PHOENIX, AZ- In the 30th annual Cheez-It Bowl, formerly the Copper Bowl, the TCU Horned Frogs (7-6) battled with the Cal Golden Bears (7-6).
Luckily for TCU, on the first drive of overtime, Cal threw another interception that was nearly returned by TCU, that would have ended the game. On the ensuing drive, finally we had a winner. The Horned Frogs wore down Cal’s defense, where they would set-up a 27-yard field goal attempt from Jonathan Song that sailed through the uprights, delivering the 10-7 victory for TCU.
Coming in, both teams were battling quite the adversity. Hundreds of miles from home, battling injuries and spending time away from families during Christmas, things were setting up to be quite the interesting evening in the desert.
From the start, it was a slugfest. Two quality defensive units competing, dueling in the desert. However, TCU head coach Gary Patterson was confident in his group coming into this one, feeling his team would “win this one 10–9… I was only two points off” he chuckled.
In front of a crowd of over 33,000 people, we saw just about everything fitting for a Holiday game. (*Please feel free to sing this next part in the tune of 12 Days of Christmas) Nine interceptions, two offenses that struggled, one overtime and a sideline inter-fer-ence!
It was Cal that got on the board first when quarterback Chase Garbers capped a two-play, 34-yard drive that lasted 37 seconds, when he scrambled from four yards out to make it 7-0 after a converted PAT a little over midway through the first quarter.
Unfortunately, that was their only bright, offensive spot from the entire game, as Cal would account for five of the nine turnovers from this one.
The Golden Bears’ head coach Justin Wilcox, felt that overall, they [Cal] “just made too many mistakes during the game to win against a quality opponent like that.”
However, the second-year head coach was really proud of his players toughness and perseverance, battling through some adverse times.
Despite Garbers getting the start, eventually Cal would turn to back-up quarterback Chase Forrest to hopefully provide a spark. Even with the change, the offensive woes continued for Cal.
Things were not much prettier for TCU either. However, persistent through all of it, was TCU running back Sewo Olonilua. Perhaps surprisingly in this low-scoring affair, the bruising Junior out of Houston, TX finished the game with 194 yards on 32 carries and a touchdown that tied the game late in the third quarter.
Amidst the passing struggles for TCU, Olonilua “just knew we had to run the ball,” he stated. “That was the Game plan going in, we stuck to it, our O-line gave us some big holes and you know I just ran through them!”
Ultimately, the game came down to defense. Cal’s Jaylinn Hawkins was named the defensive MVP after breaking the bowl games’ record with three interceptions.
Even in a record setting performance, the redshirt junior safety was very complementary of his defense, especially the front seven. “It’s just the communication,” he said. “Everybody communicating, everybody being on point. That’s when big plays come, when everybody’s doing their job and everybody’s playing for each other.”
Despite the stellar performance, it was TCU that just made more plays than Cal in the end.
The Horned Frogs had a chance to win the game late, but missed a 44-yard field-goal from Cole Bunce that sent this game to overtime.
Following the win, Pattersons focus is on the future and continuing to build on the successes of his program. “For us, we need to be able to grow some guys up,” Patterson said. “ so we can play at the same level that we’ve been able to play over the last 20 years!”
Both teams will get to their off-seasons and look to continue growing and building after respectable seasons, even if the finish to 2018 wasn’t so pretty!