Golden Bowl II: #6 TCU v. #1 Alabama
TCU can’t beat Alabama. The Rose Bowl was the real national championship game. Sure, TCU looked impressive beating the tournament’s #2 seed, and are playing closer to home, but TCU is TCU and Alabama is Alabama. Alabama has the Heisman trophy winner and NFL talent up and down the field. Most people can’t name a single player on the Horned Frogs. Under the old BCS, TCU would have lost to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl – Boise State! This game is just a coronation of something everyone already knows – Alabama, holders of three legs of Da Blog’s Grand Slam, will pick up the final leg and become Golden Bowl champion. Right?
TCU returns the opening kickoff to their own 40, and gain even more yardage when Alabama gets nailed for encroachment, the second straight year the Golden Bowl starts with the SEC team being nailed for encroachment before the first play from scrimmage. Last time Stafon Johnson got nailed behind the line; this year Joseph Turner gets out-of-bounds after getting just past midfield for the first. Turner picks up another two yards before Andy Dalton floats it out to Jeremy Kerley just past the marker. But the drive stalls: Tucker gets nailed behind the line, a toss to Bart Johnson just gets back to the line of scrimmage, and another pass attempt gets batted down at the line. With the ball at the 41, the Horned Frogs elect to punt, but the punt goes into the end zone.
Trent Richardson gains 16 yards on the pitch to put the Tide right into business. Mark Ingram is not as successful, only gaining one yard on his first carry, but six on his second, but gets overthrown on a third-down pass play, forcing the Tide to punt the ball back, a play that goes from the Tide 43 to the Frog 42. Matthew Tucker gets stopped at the line of scrimmage but Turner gains three, but Dalton scrambles back to the line of scrimmage to force another punt. Richardson gets runs of two and three yards before Greg McIlroy’s first completed pass of the day is to Colin Peek for a good ten yards. Ingram only gains one yard the next play, and when he’s given the ball again it’s nullified by a holding penalty. But that’s nothing compared to when McIlroy hands the ball off to Roy Upchurch only to see him lose the ball, giving TCU the ball on the Tide 43. But Turner gains two, Tucker only gets back to the line, Dalton throws an incompletion, and TCU punts the ball into the end zone again. The defenses are stout with a little over five minutes left in the first quarter.
Ingram gets a couple of two-yard gains, with Alabama saving a fumble on the second, but a screen pass to Marquis Maze doesn’t quite get back to the line, forcing another punt and another TCU short field. Tucker is given the ball on a draw and takes it up five yards, but that’s nothing compared to what happens when the ball is given to Edward Wesley: he immediately breaks past the defense and takes it 55 yards for the touchdown. TCU 7: Florida 0.
Alabama returns the ensuing kickoff to the 23, and Richardson goes nowhere on first down, Ingram only gains six, and Upchurch is stopped after one, forcing another punt. TCU, as on the last drive, gets the ball on their own 40, and gives the ball to Turner for five yards. Wesley gains only three yards this time but it sets up Turner to cross midfield and pick up the first down. Tucker gets stopped at the line to end the quarter.
Wesley gains two to start the quarter before Dalton connects with Kerley to the 27, the furthest downfield either team has run a play. Wesley gets stuffed at the line on first down and takes it for four on second, and Jercell Fort can only get three on third. But Ross Evans comes on and lets a 37-yard field goal attempt sail through the uprights, extending the lead. Alabama returns the ensuing kickoff to the 28, and Ingram immediately picks up 11 yards and the first down. Ingram picks up one the next play, Richardson picks up six on the draw, and Ingram just picks up the first down. Upchurch gets runs of threee and four yards, but on third and three Terry Grant can only gain one, and Alabama is forced to punt again. But they did manage to cross midfield, and their punter is able to pin the Frogs at the 8.
Fort gets a big 12-yard gain to give the Frogs some breathing room, but Turner only gets two, Tucker three, and Dalton overthrows his intended receiver on third down, and the ensuing punt is returned to the Alabama 47. Grant immediately breaks out a 20-yard run to put them at the 33. After Ingram, Richardson, and Grant each inch the ball a few yards closer, it’s 4th and 3 and Leigh Tiffin comes on for a 43-yard field goal attempt. The ball slips inside the upright and Alabama is back within a touchdown. The ensuing kickoff is caught at the 7 and returned to the 37, but Wesley, Fort and Dalton gain two, two, and three respectively, and Alabama gets the ball back at the same spot as before. Ingram gets nailed for a loss of five and a pass to Julio Jones just gets back to the line, but McIlroy throws it to Jones again and he breaks out a 30-yard run to the 28. Ingram takes it another six yards but McIlroy is forced to scramble for a yard on second and has his pass batted down on third, forcing a successful 38-yard field goal to cut the deficit to four.
