SAN DIEGO -- When it mattered most, the TCU offense showed a flexibility and resiliency that has characterized the 2011 team.
In the fourth quarter Wednesday in the Poinsettia Bowl, the Horned Frogs offense proved it could grind out a long drive or, when necessary, strike quickly.
Minutes after TCU put together its longest scoring drive of the season in terms of plays (18) and time (9:21) to tie Louisiana Tech, Skye Dawson clinched the 31-24 win with a 42-yard touchdown reception from Casey Pachall. The Frogs defense held the spunky Bulldogs on their next possession, and the offense went back to the grind to run out the clock.
TCU (11-2) came out sluggish and Louisiana Tech (8-5) came out like a team with something to prove in front of 24,607 in attendance at Snapdragon (Qualcomm Stadium).
The 18th-ranked Frogs finished their season with eight consecutive wins after starting 3-2. It was TCU's last game as a member of the Mountain West Conference. Next season the Frogs move to the Big 12.
TCU coach Gary Patterson talked the last couple of weeks about his team treating the Poinsettia Bowl like the first game of next season. But their first half performance, including two of the game's heroes, Dawson and Greg McCoy, didn't show much.
Dawson dropped a wide-open pass on third down and McCoy was beaten for long plays.
"They found a way to win," Patterson said. "They've been doing it all year, ever since we came back against Baylor. And we got a couple stops."
McCoy stepped in front of a Colby Cameron pass for an interception and returned it 25 yards to set up a tying touchdown late in the first half. Ed Wesley, who had a game-high 77 yards, muscled his way in from seven yards out for a score to tie it 10-10 with 26 seconds left in the first half.
TCU appeared to grab the momentum with their opening possession in the second half. The Frogs drove 55 yards in 11 plays to take a 17-10 lead on Matthew Tucker's one-yard score. But Tech got right back in the game when Euless Trinity ex Brandon Carter fumbled a fair catch on a punt, setting up the Bulldogs on the 12-yard line. Hunter Lee scored three plays later for the tie.
Another mistake, this time an interception from Pachall, set up another Tech score. Cameron, who threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns and completed 21 of a Poinsettia Bowl record 43 attempts, hit Myles White for a 61-yard touchdown to give Tech a 24-17 lead.
"It was just poor execution on our part," Pachall said. "From bad throws by me, to receivers slipping, to penalties that killed us. We weren't going to give up at any point."
And they didn't.
TCU controlled the ball for most of the fourth quarter, including an 18-play, 72-yard drive that tied the game and took 9:21 off the clock. Luke Shivers scored from a yard out with 7:49 left in the game.
That set up Pachall's scoring pass to Dawson that gave the Frogs the lead with 4:26 remaining.
Sophomore sets standards
Quarterback Casey Pachall broke Andy Dalton's single-season TCU record for completions and yards with his efforts Wednesday.
Pachall completed 15 passes for 206 yards to finish the season with 228 completions and 2,921 yards. Dalton set the record last year as a senior with 2,857 yards. Dalton had 222 completions in 2007.