Having already won at Virginia and Clemson early in the season, survived a frigid upset attempt by Air Force in Colorado Springs and blown out BYU in Provo, the last big test for the 2009 Horned Frogs would finally be at home. Frog fans were already excited when they learned that Utah would be coming to Fort Worth on November 14, 2009- a Saturday, marking the first time these teams would be facing each other in a non-Thursday game- but the anticipation continued to grow as that date approached.
As the season progressed, TCU fans began to look ahead to the Utah game, realizing that by gaining a measure of revenge for the 2008 loss that the 2009 team would all but guarantee their trip to a BCS bowl. Rumors started to circulate in early October that the team would be wearing special uniforms for the game, designed by Nike. It was a date so circled in red on Fort Worth-area calendars that even GIRLS could be heard saying "eh, we'll just send them a gift" in regards to weddings unfortunately scheduled for the same day. It wasn't just sold out, it was sold out to the point of standing-room tickets going for $75 on ebay and craigslist. As if the build-up to the game couldn't be any more, ESPN decided to bring Game Day to Fort Worth for the first time ever.
I wasn't among those who got to the Game Day set early enough to be right up behind the stage, but I did wander down there to see what was an ugly, faculty-only parking lot in my days at TCU transformed into the center of the college football universe for a few hours. The atmosphere down there was ridiculous, so much so that I secretly worried if some of those rowdy fans would still have that same kind of energy when the game kicked off later that night. With that thought in mind, I went home and at least attempted to take a nap while watching some other games.
I don't recall exactly when I got to the stadium to start tailgating, but I do remember being astonished at how many people were already there. I'm usually one of the early arrivals, and even getting there earlier than normal, I walked right into a party that seemed as if it'd been going for a while. And whereas you usually can't pry some people away from the tailgate until well after kickoff (if ever...), that night the stadium was probably 75% full more than an hour before the game began.
When Jeremy Kerley fielded the opening kickoff in his own end zone, did ANYONE expect him to take a knee and settle for starting the first drive at the 20? If he had taken that kick to the house from 100+ to open the game, my brain might've just melted- so maybe it's a good thing that he only got it out to the 13. Andy Dalton took over from there, guiding TCU down to the Utah 41 in just 8 plays. That's when true freshman Matthew Tucker rumbled down the right sideline to the endzone, giving TCU a 7-0 and prompting a celebration in the east stands that was considerably more raucous than these folks in the upper deck.
On the ensuing kickoff, Tyler Lutrell DESTROYED Utah return man David Reed and Malcolm Williams recovered the ball at the Utes' 16 yard line. Unfortunately, Ross Evans missed a 26-yard field goal and a measure of momentum. Two possessions later, after a shanked Anson Kelton punt gave the Utes a short field to work with, Shaky Smithson scored on a 10-yard run to even the game at 7-7.
Dalton then went to work answering the Utes, driving the Frogs 80 yards in just 1:46 with the help of a 14-yard completion to Bart Johnson that drew an additional 15-yard face-mask penalty, a 15-yard completion to Jimmy Young and the 16-yard scoring strike to Ryan Christian on a swing pass in which Christian- the former walk on- put on display the finest jukes I have ever seen on a white boy.
Not wanting to be outdone, Jerry Hughes then made his presence felt. He combined with Wayne Daniels to stop Eddie Wide for a 2 yard loss in 1st down, made the tackle on 2nd down and then sacked Jordan Wynn on 3rd down in a 1:58 sequence that was mostly filled with the thunderous call of "Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuughes!". On 4th down, Greg Burks blocked the punt and Tanner Brock recovered it at the Utah 23. Four plays later, Jeremy Kerley scored from 3 yards out to make it 21-7 Frogs.
Hughes had a QB hurry to help force a three & out on Utah's next possession, and Kerley took the punt return 39 yards down to the Utah 29. On the first play, Dalton hit Jimmy Young for a 28 yard gain down to the one, and Antoine Hicks finished the job, putting TCU up 28-7 with 12:34 remaining in the 2nd quarter. If the route was not sufficiently on at that point, Tank Carder picked off Wynn's 2nd down pass attempt all of 46 seconds later and took it to the house, putting the Frogs up 35-7 and setting off a completely ridiculous celebration in the east stands.
During the TV timeout before the next kickoff, someone in the Amon Carter PA booth decided to take advantage of the ridiculous amount of electricity and enthusiasm in the air by blasting "Sandstorm" and causing an impromptu rave in the stands. It was a move that was pretty awesome in it's original, spontaneous form- but the attempts to recreate it since (both in the stadium and at meathead tailgates) have been fairly lame. Even so, it was a very memorable couple of minutes.
I am probably not the only one with very little memory of the game past that point. The game was OVER, and every flask in the stands was in the process of being quickly emptied. The Utes did manage to score three touchdowns in what amounted to extended garbage time, but so did the Frogs and the final was 55-28. Fans stormed the field when the game was finally over, and a browned-out Sir Wesley Willis got his picture taken with Jerry Hughes.
TCU did still had two games left, at Wyoming and against New Mexico on Senior Day, but after the Great Frogasm of 11/14/09 there was no doubt that they were FINALLY headed to the promised land of the BCS. It was a glorious, glorious day that would be very hard to top. Little did we know at the time the roller-coaster ride the team would take over the next 13 months that culminated in the #1 moment in the Gary Patterson Era- which we'll tackle tomorrow...