Monday, November 14, 2011

The Frogs' longshot road back to the BCS

Over the past couple of weeks, we've had a few crackpot posters trying to fill our heads with the insane notion that this two-loss Horned Frog team still has a shot at making a BCS bowl. Well guess what? The crackpots are right! The odds of it actually happening may be slim, but at this point you've got to at least entertain the possibility, don't you?

In order to obtain the "automatic" BCS bid set aside for teams in non-AQ conferences, TCU will need to:

1) Win their conference title.

2) Be the highest-ranked non-AQ conference champion.

3) Be ranked in the final BCS Top 12...or the final BCS Top 16 AND ahead of the lowest-ranked AQ conference champion.

If that's difficult for you to decipher, allow me to at least attempt to sort this out for you. First of all, their victory over Boise State on Saturday puts them in the driver's seat to win their third consecutive MWC title. So the Frogs can take care of requirement #1 by themselves with a win over Colorado State this coming Saturday. That would also eliminate Boise from the conversation, as they would not be conference champs.

TCU also has a fairly good chance at accomplishing requirement #3. They are ranked 19th in the current BCS standings after having been unranked last week. While jumping seven spots sounds like a tall order for a two-loss team, keep in mind that they'll likely only have to jump three spots to 16th. That's because our old friends in the Big East do not currently have anyone ranked in the BCS Top 25. And since it's not hard to imagine three teams ahead of the Frogs losing in the coming weeks, requirement #3 could be met as long as TCU takes care of business against Colorado State and UNLV.

What makes this whole scenario a longshot, though, is requirement #2. There are a few teams that could beat out the Frogs in that regard, starting with the 10-0 Houston Cougars- who are ranked 11th and currently in the catbird seat to grab this BCS spot. If they win out, they're in. Staring at UH from the other side of the CUSA standings right now, though, are our old friends from Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are 9-1 and ranked 20th, one spot behind TCU. But if Southern Miss were to take down Houston in the CUSA title game, it's likely that they would gain enough human voters and computer points to pass the Frogs.

So if you're like me and haven't given a fuck about the goings-on of Conference USA since the Frogs left following the 2004 season, get ready to watch a number of CUSA games with great interest and a new favorite team...

That's right, our neighbors from five hours to the north, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, hold the key to the Horned Frogs going to a third straight BCS Bowl. Tulsa, led by former Texas quarterback GJ Kinne (who was committed to Baylor before that), are the darkhorse candidate to win the CUSA title and play BCS spoiler to both Houston and Southern Miss along the way.

Barring an upset loss at UTEP this weekend, the Golden Hurricane would be 7-0 in conference play headed into their home game against Houston on Friday, November 25th. The winner of that would then host Southern Miss in the CUSA title game on Saturday, December 3rd. This means that a 3-0 finish by Tulsa would keep Houston or Southern Miss from winning their own conference championship- opening the door for TCU to sneak in to a possible Sugar Bowl berth.

While beating Houston and Southern Miss is a tall task for Tulsa, it's certainly not un-doable. Their three losses so far have come against #2 Oklahoma State, #5 Oklahoma and the same #10 Boise State squad that the Frogs just took down, so it's not as if they aren't prepared to play quality teams. They're also on a roll right now, having won six in a row after their 59-17 blow out of Marshall on Saturday. If you're wondering, that's the same Marshall team that beat Southern Miss. Houston also dominated the Thundering Herd, but the statistics and score differential favor Tulsa's blow out over Cougar High's.

All of this is moot if TCU falls victim to an upset bid by Colorado State and UNLV, and honestly hasn't the "BCS or Bust" mood of the past two seasons been dead since the Baylor game? It would be crazy if it all worked out, but I love that this year's hunt for a BCS Bowl will be a lot less stressful on our fans as the previous ones. Let's just all make sure to pack Amon G. Carter for these last two home games and give the Frogs as much of a home field advantage as we can in their bid for another conference title. And if you're just crazy enough of a Frog fan, you might not be the only one wearing some Tulsa gear along with your purple.

Game 10 Recap: Boise State Broncos.

Seriously, this is what TCU's plane looked like Saturday night.

Well, I was wrong. Or to be more elaborate, I was wrong, you were wrong, the experts were wrong... pretty much everyone I discussed this game with was wrong except for SnK, and I'm not sure he even believed his own prediction wholeheartedly. This was a game that could not have been more NOT in our favor. I'm typically not one to blame my team's troubles on poor officiating, but HOLY CRAP ARE YOU KIDDING ME MOUNTAIN WEST???? It was clear from the onset that Craig T and his soon to be unemployed cronies wanted their one BCS payday before Boise jumps far more than they wanted their integrity. It was absolutely CRIMINAL. So criminal, in fact, that Shaun King, who had been all but run out of the booth and romanced Kellen Moore at the 50 yard line, let his voice waver just enough to give the impression even he disagreed with some of the goings on.

