They played 30+ freshmen. They had more than two dozen injuries. They lost their All-American receiver, their senior center and their legendary quarterback. They scraped by Kansas State and Texas Tech with last minute heroics. They were seven point underdogs. They were down 31-0 at halftime.
And TCU collectively said, “To hell with that, we have a bowl game to win.”
Behind Bram Kohlhausen’s career performance of 396 total yards (351 passing, 45 rushing), four touchdowns and immeasurable amount of guts, as well as a defense that allowed just 18 yards of offense to the Ducks in the second half, TCU tied a college football bowl record by coming back from a 31-point deficit at halftime to win 47-41 in triple overtime, and according to TCU sports information, notched the biggest comeback in school history.
The Frogs surged back as Gary Patterson entered the field wearing a new wardrobe. After starting the game in a black shirt, Patterson donned a purple TCU shirt when the second half began. His team then outscored Oregon 31-0 by the end of regulation, then beat Oregon by forcing downs in the third overtime period.
“I’m never wearing black again,” said a jubilant Patterson after the game to the laughter of several media members. “I’m trying to look thin. The heck with that.”
The mojo worked, just like it did when Patterson took the same measures in Ames when TCU was trailing Iowa State, only to make another furious comeback for the win.
TCU first got on the board after a 4 minute, 8 second drive that set up a 24-yard Jaden Oberkrom field goal, putting the game at 31-3 and giving Oberkrom the all-time Big 12 record for field goals made.
Like a snowball sliding down a mountain that turns into an avalanche, the chip shot marked just the start for the Frogs.
After a fumble that helped contribute to a Oregon three-and-out, TCU got the ball back with 8:56 remaining. The Frogs drove, but stalled the drive when they hit 4th-and-5 at Oregon’s 26. After taking the snap in the shotgun, risking it on fourth down, Kohlhausen threw a perfect spiral in the direction of Jaelan Austin in the Oregon end zone to give TCU 10 points after the extra point.
The party continued on after TCU stripped Oregon on the ensuing kickoff, and a short 7-play, 16-yard drive resulted in a Bram Kohlhausen touchdown.
With 17 points on the board, the possibility of a comeback became apparent to the fans who stuck out a 31-0 first half deficit. But to the backup quarterback, the comeback was always going to happen.
“I don’t think any one walking out of that tunnel really had a doubt about 31 points,” Kohlhausen said. “I mean, 31 points was easy.”
Patterson, who sat next to Kohlhausen when the senior quarterback said the quote, looked at him with a semi-smirking bewildered face before responding.
“I don’t know about easy,” the nine-time bowl winning coach said. “But I’m going to stick with [Kohlhausen], because he did it.”
Stick with it Kohlhausen did. After Jaden Oberkrom knocked in a 34-yard field goal and the Frogs defense forced another Ducks three-and-out, Kohlhausen led TCU on a 91-yard march which ended with Aaron Green finding pay dirt on a 2-yard scamper. A trick play gave TCU a two-point conversion as Kohlhausen handed the ball to receiver Shaun Nixon on a reverse, who chucked it to wide-open tight end Buck Jones to give TCU a 31-28 ballgame.
Following another three-and-out, the Frogs put the ball in Kohlhausen’s hands again as he fed Aaron Green five consecutive times in a seven-play drive to set up a 22-yard field goal for Jaden Oberkrom. With 19 seconds left on the clock, the Frogs had miraculously tied the game at 31.
“I think people give coaches too much credit,” Patterson said about the comeback and what he told his players in the locker room. “[I said] the same thing I always tell them. Go back to our roots.”
The three overtime periods were absolute chaos for the 64,000+ fans who attended the game, the overwhelmingly majority of them rocking TCU gear. The first overtime gave TCU its first lead with a seven-yard pass from Kohlhausen to Emmaunel Porter, which made the game 38-31. Oregon countered with a 25-yard drive ending with running back Royce Freeman finding the end zone, tying the game at 38.
The second overtime was settled with field goals, as broken up passes and good rush defense held both offenses to field goals of 44 and 46 yards (Oregon and TCU, respectively).
TCU would get the ball one last time in the third overtime, where they took broken plays and converted them into magic, chiefly with Kohlhausen’s 8-yard scramble in the open field, which gave the Frogs a 47-41 lead. With a failed two-point conversion, it was up to the defense to win the game.
And when Patterson’s involved in a defensive challenge, most TCU fans know how the story will end.
As the Oregon Ducks faced fourth-and-8 from the 23-yard line, quarterback Jeff Lockie threw a pass over the middle to Darren Carrington, only to see it be swatted away by TCU defensive back Denzel Johnson. As the crowd erupted, players began to throw off their helmets in celebration as they capped a wild and insanely difficult season with their 11th win - an Alamo Bowl victory.
“There was just a point in time this season where it seemed like nothing was going our way,” senior running back Aaron Green said, who ran for 101 yards and touchdown on 25 carries in his final TCU game. “[But] this is definitely one of my favorite years of playing football. I just love it, man.”
Patterson agreed, and testified to how much of an uphill battle he had with the adversity he faced this season. After going through a laundry list including 30+ freshmen, more than two dozen injuries, losing an All-American receiver, a senior center and a legendary quarterback, as well as scraping by for wins and coming from behind, he was pleased most of all with the way his program is run.
“We’re doing a lot of things right in our program,” Patterson said. “Knowing that we had 21 guys graduate, I think you got guys that are going to get an opportunity to leave and have degrees, go out and do something with their lives.”
Patterson went on about how he was able to teach his players about how to fight for a living, including how that battle will be fought for those men long after college football is finished.
“You get an opportunity that if you’re smart about what you do, you work hard, you work smart, you’re always going to put food on the table,” Patterson said. “I don’t think they can ask any more from a program.”
And for a program that had more setbacks than likely any other program in college football this season, the results could not be better for TCU. Despite the injuries, freshmen and every other problem that the Horned Frogs had, they still went through it. They had a bowl game to win, and even after getting into a huge hole, the Frogs never gave up.
They had a bowl game to win.
And by gosh, they won.