TCU football may not have had the most glamorous home schedule in 2017. The Horned Frogs only played host to one ranked opponent all season — an early October showdown with No. 23 West Virginia. Entering the season, it appeared far from being the most compelling matchup of the day, with Alabama-Texas A&M, Florida State-Miami, and LSU-Florida also slated for Oct. 7.
But of course, college football has a nasty habit of being ever-so unpredictable. One wild Saturday afternoon, and the entire trajectory of the season can be re-routed. From preseason No. 3 Florida State having its entire 2017 campaign derailed with a season-ending injury to quarterback Deondre Francois less than 60 minutes into the season, to LSU inexplicably falling to Troy in Death Valley, a few doses of early-season chaos all came together to benefit the Horned Frogs come Week 6.
The final result: The return of ESPN College GameDay to TCU’s campus for the first time since 2009 and a thrilling contest that went down to the wire before the Horned Frogs escaped with a 31-24 victory over the Mountaineers.
It was an unforgettable Saturday on campus, no doubt. Whether it be Lee Corso’s 300th career headgear pick (thankfully SuperFrog), Ben Banogu’s bone-crushing hit on Will Grier, or Kenny Hill recording a go-ahead touchdown
pass catch, there are plenty of moments from that afternoon that are worth re-watching.
But above anything else, it was a week-long celebration. Not just for TCU football, but for the entire institution and City of Fort Worth — one that began the moment it was announced the prior Sunday that ESPN would be setting up camp adjacent to Frog Fountain.
Excitement only built more around campus when the ESPN trucks pulled up on Thursday for set-up. The party got kick-started on Friday with on-campus festivities and a live broadcast of ESPN’s College Football Live. Many fans on hand that day never left the commons as they camped out overnight for the main event on Saturday morning — fueled by a movie marathon and some 5 a.m. donuts courtesy of Chancellor Boschini.
Lights, Camera, Action
It’s one thing to watch College GameDay on a television set, but witnessing countless fans of all ages, complete with GameDay signs and all, file into campus at an ungodly hour on a Saturday morning is something that the cameras can’t quite do justice for. An out-of-town wedding kept me from attending the broadcast that day, but I made sure to swing by campus around 5 a.m. before I caught my morning flight at DFW, and man, it was simply spectacular.
If you watched the show itself, then you know that it didn’t disappoint. Three glamorous hours of national exposure for Texas Christian University isn’t something that comes by too often, and that was before the gates had even opened at The Carter for a contest that went down to the wire, as it so often has in the TCU-West Virginia series.
A low scoring first half caught many off guard, but a TCU lead was a TCU lead, even if just 7-3. And just when it appeared the Horned Frogs were pulling away after taking 17-3 second half edge, the Mountaineers came roaring back with consecutive 60-yard plus touchdown passes from Grier to knot things at 17-apiece. But some late-game heroics from Hill ultimately propelled TCU to the win column, sealed when West Virginia came up empty on a 4th & 18 attempt with just more than a minute to play.
If you need a visual, you’re in luck. Here’s an overhead glance at how the game progressed:
No, TCU didn’t go on to win the Big 12 or the national title. But if anyone ever brings up the 2017 season, Horned Frogs fans can look back and reflect on that one Saturday afternoon that was perfectly scripted from start to end. Only some 12 schools, at best, have the chance each year to receive a visit from ESPN and a spectacular gridiron showdown all within 24 hours. The day embodied everything that college football is about. So savor it. Who knows when it may happen again.