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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Mac Engel

Mac Engel: TCU’s Fiesta Bowl victory was memorable torture for fans who expect to win, and lose

GLENDALE, Ariz. — TCU’s alumni totals 98,871 and there are a few who are no longer with us who would have neither believed, but have loved, every split second of what transpired on New Year’s Eve in Arizona.

Somewhere Dan Jenkins is making all of his friends laugh with a poignant whip, that somehow never snapped, about the state of Big 10 football.

Somewhere Richard Durrett is still screaming, shaking his head, grabbing whomever is close with both hands on their shoulders, and leaning two inches from their face, “We’re going to the national championship game!”

Somewhere Dr. Bill Tucker would quietly ask, “Can you believe it?”

Somewhere Jim Wacker is answering, “Unbeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelievable!”

In order, Dan Jenkins is a TCU alum who is maybe the most talented writer to ever write about sports. He died in March of 2019.

Durrett is a TCU alum who was a member of the TCU band, worked at the school’s radio station and served as the women’s basketball radio announcer, and eventually went on to write for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Morning News, had his own radio show on ESPN in DFW.

Richard died in 2014 at the age of 38, and left behind his wife and two children. When Richard died, his wife, fellow TCU alum Kelly, was pregnant and later delivered the couple’s third child.

Dr. Tucker was a TCU alum, and the school’s chancellor from 1997 to 1998; he died in the fall of 2022.

Jim Wacker was TCU’s head coach from 1983 to 1991; he’s the one who put together TCU’s first decent seasons since the late 1950s. He passed in 2003.

Those are but a few of the many TCU alums who, if they were still here, would currently join the other tens of thousands of fans who are burning through retirement savings to watch the national title game in L.A. between the No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs and the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs.

Since No. 3 TCU defeated No. 2 Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl, most, if not every single TCU fan, remains in a state of disbelief.

Unlike the fan bases from the other schools that reached the college football playoff, none of them feel the sense of nervous doom from the opening kickoff that does not end until these types of games end.

Watching these types of games for TCU fans is an exercise in self cutting, only this “fun” isn’t free.

The following is the reaction that every TCU fan felt from what was one of the most exciting college football games ever.

— 1Q 14:52: Michigan running back Donovan Edwards runs for 54 yards on the game’s first play down to the TCU 21.

Reaction: “I knew it. They really are just bigger than us. We can’t stop them from running.”

— 1Q 10:30: On fourth-and-goal from the TCU 2, Michigan’s reverse to receiver Colston Loveland was designed as a pass for quarterback J.J. McCarthy, but TCU’s defense has it covered and it ends up in a sack by Dyland Horton.

Reaction: “It’s OK. It’s all good. We’re in this!”

— 1Q 9:22: TCU defensive back Bud Clark jumps McCarthy’s pass to intercept it and returns it 41 yards for a touchdown.

Reaction: “I knew it! I knew we can play with them!”

— 2Q 4:56: TCU’s Taye Barber scores on a 6-yard pass from quarterback Max Duggan for a 21-3 lead.

Reaction: “I kept telling everyone we could win this. Book the tickets to Los Angeles right now. We are going to the national title game!”

— 2Q 00:05: TCU defensive back Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is called for pass interference on what amounted to a Hail Mary pass. Michigan hits a 59-yard field goal on the final play of the half for a 21-6 score.

Reaction: “I knew it. I knew they were going to rob us! ESPN doesn’t want us in the championship game. That’s all this is. The officials just gave them three points. God, I hate this!”

— 3Q 7:44: Duggan’s pass is intercepted near midfield. Three plays later, Michigan scores on a 34-yard touchdown pass to make the score, 21-16.

Reaction: “These officials are horrible.”

— 3Q 4:25: TCU running back Emari Demercado scores on a 1-yard touchdown run for a 28-16 lead.

Reaction: “Oh my God. We might actually win this. We’re going to win a playoff game. Honey, look for hotels in L.A.”

