TCU cornerback Greg McCoy still remembers the tears. They were tears of disbelief rolling down the cheeks of former teammates such as Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington after the Horned Frogs' perfect season slipped away in the Fiesta Bowl at the hands of Boise State almost two years ago.
"You want to give the seniors the best senior year possible," said McCoy, himself a senior now. "To see those guys cry and kind of break down -- these strong guys like Jerry Hughes, Daryl Washington -- just break down in tears because of a loss ...I've always looked forward to playing them again since that day."
TCU (7-2, 4-0 in the Mountain West) gets a rematch with fifth-ranked Boise State at 2:30 p.m. today at Bronco Stadium. The MWC title is on the line for both teams, and the Broncos (8-0, 3-0) still hold out hope that, with a win, they'll be considered for the BCS National Championship Game. That's something no non-automatic qualifying team has ever done. Both TCU and Boise State have vied for the top BCS buster title the past several years.
They will hash it out in the regular season and in a league game for the first and, most likely, last time. It will also be the last time the two schools will carry the little guy mantle. TCU is moving to the Big 12 and Boise appears headed to the Big East -- two of the six conferences with automatic bids to the nation's top bowl games.
But Boise State and Heisman candidate quarterback Kellen Moore are within striking distance of finally breaking through to the title game. They have to win today to keep that dream alive and then hope losses hit Stanford and Oklahoma State. The Broncos are decided favorites today on their blue turf, where they haven't lost since 2005 and are 72-2 since 2000.
But the Frogs have made a habit of coming up huge in big games, regardless of the location. Last year, TCU embarrassed Utah in a battle of two top-five teams in Salt Lake City 47-7, snapping the Utes' 21-game home winning streak. In 2009, TCU dominated BYU in Provo 38-7, ending the Cougars' 13-game home conference win streak.
McCoy and other senior players can mine those moments of triumph and use them today. The younger players, especially quarterback Casey Pachall and some of the Frogs' defensive backs, will be treading into new territory.
"Just seeing the type of environment we went in to [in the past] and the type of environment we're about go in to and how we handled it" is comforting, McCoy said.
"It helps the ones who were here, but we just happen to have a bunch of guys who haven't played in any of those games," TCU coach Gary Patterson countered. "We understand how hard it is to go there. We're going to make the best of it. We're not going to shy away from it."
The two teams, and the two coaches, know one another well. They split close bowl games in 2009 and 2010. Boise State coach Chris Petersen said personnel changes make those previous matchups hard to use.
"But one thing maybe you do know is you know what you're going to get," Petersen said. "You're going to have to play your absolute best to have a chance against these guys. That is very apparent."
Patterson, playing up the underdog role earlier in the week, conveyed that all the pressure is on Boise State today.
"That means we have no pressure," he said. "That means I can call a different ballgame than I possibly would, because if it doesn't happen, then that was the way it was supposed to go. I like coaching in these games. If you're scared, then don't get on the plane."
Both teams' players and coaches share mutual respect, something McCoy said has come from being the little guy trying to prove they belong with the big boys.
"There's mutual respect for always being the underdogs to the BCS polls," he said. "We have a lot in common, so we can't do anything but respect them for what they do. We know how hard we work and they work just as hard."
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760