The Pac-12 and Big 12 are filled with numerous high-flying offenses but Cal, under Justin Wilcox, and TCU, under Gary Patterson, have hitched their wagons to playing stout defense. The two programs met in the Cheez-It Bowl on Wednesday night in Phoenix and to nobody’s surprise, the pair combined for plenty of the latter and very little of the former as the Horned Frogs snuck out of the desert with a 10-7 win in overtime.
Let’s get this out of the way: this was far from the sharpest of games this postseason and might have been one of the ugliest college football games in all of 2018. There were nine — nine! — interceptions thrown and a combined seven sacks. It took heroic efforts for either side to rise above three yards a play and the two teams had a total of 15 punts between themselves.
So yeah, it was one of those games. That said, there was plenty of entertainment for the college football masochists out there.
TCU quarterback Grayson Muehlstein, whose play ironically had helped his team into this bowl game down the stretch, had a regrettable game throwing the football: completing seven passes to his own team and throwing four to the other side, including one on an absolutely dreadful double-pass trick play in the first half. He finished the evening with just 27 yards passing and just a few more in total if we’re being generous and including the eight yards he had on scrambles.
The Horned Frogs converted just three third down attempts all game long and really would have been dead in the water if not for tailback Sewo Olonilua, who had 194 yards on the ground and powered his way to the team’s lone touchdown. Things actually went from bad to worse in the fourth quarter when Muehlstein was briefly hurt, forcing Patterson to put in Justin Rogers — an emergency move if there ever was one because the freshman has been dealing with drop-foot from an injury he suffered in high school and is not fully mobile (Rogers completed one pass for one yard and took a sack while in the game).
Things were not terribly better on the Cal side of the field offensively either. Chase Garbers started the game and went 12-of-19 for 93 yards… but threw three picks himself and was replaced by Chase Forrest (71 yards, two INTs of course). Senior running back Patrick Laird was the team’s leading rusher for most of the game but left at halftime with a shoulder injury. Chris Brown did put up a team-high 57 yards in relief but yards and points were clearly hard to come by in this one.
Listen, this was no Pitt-Oregon State Sun Bowl from eons ago that ended 3-0 or that Virginia Tech-Wake Forest game that went to overtime sans points but boy did it come close to reach that elusive plane in college football lore. TCU got the victory in the end, however ugly, and we can all tell our kids years from now that yes, we too watched the lackluster Cheez-It Bowl unfold in all it’s glory late on a Wednesday night the day after Christmas.