That had to feel good.
“It’s a feeling that you can’t really express,” defensive tackle Chucky Hunter said.
The only thing to do is jump and dance — that was obvious on the TCU sideline, where every player leaped as high as he could or danced his best dance after defensive end James McFarland’s second-quarter interception in the end zone for a touchdown.
His catch, off a pass thrown by reeling quarterback Bo Wallace under pressure from linebacker Marcus Mallet, prompted a frenzy of yells, chest thumps, hugs and high-fives from the Horned Frogs.
With one play, in an already dominating first half, the No. 6-ranked Frogs had gone up by four touchdowns against Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Wednesday at the Georgia Dome and allowed themselves to release a month of bottled-up emotion.
They believed they should have been in the College Football Playoff, and they played like it in a furious 42-3 rout of the No. 9 Rebels and a top SEC defense.
“Practicing as long as we did, what happened with the top four and all that — that was pretty much heartbreaking for us — we came out and just played,” receiver Josh Doctson said. “Just released all that energy and emotion.”
Quarterback Trevone Boykin threw three touchdown passes, extending his school record for a single season to 33, and Doctson, who played at Mansfield Legacy, caught two touchdown passes in setting school records for yards and touchdown catches in a season.
Kolby Listenbee, from Arlington Bowie, threw a wide-receiver pass for a touchdown to Aaron Green, who also ran for a touchdown, as the Horned Frogs (12-1) made good on a promise to themselves to play the best game they could. Their 39-point margin of victory was the largest in Peach Bowl history, even with a scoreless fourth quarter — only their sixth scoreless quarter of the season.
“Today, it just happened to turn out like it did,” coach Gary Patterson said. “For us, it was more about what we were trying to get accomplished — playing the best game we could play as a TCU football team. I don’t know if we can play any better.”
Even with two turnovers, TCU simply swamped Ole Miss (9-4) for the first 30 minutes. The defense simply could not be moved out of the way, and Ole Miss had no answer to protect Wallace, who took five sacks and threw three interceptions.
“I’ve never seen them fly around like they did today,” Boykin said of the defense.
It was a trademark performance for the defense — the four takeaways for the game gave it 40 for the year. McFarland’s interception for a touchdown was the fifth interception returned for a touchdown by the Horned Frogs this year.
Chris Bradley and Hunter combined for a sack, and Tevin Lawson, Paul Dawson, Terrell Lathan and McFarland also had sacks in the first half. Wallace had only five completions, and the Rebels had only four first downs.
All that happened in the first 30 minutes.
“All week, everybody was talking about our offense. Nobody gave our defense any credit,” senior safety Sam Carter said. “We wanted to come out and make sure they didn’t score any points. I’m a little upset that they got 3.”
The defense had Ole Miss so discombobulated that there were times Wallace simply didn’t know where to go with the ball. Late in the first half, as the Rebels moved into the red zone, he never saw the shotgun snap on a fourth-down play.
The start of the game was everything TCU could have asked for — maybe more. Chris Hackett intercepted a third-down pass, his team-high seventh pick for the year, to give the offense the ball at the Ole Miss 35.
On second down, co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie went for broke. Boykin threw a backward pass to Listenbee, a high school quarterback, who waited for Green to streak out of the backfield and then hit him with a 31-yard pass in stride in the end zone for a 7-0 lead that lit up the purple side of the stadium.
“They threw the pick. It was a confidence-killer for them,” Listenbee said. “We threw that, it gave us so much energy. It gave us so much confidence to go out there and play.”
After four Rebels plays and a punt, and to show the first touchdown was not a fluke, the Frogs drove 78 yards for a 14-0 lead — their ninth in 13 games this year — on Green’s wide-open 15-yard run up the middle.
Doctson’s 12-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, on a perfectly executed slant, made it 21-0. And a possession later, Mallet and McFarland combined for their electrifying play in the end zone and the 28-0 lead that turned the game into a celebration.
Out of halftime, TCU put up two more touchdowns quickly. Ranthony Texada’s 65-yard kickoff return set up Listenbee’s 35-yard touchdown catch for a 35-0 lead, and on the next possession, Doctson caught a 27-yard pass for a 42-0 lead.
The Frogs had made their point.
“It would have been a blessing for our team to be in it,” Boykin said of the playoffs. “But we’re happy. We’re Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl champions; we’re going to be for the rest of our lives. And hopefully next year, we can be one of those four teams.”
That would feel good.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760