalen Reagor hauled in that perfectly placed 93 yard bomb from Kenny Hill is something that I have only witnessed two or three times in person. It was cathartic, in a way; the promise of Reagor, who had the huge breakout game that we all knew he was capable of, mixed with the catharsis of seeing the much-maligned Hill finally hit on that picturesque deep ball that had seemed to escape him so many times over the course of his two year TCU career. That huge play was followed by another; after the Frogs took just 11 seconds to cut the lead to just two at 31-29 (the two point conversion attempt failed), the Frogs’ defense came up with a huge series. Starting on their own 31, Stanford gave the ball to Love for four yards. But, Love fumbled on the next play, driving the Cardinal all the way back to the 23, and L.J. Collier came rushing in a play later for a seven yard sack to push them back to the 16 and force a punt. Des White was ready.
White, who scored three times in that game in three different ways - a passing touchdown, a receiving touchdown, and that insane punt return - more than made up for a momentum-killing fumble earlier in the game by putting the Frogs on top for the first time all night. And though Stanford scored again, there was little doubt in the Alamodome that when TCU got the ball back, they were going to score. And fittingly, another player who had been through the ringer all season, Cole Bunce, got to kick the ball through the uprights for the final score of the night, giving TCU a 39-37 victory.
In a season full of big upsets, big comebacks, and big games, the Alamo Bowl II certainly stays in the conversation for best of the bunch. For a senior class that won a lot of games and endured a lot - on and off the field - it was the perfect way to end their TCU Football careers.