It was wild, it has a crazy name, but in the end TCU wins the Cheez-It Bowl

TCU players after game 

PHOENIX (AP) — TCU swapped kickers after California called a timeout at the end of regulation — and missed.

Faced with a similar decision in overtime, the Horned Frogs stuck with their original kicker.

Jonathan Song delivered on his second-chance kick, ending a strange night in the desert.

Song kicked a 27-yard field in overtime after being replaced at the end of regulation, lifting TCU to a 10-7 win in an interception-filled Cheez-It Bowl on Wednesday night.

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‘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.

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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.

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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.

TCU Team Notes

* TCU posted its 15th winning season in Gary Patterson’s 18 years as TCU’s head coach.

* Patterson is 7-0 as TCU’s head coach versus Pac-12 opponents.

* TCU improved to 17-16-1 in its 34 bowl games.

* The Horned Frogs are 11-6 in bowl games with Patterson as head coach and 13-6 with him on the coaching staff.

* TCU has won 10 of its last 13 bowl games.

* TCU improved to 114-5 when allowing 17 points or less under Patterson.

* The Horned Frogs were a plus-1 in turnover margin and were plus-7 over their last five games after being a minus-12 in their opening eight contests.

* Over the last 14 seasons, TCU is 75-7 when ahead in turnover margin.

* The Horned Frogs’ 34:47-to-25:13 edge in time of possession made them 23-1, including 6-0 this season, over the last four years when leading in that area.

* Over the last five seasons, TCU’s 47-19 overall record and 30-15 conference mark rank second in the Big 12.

* Ten of the Horned Frogs’ last 11 bowl games and 12 of the past 14 have been decided by eight points or less.

* TCU is one of only 18 programs nationally to reach a bowl game in 16 of the last 18 seasons, covering Patterson’s head coaching tenure.

* Including Patterson’s three seasons (1998-00) as defensive coordinator, TCU is one of just 13 programs in the country to play in at least 19 bowl games over the last 21 seasons.

* TCU played just its third game this season outside the state of Texas.

* TCU and Cal met for the first time. The teams are scheduled for a home-and-home series in the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

* TCU played its first game in a stadium used primarily for baseball. Chase Field is the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

* TCU made its third appearance in a bowl game in Arizona, having previously played in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl and 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

* TCU’s five sacks tied a season-best from the Baylor game. The Horned Frogs have at least one sack in 67 of their last 70 games.

* TCU’s five interceptions tie for the most in a game in the 18 seasons with Patterson as head coach. The Horned Frogs also had five picks in a 2012 win at SMU. It’s the first time TCU has had five different players with an interception in a game under Patterson.

* TCU scored for the 333rd consecutive game. It’s the nation’s second-longest current streak and fourth all-time in NCAA history. The Horned Frogs haven’t been blanked since Nov. 16, 1991, at Texas (32-0).

* TCU’s team captains were Ben Banogu, L.J. Collier, Ridwan Issahaku and Lucas Niang.

* TCU wore a black jersey with purple pants and a purple helmet. It’s the second straight game for the Horned Frogs to have that look. TCU also wore that combination in the 31-24 win over Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale and last year’s Valero Alamo Bowl win over Stanford.

Individual Notes

* Sewo Olonilua was named the Cheez-It Bowl Most Valuable Player.

* Olonilua’s 194 yards rushing were a TCU bowl record and the most by a Horned Frog since Ed Wesley ran for 209 yards versus Air Force in 2010.

* Olonilua had his first career 100-yard game with his 194 yards, including a season-long 33-yard run. His 32 carries were the most since Joseph Turner had 33 carries against San Diego State in 2007.

* Olonilua’s 32 carries were the second-most in TCU bowl history, trailing only LaDainian Tomlinson’s 36 versus East Carolina in the 1999 Mobile Alabama Bowl.

* Olonilua’s 1-yard touchdown run was his second of the season and 10th of his career.

* Jonathan Song’s 27-yard game-winning field goal in overtime made him 9-of-12 on the season and 17-of-20 in his career.

* True freshman quarterback Justin Rogers made his first appearance of the season and had his first career completion.

* Adam Nunez put two punts at or inside the 10-yard line, giving him 11 punts over his last nine games at or inside the 10.

* Taye Barber had a 5-yard reception, giving him a catch in each game this season and multiple grabs in 11 contests.

* Barber is just the second Horned Frog true freshman (KaVontae Turpin, 2015) under Patterson to have a catch in each game of the season.

* Jalen Reagor had a career-long 58-yard punt return.

* Fifth-year senior and graduate student quarterback Grayson Muehlstein made his second career start.

* Tight end Carter Ware made his first career start.

* Jawuan Johnson led TCU with seven tackles, including one for a loss, and his first interception as a Horned Frog. His 72-yard return was the longest by a Horned Frog since Jeff Gladney’s 94-yard pick-6 at Texas Tech last season.

* Ty Summers had three tackles, including his 10th career sack, to give him 318 in his career and sole possession of second place for most stops in the 18-season head coaching tenure of Gary Patterson.

* Ben Banogu had sack to give him a team-best 8.5 on the season. He totaled five stops in the game.

* L.J. Collier had his sixth sack of the season, second on the team to Banogu (8.5).

* Arico Evans had a first-quarter sack to give him 2.5 on the season.

* Corey Bethley recorded his fifth sack of the season.

* Jeff Gladney had his second interception of the season and fourth of his career, the most among active Horned Frogs.

* Gladney is the first TCU player with an interception in consecutive games since Innis Gaines in the Valero Alamo Bowl last season and this year’s opener against Southern.

* Julius Lewis had his second interception of the season, tying Gladney and Ridwan Issahaku for the team lead. It was the second career interception for Lewis.

* Niko Small had his first interception of the season and third of his career.

* Vernon Scott had his first career interception.

* Montrel Wilson made his first appearance since the Nov. 11 Oklahoma game last season. He missed the previous 16 games due to injury. He had a tackle for loss on his lone stop in the game.


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