Friday, August 19, 2011

Top Moments of the GP Era: #6

Throughout the 2003 season, the Frogs continued to escape potential loss after potential loss, getting themselves to 9-0 and ranked #10 in the polls before the last home game against Cincinnati on November 15, 2003. For the second time in four years, the Fiesta Bowl was rumored to be considering inviting the Frogs to their game, and their title sponsor Tostito's paid tribute by putting a bag of chips in every seat of Amon G. Carter Stadium. For anyone that was present, the "Chip Game" was a pretty memorable experience.

Adding to the excitement of the game was that the opponent, Cincinnati, had beaten the Frogs in the previous year's season opener- a game that many felt TCU had dominated, only to let slip away in the final moments. They were also one of three schools, along with Louisville and South Florida, that had announced earlier in the year that they were departing for the Big East, forcing TCU's hand in leaving a league that most Frog fans were happy with at the time.

Cincinnati moved the ball fairly well on the Horned Frog D on their first possession, gaining 48 yards before settling for a 49-yard field goal attempt. That kick was blocked by the Frogs, and Mark Walker scooped it up and ran it back deep into Bearcat territory. And with the first big play of the game, there went the chips. Yellow bags of chips were being tossed EVERYWHERE by fans. After a 23-yard Nick Browne field goal made it 3-0 TCU, Kenny Boyd scooped up a blocked punt and took it 6 yards to the house- giving the Frogs a 10-0 lead and sending the crowd into further snack-distributing pandemonium.

In the second quarter, the two teams traded field goals (with Cincinnati's coming from Chris Manfredini, who would later transfer to TCU) as well as touchdowns: a 56-yard bomb from Gino Guildugli to Hannibal Thomas and a 22-yard run by Brandon Hassell. It was 20-10 at halftime, keeping the excited crowd a little bit at bay, wondering if this would be another close call by the team who is probably still making cardiologists in Fort Worth wealthy.

TCU's first possession of the second half ended with punter John Braziel pinning the Bearcats at their own 4 yard line. On 3rd & 11 from the 3, Bo Schobel blew by his man and obliterated Guidugli for a safety, causing another Tostito's snowstorm. In the euphoria of the moment, however, people eventually realized that Schobel had caused a fumble the was covered by Martin Patterson. Five 'bonus' points + realizing that things are just going to go the Frogs way today = mass hysteria.

Cincinnati was done after that. The Bearcats managed just 54 yards combined over their next three drives while Nick Browne slowly built the lead, in 3-poin increments, up to 36-10. Chris Peoples picked a pass off with just over 7:00 remaining and returned it deep into Cincinnati territory, and two plays later Robert Merrill scored on a 19-yard run to finish the scoring in an emphatic 43-10 blowout that is one of the few times I've seen a TCU crowd have a real effect on an opponent. The unique added factor of the chips in the atmosphere of a team giving a huge F-U to the national media that had been hating on them all year long, while perhaps a little overrated, was truly unforgettable. It is one of the favorite afternoons I've ever spent at Amon Carter Stadium, so that's why I put it this high on the list.