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2018 Bowl Coverage

Takeaways: TCU Wins Cheez-It Bowl In Defensive Battle

This was not a game for the faint of heart. What can we takeaway from this defensive slugfest?

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Getty Images - Christian Petersen

In a game that was never short of turnovers, TCU and Cal went into overtime and ended with the Horned Frogs kicking a game-winning field goal to secure a 10-7 victory in the Cheez-It Bowl.

Cal scored in the first quarter to go up 7-0, but neither offense was able to find points until the end of the third, when the Horned Frogs tied it at 7-7. A missed TCU field goal sent the game into overtime, where the Horned Frogs would get the win with a pick and a field goal.

Below we offer some thoughts on this final game of the 2018 season for the TCU Horned Frogs (7-6).

THIS ONE LIVED UP TO ITS BILLING AS A DEFENSIVE CONTEST

This was an unbelievably defense-heavy game from the start. Cal initiated the scoring after getting the first pick of the contest at the TCU 34 yard line. The Bears would hold a 7-0 lead from just under five minutes left in the first quarter until there was a minute left in the third period.

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Throughout, there seemed to be a turnover every three minutes. There were five interceptions in the first half, and nine throughout the entire game. In the end, TCU managed to win the turnover battle when Cal’s Chase Forrest through a pick in overtime that Jawuan Johnson almost took the house.

All credit is due to both defenses – who are two of the best units in the nation – as neither quarterback really ever looked comfortable in the pocket, and both teams took advantage of some questionable decisions by the signal callers in this one.

Here are some of those picks, for your viewing pleasure:

THESE OFFENSES WERE…OFFENSIVE

Neither team was especially good on offense in this game. Both squads struggled to move the ball with any kind of consistency. Cal came out trying to get their short passing game going, and it worked somewhat early, but once TCU seemed to settle in, the Bears didn’t have any answers.

TCU would continue to throw the ball as well, but quarterback Grayson Muehlstein struggled with staring down receivers and was frequently not on the same page as some of his wideouts.

In total the Horned Frogs finished with 28 yards passing, which was less than either team had in interception return yardage – TCU’s defense had 147 yards, while the Bears notched 36. There were also more interceptions in this game than pass completions for the Horned Frogs.

Both teams also had injuries to their big playmakers. Cal’s star running back, Patrick Laird, failed to finish the game and was in street clothes by the fourth quarter. Jalen Reagor was visibly fighting through pain throughout the game, and a limping Grayson Muehlstein had to go out of the game and be replaced by a true freshman who was himself still recovering from injury.

TCU WAS THE MORE PHYSICAL TEAM IN THIS GAME

Despite the fact that Cal was the only team to get points off of any of their turnovers, the Horned Frogs won this one by controlling the ground game on both sides of the ball. TCU gave up only 3.3 yards per carry, and forced Cal to try and throw the ball to get their offense going.

On offense, the Horned Frogs didn’t begin to get anything g going on offense until they decided to run the ball on almost every down. That ended up paying off big when Sewo Olonilua starting finding creases in between the tackles and began picking up first downs.

At the end of the day, Olonilua toted the rock over 30 times and racked up 194 yards in the process. Fittingly, he was the only Horned Frog to score a touchdown in this game.

TCU did win the turnover battle 5-4, but ultimately they took control of this game on the ground.

JALEN REAGOR WAS A DIFFERENCE MAKER

Even though Cal did a good job pinning the Horned Frogs deep all day on punts, TCU was better on special teams in this game. Jonathan Song of course had the game-winning field goal that he managed to put right through the uprights from 27 yards out, and that was the only field goal of this game.

But sophomore Jalen Reagor put this team on his back with a couple of punt returns that gave the Horned Frogs prime field position. He average 23 yards per punt return on his three returns, one of which was a 58 yarder that set TCU up at the Cal 33 and led to the Horned Frogs’ only touchdown.

That return seemed to spark the TCU offense, and gave the Horned Frogs the momentum in this ball game. Cal had a slight edge with the lead up until this point, where TCU really began to show they could find ways to win.

PATTERSON’S DONE IT AGAIN

Gary Patterson is currently the longest-tenured coach in the Big 12, and it’s nothing short of amazing that he’s managed to get a team to a winning record who looked at one point like they wouldn’t make a bowl.

When the Horned Frogs lost to Kansas in late October, it was entirely believable that this squad would be one of the worst Patterson has had since joining the Big 12. This team has fought tooth and nail, however, to get a seventh win in 2018. This was a disappointing season given the high preseason expectations for TCU, but “Coach P” showed in Phoenix that his team’s not going anywhere any time soon.

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