The story coming in to the 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl was a matchup between two high-powered offenses, led by perhaps the two most exciting quarterbacks in the country in TCU's Trevone Boykin and Oregon's Vernon Adams. Boykin wouldn't make it to the start of the game, arrested in San Antonio and suspended. Adams wouldn't make it to the end of the game. To the recap!
After trading three-and-outs with TCU to open the game, Oregon got rolling on its second possession, culminating in a touchdown pass from Vernon Adams to Darren Carrington. Carrington would finish the first quarter with an even 100 yards receiving.
Oregon had its first defensive play taken away from them, after Tyson Coleman's forced fumble on TCU quarterback Bram Kohlhausen was overturned on instant replay. Coleman swatted the ball directly out of Kohlhausen's hand, but the officials ruled that since Kohlhausen's arm was moving forward, the pass was incomplete. Despite the controversial call, the TCU drive ended in a punt. In fact, every TCU drive in the first quarter ended in a punt, with the Horned Frogs only able to manage two first downs in the first fifteen minutes.
Vernon Adams spent the rest of the quarter chucking the ball as far as he could, finishing the first quarter averaging 17 yards per pass completion, despite having even more yards taken away when a 50 yard Bralon Addison catch was taken off the board when Addison stepped out of bounds just before making a circus catch. Two Royce Freeman touchdowns later, and it was 21-0 Oregon.
This is just an NFL Blitz game at this point, and the Ducks are running Da Bomb, over and over again. #GoDucks— Matt Takimoto (@takimoto23x) January 3, 2016
Matt Lubick smart to dip into the "NFL Blitz" playbook of all deep passes.— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) January 3, 2016
Did I just want to point out that I made this joke before Greif? Of course not. I'm not that petty.
Injuries were an early concern for the Ducks, losing both Matt Hegarty and Dwayne Stanford to leg injuries on their final drive of the first quarter. Neither would return to the game.
The second quarter began with more of the same: TCU's offense struggling mightily without Trevone Boykin, and Oregon's offense doing no wrong. After a TCU punt, Tony Brooks-James broke off a 42 yard run to the TCU 5, finishing it off himself with a touchdown on the next play.
Without Boykin, the Horned Frogs offense was already in some trouble, and four holding penalties by the twelve minute mark of the second quarter wasn't making things any easier. Oregon's front seven, the on-paper strength of its defense, looked strong early, beating TCU's offensive line and putting Kolhhausen under duress. With 10:19 to go in the second quarter, TCU unexpectedly found themselves in a "must-convert" situation on fourth down. Kohlhausen's pass sailed out of bounds, and Oregon had the ball back.
Up 28-0, Oregon decided to swing their collective junk around with a fake punt, with punter Ian Wheeler throwing a pretty deep out to Charles Nelson, who couldn't absorb a big hit and bring in the catch. College football Twitter collectively declared Ian Wheeler the new backup QB.
Our Punters arm > Lockie's arm— El Pato (@ThaScarecro) January 3, 2016
Oregon has punters flinging around balls with composure and accuracy.— DD (@BarkingCarnival) January 3, 2016
He hit it, too https://t.co/9LHGretRMv— Will Rubin (@_WillRubin) January 3, 2016
The brash special teams play would eventually go for naught, as the subsequent TCU drive, aided in large part by a personal foul penalty on the Horned Frogs, ended in another punt. A three-and-out on Oregon's next series turned into a strange bit of football; on fourth down, Ian Wheeler's punt was blocked up in the air. DeForest Buckner caught the punt out of the air, and ran it past the first down marker. Because he caught it behind the line of scrimmage it was, apparently, a legal maneuver. And Oregon had the ball back. Almost immediately, the Ducks found themselves wishing TCU had the ball. On a QB keeper, Vernon Adams took a huge hit to the head, and stayed down on the turf for a while before walking off under his own power. Adams was taken directly to the locker room, and was replaced by Jeff Lockie.
The first turnover of the game went to the Ducks, with Charles Nelson intercepting Kohlhausen on a third and long armpunt. With Adams out of the game, TCU amped up the pressure up front, stymieing Oregon's offense until a Royce Freeman draw play on third down extended the drive. Lockie's first pass was complete, an out to Bralon Addison for a first down. An Aidan Schneider field goal, a career long at 47 yards, made it 31-0 Oregon at halftime. The Ducks finished the first half with 376 yards of offense, compared to only 142 from TCU.
With Vernon Adams joining Dwayne Stanford and Matt Hegarty in sweats for the remainder of the game, the offensive fireworks declined considerably. TCU would get on the board on their opening drive, a field goal to make it a 31-3 game. Oregon's opening drive stalled out after a miscommunication between Jeff Lockie and Doug Brenner led to a fumbled snap and a big loss. TCU cut into the lead further on their next drive, converting their first third down of the game, and a pair of fourth downs, ending with a touchdown pass from Kohlhausen to Jaelen Austin. On the ensuing kickoff, Charles Nelson lost the football on the way to the ground, with TCU recovering the ball at the Oregon 15 yard line.
The biggest series of the quarter came after TCU drove down and set up a 1st-and-goal at the 1. After two runs, one of which was initially ruled a touchdown before being overturned on replay, Oregon stopped KaVontae Turpin for a loss, setting up 4th-and-goal on the 2. After going back to pass and finding nothing open, Bram Kohlhausen scrambled left and dove into the endzone, cutting the lead to 31-17.
