TCU 36, No. 5 Boise St. 35
Boise State's quest for perfection and BCS glory were dashed again by a missed field goal.
The fifth-ranked Broncos had a chance win a last-second thriller against TCU on Saturday, but freshman kicker Dan Goodale's 39-yard kick sailed wide right as time expired to give Horned Frogs a 36-35 victory.
TCU now has a clear path to the Mountain West Conference crown.
For the Broncos, losing this way may seem all too familiar. Last year, Boise State's unbeaten season and BCS hopes were spoiled when senior Kyle Brotzman missed from short range in regulation and overtime, enabling Nevada to walk away with a 34-31 overtime win.
Kellen Moore, who drove the Broncos into scoring range in the final 55 seconds, deflected any postgame parallels to the last season's misery in Nevada, arguing instead that losses in big games rarely come down to one player or a single player.
''We missed opportunities. I don't think it's just one play, it's a variety of plays,'' said Moore, who threw for 320 yards, two touchdowns but lost for the first time at home in his career. ''It's a loss so it feels similar, but there's not great feelings.''
The Broncos (8-1, 3-1) clearly had their chances to avoid any field goal dramatics in a back-and-forth battle between two perennial BCS busting teams.
Leading 35-28, Boise State got the ball at their own 32 with 5:37 remaining. Moore then engineered a methodical drive and got the Broncos in scoring position when a fumble by backup running back Drew Wright was recovered by TCU (8-2, 5-0) with 2:26 remaining.
Then Casey Pachall took over - and that was bad news for Boise State.
The sophomore was 24 of 37 for a career-best 473 yards and five touchdown passes, including scores of 75, 74 and 69 yards in the first half.
Pachall calmly marched the Horned Frogs before firing a 25-yard TD pass to Brandon Carter, who leaped over a defender to make the grab in the end zone and pull TCU within 36-35 with 1:05 remaining.
TCU coach Gary Patterson made a gutsy call, opting to put the game in Pachall's hands and go for the lead instead of the tie. It worked. Pachall tossed a short pass to Josh Boyce, who fought his way into the end zone, putting TCU up 36-35 and quieting a raucous Bronco Stadium crowd.
Patterson said the decision to go for two points was easy considering the circumstances.
''We're not going to win this if this keeps going,'' Patterson said. ''So, the only way we're going to be able to do it is to steal it. We were able to get the play and get the points and we were fortunate that they missed a field goal. It's just as simple as that.''
The Horned Frogs rolled up 506 total yards, carving up a Boise State secondary riddled with injuries and forced to use backups at the corners.
''It really brings a relief because we've been fighting hard all year, especially in the fourth quarter,'' Pachall said. ''Now that we actually pulled one off, it's a lot of relief. It gives us a lot of motivation and confidence.''
It also gives the Horned Frogs the inside track on the league championship in their final year in the Mountain West. TCU wraps up with home games against Colorado State and UNLV; while Boise State has games remaining against San Diego State, Wyoming and New Mexico.
The TCU victory also gives then 22 straight wins against conference foes and sets a new MWC record of 12 straight conference road wins.
For the Broncos, the loss snaps their 35-game home winning streak, which had been the nation's longest. But it also forces Boise State to recalibrate their postseason plans again. No longer a contender for the big money, BCS bowls, the Broncos now look to lesser bowls like the Poinsettia Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl.
''We'll see what these guys are made of,'' Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. ''This is real-life football. You don't win all your games all the time - as much as we've done that around here.''
In the first regular-season meeting between Boise State and TCU, Boise State jumped out first when Moore fired a 22-yard TD pass to Matt Miller.
Pachall responded on the next possession, finding Josh Boyce wide open for a 74-yard pass down the left sideline. Boyce caught five passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns. Pachall found him again in the second quarter for a 69-yard touchdown pass.
TCU kicker Ross Evans missed the extra point attempt, but TCU held a 20-14 lead at the half, the first time Boise State had trailed at the half all season.
Boise State came out strong in the second half, forcing a TCU fumble on the first play. Defensive end Tyrone Crawford picked up the bouncing ball and ran 32 yards for a touchdown. The extra point gave the Broncos a 21-20 lead.
After stopping TCU on their next possession, Moore engineered a 67-yard, 10-pay scoring drive capped by D.J Harper's 3-yard TD run to put Boise state up 28-20.
TCU pulled closed the gap on their next possession when Pachall tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Boyce. Pachall followed that by scampering around the right end into the end zone to convert on a 2-point play.
''You saw two really good quarterbacks out there,'' Patterson said. ''I told (Pachall) at the beginning of the week that games like this is how legends are made.''