Seriously, how many times did you count us out? I'll be honest, I did A LOT. When KM marched the Broncos down the field on their opening possession and scored with the help of a TERRIBLE personal foul call on Johnny Fobbs, I counted us out because I saw exactly how this was going to go. When Ross Evans missed that PAT, I counted us out because I knew it'd come back to haunt us later. When Ross Evans kicked the ball out of bounds with one minute left, completely shifting the momentum to the Boise sideline and giving Moore a short field, I counted us out. When Greg McCoy was flagged for the WORST PASS INTERERENCE CALL IN FOOTBALL HISTORY - PROS, HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE, MIDDLE SCHOOL, POP WARNER, AUSTRALIAN RULES, NFL EUROPE, CFL... SERIOUSLY, YOU NAME IT - I literally threw myself on the floor and was pounding my fists into the carper like a 3 year old in the throes of a tantrum.

In fact, before we go any further, let's take a look at all the ways this game was set up for us to lose.

  • The phantom penalties. Clearly, had we lost, this would've been THE topic of conversation. There were certainly plenty of them to go around, but three in particular stood out. One is the STRANGE defensive holding penalty on Ross Forrest in the second quarter on third down. On the next play, DJ Harper scored a TD. The second is a CURIOUS defensive holding call on Greg McCoy in the fourth quarter on third down. On the next play, Kellen Moore tosses a 54 yard TD bomb over his head. The third, of course, is the final PI call on McCoy. Three questionable calls. Three flags that, had they not flown, would've led to a fourth down, fourth down, and turnover on downs. Three flags that led immediately led to a TD, TD and, a few plays later, FG opportunity.
  • The Pachall INT. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking Pachall at all here because, as we'll touch on later, he had a pretty nice little afternoon. But the INT he threw felt DEADLY at the time and was a major first year starter mistake on a day where he looked like the only legit Heisman contender on the field. Quad coverage near the goal line. It was a rough one. I GUESS he redeemed himself later...
  • Poor clock management at the end of the first half. This was a BIG one to me at the time. All week GP had talked about how we were going to have to go into Boise and TAKE the game if we wanted to escape with a W. However, the message the coaching staff sent right before the half suggested they were fine playing it safe. I'm sure you all remember it pretty vividly, but with around 4 minutes left in the first half, TCU got the ball at their own 15. I understand that, at first, the coaching staff would want to just run the ball and give themselves better field position to pin Boise with a punt in case they forced a three and out. But we moved the ball. We moved the ball to 40 in three plays. And the clock ran... and ran... and ran. The clock ran all the way down to 30 seconds before we called a timeout. At that point there really wasn't that much to work with barring the Boise defense giving up another big pass play, which was, at least in that situation, not happening. The Frogs moved the ball into Boise territory, but the clock eventually ran out after Pachall's only sack on the day. Going into halftime I almost had the thought that we were playing scared and was terrified that that bout of conservative football might set the tone for the second half. In hindsight I suppose it was a good move because there's always that chance of turning the ball over and giving it to Boise with a short field to work with, but it just ran counter to everything we have come to expect from our coaching staff. Fortunately, they redeemed themselves later.
  • The Hicks fumble. Apologies for getting all Arkansas-y on you as I tend to do, but until Saturday when I think of, "The fumble" I think of Clint Stoerner setting the ball on the turf in Knoxville and running away from it in a move I can only explain as taking a dive for the bookies. However, had Saturday not turned out in our favor, Hicks' gaffe at the beginning of the second half would've replaced it. The commentators would say that Byron, the ultimate mouth breather, Hout forced it, but if we're being honest it was just a case of Antoine not tucking the ball away. Horrifying images of the McCoy fumble against SMU flooded my memory. Fortunately it didn't matter, but had we lost a game partially due to a first play fumble, I would've known this team was cursed.
  • Byron Hout's facemask. Look, I know stuff happens in the heat of a game, especially one with as much on the line as there was Saturday, but are the KIDDING me??? He tried to remove Casey's head like you would your little sister's Barbie doll. Ok ok, you got me, I really only wanted an excuse to post this video:

When the #5 team in the country gets that much help AT HOME where they've lost twice in 70+ games and STILL loses, you know you've truly taken over a game.

But despite all of those things, you know what's really, really weird? When Boise got a first down and moved into EASY field goal territory, the mood changed for me. I'm not sure if you noticed it, but right before the kick they showed the TCU huddle with Bumpas and GP and everyone seemed completely cool with what was going on. I can't remember who specifically, but right before they broke the huddle, Bumpas actually smiled and slapped one of our defenders on the back in a, "Screw it, Let's DO THIS!!!!" kind of way. At that moment, maybe it was unwarranted optimism, or maybe it was the booze, but I just KNEW something was going to happen to swing the game in our favor. Admittedly, I was anticipating a blocked kick rather than the most miserable shank I may have ever witnessed in any of the levels of football I mentioned above, but I GUESS I'll take it.

