Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Top Moments of the GP Era: #3

To say the 2004 season was a disappointment would be a profound understatement. The Frogs' last season in Conference USA turned into a nightmare as the defense failed week after week and the school missed a bowl game for the first time since 1997. Confidence in the football program sagged, and when the 2005 schedule was released I very clearly remember students in one of my classes laughing at the thought of how bad Oklahoma- who had played in the BCS title game in 2004- would destroy the Frogs. Little did they know that they'd all witness the rebirth of TCU football on September 3, 2005 in Norman.

To open the game, Tye Gunn led TCU on a 9-play, 47-yard drive that stalled just outside of field goal range. They settled to play the field-position game, a strategy that only really works if you're able to stop the opposing offense. They did just that, forcing Oklahoma to punt on their first possession, but the Sooners were able to down the ball at the 4 yard line, negating any field position advantage for TCU. When JeJuan Rankins returned Bryan Cortney's punt to the TCU 39 at the end of the next possession, it looks as though the Sooners were seizing the momentum, which many felt was inevitable. But six plays later, as OU quarterback Paul Thompson scrambled inside the Frogs' 5 yard line, David Roach knocked the ball from his grasp and Eric Buchanan recovered. The first quarter ended in a 0-0 tie, and all of a sudden the Frogs had some confidence.

TCU's first possession of the second quarter started at their own 16 yard line, and looked doomed early on until Gunn hit Cory Rodgers for a 12 yard gain on 3rd & 11 to keep it going. On the next play, Gunn again moved the sticks with a 14-yard gain to walk-on Derek Moore- prompting most Frog fans to rifle through their game programs to figure out who this #13 was. The momentum continued on the next play, when Donald Massey gained 32 on a reverse to get the Frogs into OU territory. Six plays after that, facing a 3rd & 12, Gunn found Moore again- this time for a touchdown to give the Frogs a 7-0 lead over the #5 team in the country.

Confidence continued to grow when OU went three & out on their next possession. Starting at their own 46, the Frogs used a 41-yard screen pass from Gunn to Lonta Hobbs to set up a field goal to give them a 10-0 lead to take into the locker room at the half. I'll never forget the looks that Frog fans in Norman were giving each other standing in line for either the concession stands or the bathrooms at halftime. Given the lack of sleep and questionable dietary intake I had been practicing so far that weekend, I was asking myself if this was real life back before that was a youtube catch-phrase.

When the second half began, Adrian Peterson and the Sooners decided to show the Horned Frogs why Oklahoma was ranked so high. They marched the ball 72 yards in 9 plays (taking up just 3:51 on the clock) to pull to within 10-7. Peterson, who had been the runner-up for the Heisman in 2004 as a freshman, had 43 of those yards on just 6 carries. Momentum had swung back in the home team's favor.

The two teams traded punts after that, and the Frogs looked to be doing that again facing a 4th & 13 from their own 28. The snap on the punt was bobbled, though, and the Frogs lost twelve yards on the play- giving the Sooners the ball on the TCU 16 yard line. The scenario could've played out a lot worse, but six plays later OU kicked a field goal to tie the game at 10-10 with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter.

After a few more stalled possessions by each team, Oklahoma got the ball back at their own 31 with 13:32 left in the game. But on 1st down, Jamison Newby broke through the offensive line and knocked the ball from OU quarterback Rhett Bomar's hands as he sacked him. David Hawthorne jumped on the loose ball, giving the Frogs the ball at the Sooner 17. Robert Merrill took care of all of those yards in 3 runs of 13, 2 and 2 yards to put the Frogs ahead for good, 17-10, with just over 11:00 remaining.

From that point, everyone in purple had their eyes on the game clock. Try as they might, the Frogs just could not take any significant amount of time off the clock in their remaining possessions. Fortunately, though, the defense held Peterson to just 5 yards on 5 carries for the rest of the game, forcing the Sooners to try to beat them through the air. They only got into TCU territory once, but Drew Coleman picked off a long pass attempt by Paul Thompson to thwart that threat. The Sooners' last chance started at their own 20 with 2:05 remaining, but Thompson could only find receivers open on short routes, and OU moved the ball just 12 yards in the first five plays. On the sixth, a desperation 4th & 8, Jared Kessler sacked Thompson to end the game and give the Frogs their first win over a Top 5 team since a victory over #1 Texas in 1961.

Not only did the nation learn that the Horned Frogs were back that day, but I think most TCU fans that were in attendance learned something about big time college football as well. It was only the second time that Oklahoma had lost at home under Bob Stoops, and yet their fans were humble and gracious in defeat- just as friendly after the game as they were beforehand. The Sooners haven't lost at home against since, giving Patterson and the Frogs something to brag about that the Aggies, Red Raiders and Bears cannot. Despite the horrible loss the following week, the win still catapulted the Frogs to an 11-1 season that saw them finish in the Top 10 (#9 in the coaches poll) for the first time since 1959.


ThunderFrog said...

Definitely one of my favorite TCU football experiences. I was a Freshman at this game, and it was of course the first TCU game I had been to as a Frog. I am originally an Oklahoman, and grew up in an Okie State family, so I already had a pretty good hatred of all things OU. But, I wasn't really sure how good the Frogs were gonna be. That summer my uncle, a big-time OSU guy, was talking about TCU's schedule and how we were opening the season at OU. His quote was "In what fantasy world could TCU ever beat OU in Norman?"

Ah, beating OU (something OSU has quite the difficult time doing), and getting to throw those words back at my uncle made for quite the perfect day, and the perfect baptism into TCU football. Picking between that day/game and the Rose Bowl for a favorite is pretty tough.

Rotten Arsenal said...

I just remember being able to give a huge shit eating grin to my UT Alum Father-in-Law as I said, "You're Welcome"

Lyle Lanley said...

I burned some bridges in Austin that day with the hundred or so "That wasn't so hard" texts I sent...

VikingFrog said...

I'm a bad fan, because I just can't forget The game that followed, so much that it's stench can still be smelled when basking in the victory of this game.