A week that TCU probably wanted to forget now includes the game it may remember forever.
Bram Kohlhausen certainly will.
The senior backup, starting on two days’ notice following the suspension of star quarterback and close friend Trevone Boykin, led the biggest comeback in TCU history for a 47-41 victory in three overtimes at the Alamo Bowl on Saturday night.
He threw two touchdown passes and ran for two touchdowns in the second half and overtimes, rallying the Horned Frogs from a 31-0 halftime deficit that seemed to be the start of a somber end to a bowl week that included the stunning news of Boykin’s arrest in a bar fight.
Instead, No. 11 TCU (11-2) rallied to tie the biggest comeback in bowl history, matching the 31-point rally by Texas Tech against Minnesota in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 29, 2006.
“This is a night I thought would never happen,” Kohlhausen said. “But I honestly just dedicate it to Tre. He’s the one who showed me how to play like I did tonight.”
TCU held Oregon to 18 yards on 18 plays in the third and fourth quarters and outgained the Ducks 413-43 after opting to stick with Kohlhausen despite his ineffective first half, in which he was harrassed into 9-for-19 passing for 96 yards and was sacked.
With Kohlhausen, TCU scored all nine times it had the ball after halftime. Meanwhile, Oregon was trying to operate with its own backup quarterback, Jeff Lockie, who took over after Vernon Adams was injured late in the second quarter.
“That first half was not what we’re about,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “If they decided to play, they’ll give themselves a chance. There’s no magic to that. You give yourself an opportunity if you go and play.”
Kohlhausen, a 6-foot-3, 203-pound senior from Houston, was named the game’s most outstanding offensive player, capping his first career start and last college game. His numbers – 28 of 45 for 351 yards, two touchdown passes and two touchdown runs – were all career highs and, get this, TCU bowl records.
He did it while wearing Boykin’s initials on his wristband.
“As sad as it is, any time I read anything about him, it brings tears to my eyes,” Kohlhausen said. “This one is for him. He’s the one who taught me how to play like this, because he’s the most fearless guy on the field.”
In the first half, Kohlhausen’s night had nothing of a storybook feel. He was only 9-for-19 for 96 yards, looked uncomfortable against pressure, missed an open receiver in the end zone, and the offense was ineffective under him.
But he was unmoved.
“We weren’t having any trouble really moving the ball, except for the penalties,” he said. “Once we got it together, we fought back in the second half. I mean, we’ve been doing this all year. We come back in the second half. Nobody had a doubt that 31 points, we could come back. Ended up being a three-overtime game, got a W.”
Kohlhausen’s 8-yard option keeper around right end gave TCU the 47-41 lead, its first of the game, on the third overtime possession; the mandated 2-point play failed when his pass off a scramble skipped short of Kyle Hicks in the end zone.
So Oregon had a shot to win with a touchdown and two-point coversion. But a low snap forced a fourth-and-8 play for the Ducks from the 23-yard line, and safety Denzel Johnson flashed in front of Derron Carrington to break up a pass at the 2-yard line, sealing the victory.
The players streamed onto the field, releasing the emotion of a season that saw 25 players miss a game, part of a game or the season; 16 players watched the game from the sideline in a jersey and sweats, including All-America receiver Josh Doctson.
“This is definitely one of my favorite years of playing football, one of my favorite teams,” said senior running back Aaron Green, who rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns in his final game, in his hometown. “Just because of the adversity and the trials and tribulations that we have had to overcome to have this successful season.”
Adams had engineered four first-half touchdown drives to send Oregon to a 28-0 lead, and Adian Schneider’s 47-yard field goal with 32 seconds left before halftime provided the 31-0 lead.
Without Boykin, TCU did not have the offense to match Adams’ exploits.
“I told them we had an opportunity in the second half to show them what our program was all about,” Patterson said. “We’ve had to do that before. It’s just been one of those teams. They’ve never really quit. They’ve kept creating opportunities. Really proud of them.”
Patterson said he told his players to have fun in the second half.
“I told the defense they weren’t having any fun,” Patterson said. “This is going to be their last ballgame, they’ve played a lot of defense, they weren’t having any fun. Not anything good was going to happen if they weren’t going to have any fun.”
At the end, with the Horned Frogs celebrating en masse on the field, Kohlhausen relaxed. He let himself think about his father, who died in November. He embraced his mother on the field.
“I bargained with a guy to get her down on the field,” Kohlhausen said. “Just gave her a hug, started crying with her. I’d love for him to be here to watch this happen, but I know he was watching upstairs.”
He looked like he would never forget it.