TCU gets an even shorter kickoff, catching it at the 14, but only take it to the 35. Tucker and Dalton only gain a yard each and Dalton gets nailed for the only sack either side had all day, and once again Alabama gets the ball past their own 40. Ingram once again sees a short gain negated by holding, then sees McIlroy overthrow him on the play that counts. Ingram gets stuffed and McIlroy unsuccessfully lobs it up on third down. Dalton uses up the remaining time with one last hail-mary pass, but the Horned Frogs still head into the break up 10-6, although Alabama seems to have the momentum.
Alabama gets the ball on their own 29 to start the second half and immediately come running out the gate, with Ingram picking up six yards the first play from scrimmage. Two runs by Richardson pick up the first down, followed by a six-yard run of his own and another first down on an encroachment penalty. But while Ingram picks up a yard, Upchurch gets nailed behind midfield to make it 3rd and 12, and McIlroy throws an incompletion to force a punt. TCU is pinned on the 18, but Dalton calls his own number for five yards, followed by a 6-yard pickup by Tucker for the first. But Wesley gets nailed behind the line, Turner only gets back to the line, and Dalton is forced to scramble, forcing another punt. The punt is only returned to the 37 but Ingram immediately picks up 5 yards. Upchurch is stopped just short of the marker, setting up Ingram for another 5-yard run to just past midfield. Maze gets a screen pass that is stopped at the line, and Richardson picks up four before Ingram bursts through for 13 yards, putting the Tide at the 32. He gains another five yards to put them inside the 30, and Grant adds another two. But the toss to Colin Peek loses a yard, which may prove crucial when the Tide try a 43-yard field goal attempt that sails to the left, keeping the deficit at four instead of one.
But Turner and Tucker don’t do much and Dalton throws another incompletion, and the ensuing punt puts the Tide just barely behind midfield. But Grant only picks up two and Ingram one, and another toss to Peek doesn’t do anything, and the ensuing punt gets returned all the way to the 20 – another wasted opportunity. Turner pounds for 11 yards but Wesley, Fort, and Turner can’t combine for another first down before the quarter ends, giving TCU fourth and one. The punt, however, is only taken to the 35.
Ingram and Richardson don’t gain much but it’s enough to create third and two after an encroachment penalty, but Ingram only gets back to the line and Alabama punts again. This time TCU gets it on their own 32. Turner picks up a yard and Fort gets nailed for a loss of three, but Dalton connects with Johnson for 14 yards and the first. Turner and Tucker once again are stuffed and Dalton throws another incompletion, forcing yet another punt – this one only returned to the 26. Ingram gets 2, Upchurch gets 5, and Grant loses 2, and the ensuing punt is taken to the 44. TCU is suddenly winning the field position battle, which is not what Alabama wants exchanging three-and-outs and behind.
Turner picks up six yards to midfield, but Tucker only gains two and Turner goes nowhere, but the Tide get the ball back at the 21. Richardson gets nailed at the 16, but Ingram’s two-yarder sets up an encroachment penalty that nullifies the loss, setting up a pass to Maze for 14 yards and the first. But after Ingram gains four, Richardson and Upchurch are stalled, and with 4:52 left Alabama punts it back to TCU, who get it at the 33. Wesley gets the ball on two draw plays bracketing an incompletion, the second for 12 yards, but Turner, Fort, and Dalton get nowhere, and Alabama gets one last chance to come back from the 26 with two minutes left.
The drive starts well, as Ingram picks up 14 immediately on a draw play that gets out of bounds. But Richardson loses three yards, and McIlroy can’t find anyone downfield and scrambles out of bounds at the line of scrimmage, setting up third and 13 with 1:43 left on the 37. Incredibly, Nick Saban returns to the run, and even after Grant is stuffed behind the line to set up fourth and 14, calls a draw play to Grant. Alabama gives the ball back with 1:36 left and two timeouts, and they use them for a heroic stop. Dalton takes off himself to gain two – timeout, 1:32 left. Wesley picks up two – timeout, 1:28 left. Fort is stopped at the line, and TCU, caught in “no man’s land”, only runs the clock down to one minute before Dalton takes the ball and is stopped at the 35, not far from where Alabama left off.
This time Saban entrusts McIlroy with the game, and he doesn’t disappoint, hitting Peek at the marker, and spiking the ball to stop the clock with 37 seconds left. McIlroy steps back, quickly throws it to Richardson… out of his reach. 31 seconds. McIlroy is forced out of the pocket and sprints out of bounds for a meaningless yard. 25 seconds, fourth and nine, ball game comes down to this play. McIlroy steps back and stays in the pocket for several seconds. Finally he throws it up to Peek…
…and over his head.
Dalton takes victory formation to seal Alabama’s doom and a stunning victory for college football’s “little guys”. Unsurprisingly for such a run- and defense-heavy game, it’s a running back that takes MVP, and Wesley gets it almost by default for by far the longest play of the game, and only touchdown. He ran the ball 10 more times for 31 more yards, but the play everyone will remember was the one that was key to the game, the only time anyone seemed to figure out the other’s defense.
Final score: TCU 10, Florida 6