The Horned Frogs came to Atlanta with a chip on their collective shoulders after their omission from the College Football Playoff field. They legitimized their grievance with a statement win over an SEC opponent at the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
We won’t know for sure until tomorrow, when the two national semifinals take place at the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, whether the top four will be rendered worthy by the play on the field. What we do know is that, for 60 minutes in the Georgia Dome, TCU made a compelling argument that the CFP selection committee might have made a massive oversight in moving Gary Patterson’s team from third to sixth in its final standings. Against Ole Miss on Wednesday, TCU dominated offensively and defensively to secure a 42-3 blowout in the first of this year’s New Year’s Six bowl games.
A trick play opened the floodgates just one minute into the bowl game, as wide receiver Kolby Listenbee hit tailback Aaron Green with a 31-yard pass for a 7-0 lead. Green added a second touchdown on the ground less than eight minutes later, and the Horned Frogs were up 14-0 after one quarter. TCU added two more touchdowns before halftime, and the result against the Rebels was never really in question.
TCU’s defense held Ole Miss to just four first downs in the opening half, and Hugh Freeze’s offense was unable to generate any momentum until the third quarter. Quarterback Bo Wallace had three interceptions in nine first-half drives, Gary Wunderlich missed a 52-yard field goal attempt, and the team was forced to punt five teams. The Horned Frogs by no means played mistake-free football, as Trevone Boykin threw two interceptions of his own. TCU also lost a fumble when David Porter tried to flip the ball to Green on a hook-and-ladder-type play off a screen pass late in the first quarter.
The Horned Frogs, however, were better at mitigating the impact of their mistakes. Ole Miss followed up the turnovers it generated with Wunderlich’s missed field goal, with a three-and-out, and with an interception of its own to end the half. TCU’s defense prevented the Rebels from creating any sort of running game, and Freeze’s crew was held to just 59 total yards of offense in the first half. And things only got uglier when Ole Miss lost its best offensive lineman, Laremy Tunsil, to a fractured fibula in the second quarter.
The game got even uglier in the second half, as TCU needed less than two minutes to expand its lead to 42-0. Freeze pulled Wallace for freshman DeVante Kincaid after the senior went just 10-of-23 for 109 passing yards and the three interceptions. The Rebels would break the shutout with seven minutes remaining on a 27-yard Wunderlich field goal, but it did little to blemish the final result.
Ultimately, the top defense in the country was exposed, while the second-best defense clamped down and provided a vintage display of the defensive arts. Ole Miss would finish with just 129 total yards, 2.0 yards per play, and four turnovers. TCU’s numbers weren’t pretty, either, as Boykin threw for just 188 yards and had three interceptions by the end, but the Horned Frogs limited the impact of those mistakes far better than the Rebels could manage.
As a result, the Horned Frogs gained their first bowl victory over an SEC opponent since Sammy Baugh led TCU to a 3-2 victory over LSU in the 1936 Sugar Bowl. Attention now turns to the other New Year’s Six bowls, while we wonder what might have transpired for the Horned Frogs against one of the final four in the Playoff.