Posted by Bryan Fischer
SAN DIEGO -- Let's face it, after two straight BCS bowls TCU wasn't exactly thrilled about ending the season well before Christmas at the Poinsettia Bowl. No matter what head coach Gary Patterson said or would have you believe, the Horned Frogs came out of the tunnel at Snapdragon Stadium uninspired and the play on the field clearly reflected as much. Penalties. Yards allowed like the opposing quarterback was named Robert Griffin III. Illegal formations. Muffed Punts. Turnovers. It wasn't the prettiest effort but considering the Horned Frogs only play in close bowl games - six of their last seven by a touchdown or less - they did just enough late to pull out a win against WAC champion Louisiana Tech.
TCU WON. The bowl was just one of four games this postseason to match up conference champions, with the Horned Frogs winning the Mountain West in their final season in the league. They had their hands full with the WAC champs largely due to their own mistakes that gave the Bulldogs extra chances before taking control on both sides of the ball in the 4th quarter. Louisiana Tech's defense played extremely well and the offense was solid but TCU just found a way to win.
HOW TCU WON: It was not a game won by TCU's trademark defense, which struggled all night with LaTech's aerial attack. The secondary had trouble against option routes and anything down the field. They played man-to-man a good portion of the night and were torched for a long Myles White touchdown that gave the Bulldogs the lead in the second half. The offense was fairly effective, with running backs Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker getting up field for some nice gains and quarterback Casey Pachall did a good job on throwing intermediate routes. Special teams were not very good at all, with Brandon Carter muffing a punt that set up a later touchdown. Still, the offense got more creative in the final quarter and that was the difference in the game.
WHEN TCU WON: After Louisiana Tech quickly took the lead late in the 3rd quarter, TCU put together an impressive 18-play, 72-yard drive to tie the game - the team's longest scoring drive of the season in terms of time off the clock and number of plays. Thanks to good pressure by the front seven, the Horned Frogs forced a three-and-out then Pachall found Skye Dawson on a 42-yard touchdown pass after rolling out on third down to take a 31-24 lead to seal the win.
WHAT TCU WON: The win gave Patterson his seventh bowl victory and as head coach of the Horned Frogs and 109th overall, tying him with Dutch Meyer as TCU's all-time winningest coach. It also gives the program their 11th win of the season and sends them off to the Big 12 with an eight game winning streak.
WHAT LOUISIANA TECH LOST: It was a great second year for head coach Sonny Dykes, turning things around after an early funk by running off seven straight wins en route to the WAC title. Any coach will say there's no such thing as a moral victory but the Bulldogs competed in every single game this season and showed they were close to a top 15 program in TCU. There's plenty to like about the effort they gave Wednesday night, even if they ultimately have to go into the offseason with an "L" in their last game.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Despite it being his first year as a full-time starter, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall set new school records for completions and yardage this season, passing Andy Dalton. Nothing will help the young team transition to Big 12 play like having an experienced signal-caller like Pachall.
FINAL GRADE: B-. There was a lot of sloppy play on both sides and plenty of missed opportunities. Given that it matched up two conference champions, one expected a close game but this was close because neither team could take advantage and deliver a knock out blow until TCU did late. It wasn't a terrible game but it wasn't a great one either.
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