‘They talked me out of it,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “I obviously got a chance to tell them they were wrong on the headset. We got another chance and did it.”
TCU and Cal spent the night trading interceptions, turning the Cheez-It Bowl into the Cheez-INT Bowl by combining for nine interceptions, most in the bowl’s 30-year history.
TCU’s Jawuan Johnson had the final interception of the night to open overtime, nearly returning it for a pick-six.
At the end of regulation, the Horned Frogs (7-6) followed a Cal timeout by switching from Song to Cole Bunce, who hooked his 44-yard attempt wide left. TCU sent out Song again in overtime and, after another Cal timeout, opted to leave him.
The junior sent the kick straight through the uprights and the Horned Frogs rushing onto the field after a night of survival.
TCU’s Sewo Olonilua ran for 194 yards and a touchdown — one of the few offensive bright spots outside of Song’s kick.
“It was a rough day for sure. Ugly win,” said TCU quarterback Grayson Muehlstein, who threw four interceptions and had 27 yards on 7-of-20 passing. “Turned the ball over way too many times, but we managed to just hang in there and just keep fighting.”
Jaylinn Hawkins had three interceptions, breaking the Cheez-It Bowl record while earning defensive player of the game.
The Bears (7-6) just couldn’t overcome their own miscues.
Cal’s Chase Garbers threw three interceptions before being replaced by Chase Forrest, who threw two more — including the biggest one by Johnson in overtime.
“We just made too many mistakes during the game to win against a quality opponent like that,” Cal second-year coach Justin Wilcox said.
Cal had the first big play after a miscommunication between Muehlstein and Jarrison Stewart led to Hawkins’ first interception. Garbers scored two plays later on a 4-yard run .
Five more interceptions followed in the first half — one on a failed TCU trick play — and Cal led 7-0.
Garbers completed 12 of 19 passes, but had three interceptions so Cal’s coaches opted to start Forrest in the second half.
“After the first half, you have some decisions like that that,” Wilcox said. “Chase Garbers made and a couple of balls he obviously would like to have back. We felt like we needed a little bit of a spark.”
TCU left Muehlstein in at quarterback despite three first-half interceptions. Hawkins picked up his third interception of the game on the opening drive and Muehlstein was briefly replaced by true freshman Justin Rogers before returning.
The Horned Frogs finally got something going in the third quarter, scoring their only touchdown on Olonilua’s 2-yard run — a run initially ruled short before being overturned on review.
Neither team could get much going the rest of the half and the interceptions continued until Song sent his chance kick through the uprights.
“I’m glad that’s over,” Patterson said.
The Horned got in their own way all night, yet found a way to close out the season with a victory.
The Bears also couldn’t get out of their own way, suffering a defeat that will sting all offseason.
Buffalo Wild Wings was the bowl’s sponsor from 2012-13 before it became the Cactus Bowl. Cheez-It came on as the title sponsor this year and Buffalo Wild Wings couldn’t resist a little Twitter jab as the strange night wore on.
“Cal-TCU is headed to overtime, and we’ve never owed you a bigger apology,” the company tweeted.
TCU was called for a sideline interference penalty on Johnson’s overtime interception when sports information director Mark Cohen stepped onto the field to celebrate.
Patterson was not thrilled and couldn’t resist a couple of digs.
“Jiminy Christmas,” he said. “Have you guys ever known that, in 150 years of a football that the SID gets a penalty?”
TCU: Robinson transferred to Missouri, but the Horned Frogs hope to have Collins back and healthy next season. Top receiver Jalen Reagor also is a sophomore, so he should be back in 2019.
Cal: RB Patrick Laird and top linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk are seniors, but Garbers is a freshman and the offensive line is relatively young.
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