But whoa whoa whoa, that's pretty much putting the cart before the horse because between that Fobbs penalty and wide right, a game was played, and it was perhaps the most exciting of the entire college football year to date.

Normally in a game wrap up post I'd start slow and then build to the players that had the most impact. But for this one I'm cutting right to the chase. Before the game, Gary Patterson says he told Casey Pachall that games like these are where legends are made. However, I don't think he realized he'd be talking about himself as well. Everyone deserves their due, but there were three things that stood out to me Saturday that were the difference in the game.

First things first - Casey Pachall played perhaps the greatest game he will ever play on the college level. To refresh, he was 24/37 for a Patterson coached TCU QB record 473 yards, 5 TDs and the one pick. It's actually kind of surprising to reflect back and see that he missed 13 passes because it really did feel like he was hitting everything. I suppose it's mostly a result of him hitting everything that counted, though. The first TD pass to Boyce made me giggly because all I was thinking of was shades of Utah last year; the second one even moreso. The first Carter TD pass demonstrated the quickness and speed we all knew BC3 possessed; the second was just SILLY. And then the 2 Pt conversion was the icing on the cake because had anyone not named Casey P been running that ball in, it would've been short. Size. It's good. Casey handled himself extremely well, getting over his one fumble and the pick and leading one of the great drives in TCU history to take the lead. The Boyce pass on the two pt was a little inside, but Casey put just enough zip on it to give him a chance. It worked. Casey had TD passes of 74, 75 and 69 yards, with the other two coming from 2 and 25 yards out, respectively. If Saturday was truly a game where legends are made, then move over Will Smith, because Casey is Legend. Sorry, Matt Brown apologists. Friendly reminder, he's just a sophomore.

However, I'd be completely remiss if I gave all the credit to #4 and his new haircut, because Brandon Carter and Josh Boyce were LIGHTS OUT. Starting at the end, the 2 PT conversion. Ummm... WOW. It was not a good throw. Rewatching it, I'm actually pretty amazed Boyce came away with it at all. But to be able to catch the ball, turn, pull away from a defender that had him absolutely wrapped up and scamper in was just something else. A transcendent play from a transcendent player. Moving on, Boyce's first TD catch was slightly underthrown, but JB made a nice adjustment to get underneath the ball and high step to the end zone. His second was perfectly placed and one of the easier he'll ever score. And the third was pretty 50/50, with Pachall throwing a precise pass and Boyce making the catch, each with its own increased level of difficulty.

However, we knew those two were on the same page and should've expect anything else. But Brandon Carter... just, wow. That was some Megatron business out there. His first TD catch was a perfectly executed hitch and go route where he COMPLETELY juked the defender out of his shoes and walked into the end zone. But that second TD, the winning one? OMG. That's one we'll all remember forever, and one that will probably make OU fans want to throw up having lost him. Let's be up front about it - it was a ball that shouldn't have been thrown. Carter, all 5-11 of him, was WELL defended down the right sidelines and Pachall didn't put anywhere near enough air under the ball for him to make a play on it. No matter, Carter simply climbed an invisible ladder and wrestled the ball away from the Boise defender as he collapsed into the end zone. Touchdown. Of course it immediately brought back memories of Antoine's catch from Clemson, but clearly this one was more monumental given the circumstances. Another friendly reminder - he's a true freshman.

Moving on to my second point - how TERRIBLE was Boise's secondary?? As I mentioned in the preview - you DID read it, all of it, didn't you?? - Boise HAD one of the better pass defenses in the country. In fact, it had far outplayed their run D to that point in the season. But they certainly flipped the script Saturday. The Broncos run D held our normally outstanding ground attack to 33 yards TOTAL. But the secondary? YIKES!! I realize they had some injuries, but at times it looked like Casey was throwing against Paschal High School. I suppose it makes sense that Boise would line up to stop our run and make Pachall beat them given the way our season had played out to that point, but WOW did they fail. Our secondary didn't have an outstanding game by any means, but they looked like a damned NFL team by comparison. Going into the game, even if you thought we would win, did you think Pachall would be able to outduel Moore and outduel him badly?