— 3Q 2:52: TCU linebacker Dee Winters intercepts a McCarthy pass and returns it 29 yards for a touchdown. TCU leads 34-22.

Reaction: “We’re going to beat Michigan! Call the Biltmore and get us a private room. Get us a case of champagne. The kids aren’t going to college. We’re going to the national title game instead!”

— 3Q 1:47: Michigan scores on McCarthy’s 20-yard touchdown run, and TCU leads 34-22.

Reaction: “I knew this was coming. I knew it! We can’t stop them at all. Why did we let Gary Patterson leave?!”

— 3Q 00:53: TCU’s Mercado breaks off a 69-yard run. One play later, he scores a 1-yard touchdown, and TCU leads, 41-22.

Reaction: “They can’t stop our offensive line. We’re just better than they are. They can’t deal with our speed. I’m so glad we have Sonny Dykes. Book the tickets to Los Angeles. We’re on a heater; call Southwest.”

— 3Q 00:16: TCU defensive back Millard Bradford is called for defensive holding. Two plays later, Michigan scores a touchdown. TCU leads 41-30.

Reaction: “These officials are awful. This is all because Kirk Herbstreit picked Michigan. All sports media hates TCU.”

— 3Q 00:00: On the final play of the third quarter, Demercado fumbles and Michigan recovers at the TCU 27.

Reaction: “No, I do not want a beer. I want five!”

— 4Q 14:13: Michigan’s Roman Wilson scores on an 18-yard run, and the ensuing two-point conversion makes the score TCU 41-38.

Reaction: “Programs don’t recover from blowing a game like this. We should go to the national championship game and instead we’re going to be a national joke. Cancel the flights.”

— 4Q 13:07: Under intense pressure, Duggan flips a pass underneath for receiver Quentin Johnston, who makes a defender miss and sprints down the right sideline for a 76-yard touchdown. TCU leads, 48-38.

Reaction: “OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! Book the flights!”

— 4Q 10:30: After a long punt return by Derius Davis that set up a short field, Demercado is stopped for a 2-yard loss. TCU kicker Griffen Kell hits a 33-yard field goal to make the score 51-38.

Reaction: “I can’t believe it. I really wish my dad was alive to see this.”

— 4Q 3:18: Michigan’s Wilson scores a touchdown on a 5-yard pass, and TCU leads 51-45. Michigan has all three timeouts remaining.

Reaction: “I knew it. We’re going to lose. I can’t believe it. I’m so glad my dad isn’t alive to see this.”

— 4Q 00:59: Duggan completes a 3-yard pass to Johnston, but it’s one yard short of the first down. Michigan calls its final timeout.

Reaction: “They’re going to drive the length of the field and beat us. I knew it. I knew this was going to happen.”

— 4Q 00:39: McCarthy’s pass sails high and is nearly intercepted by TCU’s Mark Perry.

Reaction: “That was the game. We’re going to blow this.”

— 4Q 00:25: After an errant snap that is picked up and lateraled by an offensive lineman, Michigan running back Donovan Edwards throws a desperate fourth down pass that is well short of the first down to end the game.

Officials, however, review the play to determine if a TCU defender was guilty of targeting on the tackle.

Reaction: “Targeting?! TARGETING! I knew it. I knew it! This all ESPN, and the overrated Big 10 making sure we don’t win. They never wanted us here, and now they are going to take this away from us.

“Kids, I’m leaving your mom and moving out when we get home. You can keep the dog.”

4Q 00:25: The referee announces there was no targeting. TCU takes over on downs, and wins the game after Duggan takes a knee on the final play of the game.

— TCU wins, 51-45.

Reaction: “OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! I knew it! I knew we could win this. No one thought we could win this but I knew we were going do it!

“Kids, we can get another dog! I’m so happy I’m here to celebrate this with all of you. I love all of you. TCU is in the national championship game! We’re going to Disneyland!”

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