CFB: It wasn’t just trickery that made TCU’s dream season disappear
By Gil LeBreton
GLENDALE, Ariz. — In the end, Boise State’s best trick of the night wasn’t the fourth quarter fake punt that led to its winning touchdown.
No, the Broncos’ best magic was making the No. 3-ranked team in the nation all but disappear.
Poof! There in a dizzying pile of third-and-longs went TCU’s No. 4-rated offense.
Poof! There, thanks to Boise’s Kellen Moore and Titus Young, went any hopes of a game-turning performance by TCU’s No. 1-ranked defense.
And finally, whoosh! There went the Horned Frogs’ dream of a Tostitos Fiesta Bowl victory and all the spoils that likely would have gone with it.
In the end, yes, TCU can groan that yet-another sucker play in Boise State’s signature bag of tricks—a fake punt that turned into a 29-yard pass play—was the catalyst that led to the Broncos’ 17-10 victory.
But the game should have never come down to that.
Quarterback Andy Dalton’s third pass of the night was intercepted by Boise cornerback Brandyn Thompson and returned 51 yards for a touchdown, and poof! The Frogs had dug themselves a hole that they struggled to overcome all night.
“They were moving around a lot,” Dalton said of the Boise defense. “They would be lined up in one thing and then shift their front.
“I think early on we just didn’t really know exactly what they were doing out there.”
And it showed. For the heretofore 12-0 Frogs, it was a night of worsts.
Worst offensive performance (308 yards) of the season. Worst rushing game (36 net yards). Worst field position (the TCU 26). Worst job of sacking an opposing quarterback (none).
And, truth be told, worst imitation of a nationally ranked No. 3 team.
In the interview room after the game, TCU coach Gary Patterson gave credit to the winners. Boise State raised its record to 14-0.
But given the national stage that TCU was presented, the Frogs responded with a shaky start and never seemed to recover.
It was a night when both teams had their dominating moments on defense. But the Broncos converted 6 of 18 third-down plays and kept drives alive on both of their attempted fourth downs, while TCU was a game-killing 1-of-12 on third downs.
The numbers seemed to confirm what the eyes saw, that Boise State matched—and often outplayed—TCU’s No. 1-ranked defense.
If Dalton ever found a rhythm with his pass receivers, it didn’t show.
Field position strangled the TCU offense all night. But when your running game’s longest gain of the night is nine yards and your team nets only 36, the game becomes a seemingly unending string of third-and-longs.
In the end, Boise State capitalized the best way it apparently knows how—with a cute trick play on fourth-and-nine at its own 33 with a little more than nine minutes to go in the game. Shades of the January, 2007, Fiesta victory over Oklahoma.
“Well, that’s what they expect of us, so we’re happy to deliver it,” said Boise head coach Chris Petersen.
They probably loved it back in Idaho, but there’s a gnawing feeling that the TV ratings are going to show that America wasn’t impressed with this first-ever BCS meeting of non-automatic qualifiers.
Patterson felt the game reflected the closeness of the two teams and prowess of the two defenses.
But the offenses were too inconsistent, the passes too errant. The only truly impressive offensive player on the field in the first half appeared to be Boise State receiver Titus Young. But the TCU defense adjusted to him, and Young caught only three passes for 12 yards in the second half.
Thompson, with two interceptions, was named the Fiesta Bowl’s most valuable defensive player—no arguments there.
But voters named Kyle Efaw the offensive MVP. Efaw is the tight end who caught punter Kyle Brotzman’s pass on the fake punt.
Patterson played the role of gracious loser in his post-game interview, but the mystery of what happened to his team is going to haunt him throughout the spring and summer.
“I don’t think it’s a setback at all,” he told the media. “Somebody was going to have to lose. We played a very good Boise State team tonight. We came up short.”
The Frogs had logistical issues early in the game when their coaching headsets malfunctioned, prompting Patterson to summon offensive co-coordinator Justin Fuente down to the sideline.
It wasn’t a huge deal, but the Frogs seemed unsettled by the disruption.
Add it all together, and poof!
There went the Fiesta Bowl. There went the dream of a 13-0 season.