In a game that saw a combined total of nine interceptions, the TCU Horned Frogs came back from a 7-0 halftime deficit to beat the Cal Bears 10-7 in overtime, at Chase Field in Phoenix. Formerly known as the Cactus Bowl, the nine interceptions broke the Cheez-It Bowl record for most interceptions in a game. The 1997 game between Arizona and New Mexico had six interceptions.
TCU coach Gary Patterson had this to say about the turnovers. "I mean, nine picks. I told some of the Cheez-It Bowl guys, some of the Yellow Jackets the other day, I said, you know, so we could give you guys great ratings, I said, what's going to happen here is we're going to come back and we're going to get the ball last and we're going to go down and kick a field goal and we're going to win. But I said we're going to win 10-9. So I was off by 2 points the other night. So you guys got your ratings."
Going into the game, the over/under was sitting at 38, which is less than half of the upcoming Alabama-Oklahoma game. So the talk was that it was going to be a low scoring affair, and by halftime it was confirmed. Cal managed to break through with 4:33 in the opening quarter when quarterback Chase Garbers ran in for the TD from four yards out. Greg Thomas added the PAT, and who knew at the time that would be it for the Golden Bear's scoring. Garber actually looked good in the opening 15 minutes, completing 10-13 for 86 yards, but the first of many interceptions to come.
The teams were tied in the interceptions department heading into quarter number two. It was a quarter that would be played outside the opponents red zones. In the first of three picks in the next five plays, started on ther first play of the quarter, as TCU quarterback Grayson Muehlstein threw his second of the game, this time to Cal's Jaylin Hawkins. On Cal's second play, the Golden Bears gave the ball back when Niko Small intercepted a Garber pass. Once again TCU gave the ball back to Cal on the second play of their drive, when Muehlstein threw the ball to Cal's Jorda Kunaszyk. The comedy of errors left the score at 7-0 at the half. It would remain that way till the endo for the third quarter, when the TCU offense finally broke through.
Sewo Olonilua, who would finish with 194 yards rushing on 32 carries, plowed his way into the end zone from one yard out in the final seconds of the third quarter to get TCU on the scoreboard. Jonathan Song added the extra point, and the game was tied at seven heading into the fourth and final quarter.
After another slow quarter for the offenses, TCU got the ball one final time in regulation, starting at their own 10, with 2:15 left. The seven play 63 yard drive put them in position to win the game. Horned Frog kicker, Jonathan Song who was 7-8 from inside the 40, but only 1-3 outside the 40, with a long of 46, stayed on the sideline, as coach Gary Patterson elected to go with junior kicker Cole Bunce. Bunce, who was 4-8, with a long of 41 came in to attempt the 44 yard field goal. After a Cal timeout, Song came on the field, but Bunce ran back out after the timeout. Bunce kicked the ball, hooking it, sending the game into overtime.
Coach Patterson said, "During bowl practices on the right hash, Cole would be pulling the ball. And guess what? They felt like that Jonathan didn't have the leg on the grass to kick it as far as we did. So then they talked me back into putting Cole back in."
TCU won the coin flip an opted to play defense first. After eight pass interceptions in regulation, it was only fitting to have one in the extra frame. Jawaun Johnson picked off a Chase Forrest pass, giving the ball back to the Horned Frogs. Instead of starting the the Bears 25, TCU was flagged for a sideline interference penalty, as Johnson was running the ball down the TCU sideline. The result of the 15 yard penalty placed the ball at the Cal 40.
The Horned Frogs kept the ball on the ground till they went back to kicker Jonathan Song, who split the uprights with the game winning kick. "This game defined our whole season, except this time we came out on top," is what coach Patterson said right after winning the game.
Cal’s Jaylin Hawkins had three INTs, breaking Kyle Theret’s 2009 record for interceptions in a Cheez-It Bowl game. The five INT's by TCU as a team broke a Cheez-It Bowl record for most INT by one team. The previous was a tie with four by Arizona (1997) and Wisconsin (1996). Something to consider on how whacky of a game it really was, is to take note that California had more punting yards (350) while their offense produced 264 yards. TCU was better having 290 yards of total offense and 268 of punting yards.
When Cal put quarterback Chase Forrest into the game, it marked the first time that two senior quarterbacks, still at their original schools, that had never started a game, played in a bowl game. The other one was TCU's Grayson Muhlestein.
Cal starting QB Chase Garber was 12-19 with 3 INT's. Backup Chase Forrest went 5-13 with 2 INT's. TCU quarterback Grayson Muehlstein was 6-19 witjh 4 INT's. Cal's season leading rusher, senior Patrick Laird rushed for 29 yards on 7 carries before leving the game with a shoulder injury. The two punters were kept busy. Cal's Steven Coutts punted 9 times with a 38.9 average, whiel Adam Nunez of TCU averaged 44.7 yards on 6 punts.
Cal, which had not played in a bowl game since 2015, ended the year at (7-6). TCU picked up their first ever bowl win in Phoenix. The Horned Frogs ended their season winning their final three games, finishing at (7-6).
TCU HORNED FROGS 10, CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS 7, Overtime
Score by Quarters- 1 2 3 4 OT - T
TCU 0 0 7 0 3 - 10
California 7 0 0 0 0 - 7
C-Garbers 4 yard run (Thomas kick)
TCU-Olonilua 1 yard run (Song kick)
TCU-Song 27 yard Field Goal