By Dennis J. Freeman
San Diego, CA-For the first two quarters of the 2011 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, TCU and Louisiana Tech played as if they had decided to leave their explosives offenses at home. TCU, last year’s Rose Bowl champion, came into the contest averaging nearly 42 points a game, ninth best in the nation. Louisiana Tech carried their 30 point-a-game average into the perceived one-sided matchup.
There wasn’t anything one-sided about this contest. Louisiana Tech stood toe-to-toe with TCU for four quarters and more than held their own against the Mountain West Conference champions. After a sluggish and uneventful first two quarters, TCU broke open a tight game with a big play late in the fourth quarter to defeat Louisiana Tech, 31-24 at Qualcomm Stadium, temporarily renamed Snapdragon Stadium.
“This wasn’t just about ending this season, but this was about how we are going start next season,” TCU coach Gary Patterson. “Obviously, we’ve still got some work to do. We didn’t shut them out. We didn’t score quickly.”
Through the first half of play it looked as though both teams had surrendered their potent offensive schemes to lock horns in a defensive battle. For two quarters TCU looked as though they were sleepwalking through the first half, putting up just three points on the scoreboard.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to intermission time. As Louisiana Tech marched down the field looking to extend its 10-3 lead before going into halftime, TCU woke up. TCU defensive back Greg McCoy woke up as well, picking off a Colby Cameron’s pass with less than a minute and a half remaining in the second period to give his team the break it needed to get itself out of the offensive funk it was playing.
McCoy returned the interception 24 yards and put TCU in position to tie the game. In many ways, McCoy’s theft of Cameron’s pass before halftime was a game-changer.
“I saw the momentum in my team after the interception,” said McCoy, the Poinsettia Bowl’s Defensive Player of the Game. “I was really just trying to make something happen, trying to do my job out there, and everything worked out fine. I’m glad the team could use that momentum to go score.”
TCU managed to do that when running back Ed Wesley ran seven yards for a touchdown with 26 seconds left in the second quarter. That score seemed to lift TCU from its listless play in the first half and give the team momentum headed into the third quarters.
TCU took that momentum and ran with it, at least on its first possession of the second half. Matthew Tucker’s one-yard touchdown run on the first series of the third quarter gave TCU its first lead of the game. But in the blink of an eye, Louisiana Tech snatched away TCU’s momentum, recovering a muffed punt return inside the Horned Frogs’ red zone area.
The Bulldogs tied the game at 17 when Hunter Lee busted his way through TCU’s defense to paydirt on a two-yard touchdown run. Louisiana Tech’s Quinn Giles then returned the turnover favor to TCU when he came up with his fourth interception of the season, picking off Horned Frogs’ quarterback Casey Pachall.
That turnover resulted in a 61-yard touchdown strike from Cameron to Myles White. Cameron, who set a new Poinsettia Bowl record in pass attempts, connected with Myles on a third-and-10 play to give Louisiana Tech a 24-17 lead right before the period came to a close.
TCU answered right back with a score of its own on its next series, thanks to a hard-nosed, one-yard touchdown run by fullback Luke Shivers, knotting the score at 24-24. What began as an implosion of the two team’s offenses through the first two quarters turned into a second-half scoring bonanza.
Pachall and TCU opened up their playbook to take a 31-24 advantage when he hooked up with wide receiver Skye Dawson on a 42-yard touchdown pass with less than five minutes left in the game. Dawson’s big play earned him the bowl’s Offensive Player of the Game honors.
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers sports, social and racial justice, politics, equal rights, and entertainment. Dennis has over two decades of journalism experience. He earned a degree in journalism from Howard University. “I write what I’m passionate about.”