Now for my third point. My third point is actually two points, one for each of GP's MASSIVE cantaloupes. Because ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? Like I said, I doubted the man a little at the end of the first half because a 6 point lead wasn't going to cut it, but going for 2? On the road? Just... yes. Just, yes. Before the game GP said he liked this game because with 2 losses he could call plays he normally wouldn't call in a different circumstance. That's exactly what he was talking about. And it was just the perfect call. The run game clearly wasn't working, so he would've been foolish to go to the ground. But running pretty much the same play to Boyce that he, barely, scored on previously along the goal line from the exact same spot? Perfect. Just perfect. Of course, I realize Fuenderson played a role, but GP has the final say and if he wanted ot play for OT, we would've played for OT. As fate would have it, he didn't, and we won. It was really almost a no win situation for him. Had he played for OT and lost, he would've second guessed himself for not going for it. Had he missed the 2 pt conversion, he would've been vilified for not giving his team a chance later. But that's what we love about Patterson. He doesn't care what anyone else thinks. He had enough confidence in himself to deal with the outcome. Fortunately it came up in his favor. Frogs 36, Boise 35 - the EXACT same score by which Boise lost their last home Conference game. On a day when all the attention was on the absence of one living legend coach going out in a blaze of disgust and dishonor, another Coach was continuing to write his own legendary script. Let's hope he keeps penning it in FW for a long, long time.

A few more scattered thoughts:
  • Despite not being able to blow open many holes for the ground game, our offensive line deserves a LOT of credit for this win as well. Casey was sacked at the end of the first half as time expired. Other than that, his jersey was kept clean. 1 sack. That's it. Led by sole returning starter Kyle Dooley, that group has come together BIG TIME as the year has progressed.
  • The Tank Carder/Kenny Cain tandem continues to hit their stride. The two combined for 15 tackles between them and assisted in holding the Broncos ground game to 126 net yards.
  • The defensive line held their own as well. Ross Forrest, David Johnson and Stansly Maponga each had a hand in sacking Broncos QB Kellen Moore. Moore was sacked three times on the day, although one was the result of tripping over a lineman. Those three guys also combied for 5.5 TFLs.
  • Greg McCoy got burned on the Broncos last TD, but can you blame him? On the previous play he was called for a TOUCHY holding penalty. You can't tell me it didn't mess with his head just a bit. The way the game was going, if any of our D backs even looked at a receiver cross they were flagged. It was a bad play, to be sure, but I'm not so certain we should vilify McCoy over it.
  • Johnathan Anderson didn't have a huge day, but he had what was easily one of the top 3 plays of the day. With Boise driving late in the fourth quarter, attempting to ice the game, Anderson laid a hit on backup Broncos RB Drew Wright that separated him from the ball and led to the winning TD drive. It wasn't a bone crushing hit or anything, but it was placed just perfectly enough to jar the ball loose and allow Ross Forrest to fall on it. It was Anderson's only tackle on the day. I'll take it.
  • The defense, overall, did a serviceable job defending Kellen Moore. He DID have 320 yards passing a 2 scores, but he's done far worst things to better defenses than ours.
  • Another big game, another rough day for Ross Evans. His missed PAT was wiped out when Pachall ran in the 2 pt conversion, but his ball out of bounds following our TD drive was just inexcuseable. He should be sending Boise's kicker a large bouquet of flowers for being just a little worse than he was.
And that's what I have. Normally I'd probably toss some accolades Boise's way, but there's really no need because those guys are still sitting pretty for a BCS bid assuming Houston loses. And that's probably fine- after all we DID lose to a vastly mediocre SMU team in our own stadjium. We don't deserve anything. The natural reaction is the second guess the start of our season by playing the, "what if?" game, but think about it: If before the season you knew we'd lose to Baylor and SMU but beat a top five, undefeated Boise team to win the Conference on the dreaded blue carpet, wouldn't you take it? I think I would, although it's easy for me to say that now since it's the reality we live in. You have to think those losses have played a role in how our season progressed, didn't you? The Baylor game showed that, no matter how far we are down, we're never out. The SMU game showed that you should never underestimate any team on the schedule and, conversely, no team should ever underestimate you. I'm not saying we wouldn't have beaten Boise without those two losses, but in a weird, unexplainable way, maybe they helped?

So where does this win rank in the scheme of things? I'd probably have my top 5 as such:

  1. Rose Bowl
  2. Boise
  3. Utah 2009
  4. Utah 2010
  5. BYU 2009
The two Utah games, and even BYU, had more on the line as all concerned teams were undefeated. But don't you think this win will define the Pachall era going forward? A sophomore QB being the one to take down the much ballyhooed Broncos on their own turf against a legit Heisman contender? Call me crazy, but I think that's going to be good for confidence going forward. The Big 12 is on alert. The future is bright for the 19th ranked TCU Horned Frogs.

Morning Dump

Patterson's preparation served Frogs well in Boise

Patterson still sees lots of TCU warts

Is TCU the best team in Texas?

Casey Pachall named national offensive player of the week

CSU's defense played well in lose to SDSU

TCU men host Austin College, try to move to 2-0

TCU women set for home opener