TCU was one of the most unlikely 8-0 teams when Louisville came to Fort Worth for a Wednesday night game against the Frogs on November 5, 2003. They had defeated their first eight foes by a total of just 76 points, including four games decided by just 3 points apiece. Nevertheless, they were one of just two unbeaten teams left in the country at the time (OU was the other), and were ranked 13th in the country.
There was quite a bit of buzz around campus and town about this game, because it was seen as a chance for TCU to show the nation, via ESPN, that they did belong in the conversation for a potential BCS berth. The critics, of which there were many in 2003, pointed to narrow margins of victory against some less-than-stellar opponents like Tulane and UAB. But the prevailing thought was that perhpas a victory over 7-1 Louisville (who was just outside of the Top 25) in front of a rowdy crowd would help sway public opinion. Nearly all of the school's night classes were cancelled, and most students even skipped class all day. I begrudgingly went to my geology lab that afternoon in anticipation of a much hinted-at pop quiz, which failed to materialize. The anticipation level for this game wasn't near that of many games since, but at the time many people were calling this game the biggest in school history since the glory days of the '30s.
When the game finally began, the Frogs stormed out of the gate- grabbing a 14-3 lead in the first quarter on a 7-yard run by Cory Rodgers and a 30-yard pass from Brandon Hassell to Quentily Harmon. Further amping up the crowd was the hit that TCU corner Tyrone Sanders laid on Louisville's do-everything freshman Michael Bush. Sanders, all 173 pounds of him, knocked the 6-3, 247lb Bush out...and I mean OUT. I had two friends drive into town for this game- one a Texas fan and the other a Tennessee fan, both of whom marvelled at the electricity in the air at Amon Carter Stadium that night for a midweek game.
But in the second half, Louisville QB Stefan LeFors got scary good. He looked like Steve Young, evading the pass rush and finding an open receiver downfield at the last possible moment time after time. He rallied the Cardinals to tie the game at 21-21 early in the 3rd quarter, but the Frogs answered with a 44-yard field goal by Nick Browne to make it 24-21. After Louisville's Nate Smith missed a field goal, Kenny Hayter punched it in from one yard out to give the Frogs a seemingly comfortable-again lead of 31-21. But LeFors kept coming, scoring himself on a 9-yard run to make it 31-28 with 6:39 remaining.
Try as they might to put the ballgame away, the Frogs kept giving Louisville more chances. LeFors drove them into field goal range again on his next possession, only to see Smith miss a second time. The Frogs took as much time as they could off the clock, but gave the Cardinals the ball at their own 20 with 55 second remaining and no timeouts. In a stunningly horrifying sequence, LeFors completed 3 passes for 58 yards to get the Cardinals to the TCU 27 yard line with just 3 seconds remaining. Nate Smith then came on to redeem himself, as his 44-yard field goal would get the Cardinals to overtime (where it felt like they'd win in) if it were good. The snap was good, the hold was good, the kick was right down the middle, and then...
Off of the crossbar! Frogs win!!!! In the student section, I was immediately raised up off my feet by the delirious pandemonium. I'm pretty sure I landed on my head on a medal bleacher, but I can't be completely certain and I know I didn't care- it was a pretty raucous celebration. The Frogs had passed another test, were 9-0 and with the BCS squarely in their sights. There have definitely been bigger wins in the years since, but I don't know how many specific moments can match the ridiculous amount of elation that followed that missed field goal.