The magical Frogs finally ran out of magic.
It would be easy to say that Georgia humiliated TCU in Monday night’s college football championship game. The defending champion Bulldogs ran up a 38-7 lead in the first half and kept pouring it on after intermission with a steamrolling offense and an intractable defense that left the Horned Frogs searching for answers and finding none.
But there is no humiliation in being overrun by a juggernaut and there is certainly no room for the word humiliation in any conversation about the miraculous, courageous effort put forth by TCU over a 15-game season that will go down as one of the most amazing in the long and storied history of college football.
When the Frogs ran onto the field in Boulder, Colorado, to begin the 2022 season last September, no one – not even new Coach Sonny Dykes or Frog Nation’s most devoted fans – could have expected what was about to unfold. Truth be told, no one expected much of anything. The Horned Frogs had won just five of 12 games the year before and were projected by the experts to finish seventh in the Big 12 Conference.
But they defeated Colorado, 38-13, that day and starting quarterback Chandler Morris was replaced by Max Duggan after being injured in the third quarter. The rest, as they say, is history. Duggan became the starting quarterback, leading the Frogs to victory after victory and ultimately finishing second in the voting for college football’s most celebrated award, the Heisman Trophy.
TCU finished the regular season with a 12-1 record and qualified for the four-team College Football Playoff – the first Texas team to achieve that elite status. No one – except maybe Dykes and his never-say-die Frogs – thought TCU could beat powerful Big 10 champion Michigan in the playoff semifinal. But Duggan and company tamed the Wolverines to set up Monday’s title clash with undefeated Georgia, which barely survived its own semifinal against another Big 10 powerhouse, Ohio State.
The championship game in Inglewood, California, at a stadium built on property once occupied by a racetrack where horses made a habit of outrunning their odds and rewarding bettors who favored long shots, seemed like a TCU dream come true: A movie-script showdown pitting an overwhelming favorite against an underdog who had been outrunning its odds all season long.
But more often than not, in football as in horse racing, long shots lose. Georgia was bigger, stronger, faster than TCU and to make matters worse, the Bulldogs had played in the glare of this spotlight before, defeating college football’s evil empire Alabama just a year ago. Georgia was on a mission to repeat and imposed its will. There’s no way to know for sure, but it seems fair to speculate that any team finding itself in the path of the rampaging Bulldogs on Monday night would have suffered a crushing defeat.
None of that detracts from TCU’s spectacular run to the title game. There’s no shame in being No. 2 when No. 1 is so darn good.
The loss in the finale did nothing to diminish the thrills the Horned Frogs gave their fans and followers this season, or the pride and exultation they brought to their school, their conference, the city of Fort Worth, the state of Texas and to everyone everywhere who is inspired by an individual, a team, an institution that accomplishes more than anyone believed or even hoped was possible.