Badly needing an answer to TCU's offensive resurgence, Oregon turned to Royce Freeman - who to this point had only 15 carries for 82 yards - to put Oregon back in rhythm. Oregon gave the first five carries of the drive to Freeman, who responded with 28 yards and put his 2015 season past LaMichael James as the best all-time in Oregon history. Oregon had a touchdown to Darren Carrington on a slant, but the play was called back due to Jeff Lockie fielding the low snap with his knee on the ground, downing the ball at that spot. That play ended the drive, but Ian Wheeler picked a great time for his best punt of the year. Wheeler hit a pitching wedge that hit the one yard line and bounced backward, with Oregon downing the ball at the 7. That field position was exacerbated when TCU started their drive with a penalty, their seventh of the game. On third down, TCU ran a fake pooch punt pass. Generally third down is not the down to run a fake punt. So of course, it worked for a 36 yard gain.TCU kept driving all the way down inside the red zone until Tyson Coleman came up with a huge sack and fumble to stall out the drive and force TCU to kick a field goal to keep the deficit at two scores.
On the ensuing kickoff, TCU tried a surprise onside kick, but an astute Kaulana Apelu pounced on the ball and averted the disaster. Unfortunately, Oregon couldn't capitalize on the good field position, due in large part to Doug Brenner's inability to snap the ball anywhere but Jeff Lockie's feet. Another great Ian Wheeler punt put TCU back inside the 10, but the Horned Frogs made quick work in moving the ball out of danger. A vintage performance by the Oregon defense, who to be fair are mad tired at this point after being on the field for all but 6:30 of the second half, let TCU march easily back down into the red zone and in for a touchdown to make it 31-26. A WR reverse pass on the two-point conversion - because of course - made it a 31-28 game with 3:38 to play. With TCU holding two timeouts, conventional wisdom would say to hand it off to Royce Freeman three times, make TCU burn their timeouts, and either get first downs to ice the game or give the ball back. Instead, Oregon runs once, and then passes on second and third down, both Jeff Lockie throwaways that stop the clock. After the punt, TCU has the ball with 2:16 left at the Oregon 38 yard line. The Horned Frogs work the ball down to the seven yard line, but need to settle for a field goal to tie the game at 31, and send the Alamo Bowl to overtime.
Twitter's thoughts on the second half collapse:
This Don Pellum farewell tribute is so touching— The Solid Verbal (@SolidVerbal) January 3, 2016
Oregon has 19 yards in the entire second half. It had six plays that went at least that far in the first half.— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) January 3, 2016
What has happened— Kenjon Barner (@KBDeuce4) January 3, 2016
what the fuck is oregon doing— HOLIDAY APPRECIATOR (@edsbs) January 3, 2016
Oregon won the toss and chose to go on defense first. Four plays later, Kohlhausen found Emanuel Porter in the endzone to give TCU its first lead of the game. Oregon made us sweat, but Lockie found Royce Freeman on 4th-and-4 to pick up a do-or-die first down. Freeman finished the drive off two plays later (with an extra push from Jake Pisarcik), and the game was tied at 38. Not everyone agreed with the call to kick the extra point and extend the game.
Go for 2— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) January 3, 2016
Go for two.— Will Rubin (@_WillRubin) January 3, 2016
Go for 2, Ducks.— Dan Rubenstein (@DanRubenstein) January 3, 2016
GO FOR 2 DUMBASS— David Piper (@atqdave) January 3, 2016
Without Royce Freeman on the field (the reasons of which still have not been explained), Oregon went three plays for -2 yards. Fortunately, Oregon is Kicker U, and Aidan Schneider put three on the board. That left it up to the Oregon defense to keep TCU out of the endzone. Nice coverage by Tyree Robinson set up a third and long, and a big hit by Charles Nelson stuffed TCU for a loss. Jaden Oberkrom answered Schneider's 44 yards field goal with a 44 yarder of his own, and the game continued on.
This is the dumbest game ever— David Piper (@atqdave) January 3, 2016
On the third play of overtime, Kohlhausen ran a speed option left. Tyson Coleman - who to his credit has played a fantastic game - took away the pitch instead of pressuring the ball. There was no one behind him, and Kohlhausen ran it in untouched. The two-point conversion for TCU fell incomplete, and that gave Oregon an opening.
This moment of serendipity happened on Oregon's final drive:
ESPN's Dave Flemming: "It really looks like Jeff Lockie's getting more comfortable out there."
Jeff Lockie then drops a catchable snap, and loses six yards on 3rd and 2.
On fourth down, Lockie's pass was broken up, and that was that.
This game was a microcosm of Oregon's season; unstoppable and unfathomably fun to watch with Vernon Adams on the field, completely lost and panicky with Adams on the sideline. For Oregon this offseason, the priorities are clear: find a damn quarterback. With a plethora of options including transfer Dakota Prukop, freshman Travis Jonsen, and incoming freshman Terry WIlson, Oregon just needs to find a guy they think can develop, and ride with him. They are bursting at the seams with talented playmakers, but without a distributor, the Ducks are on much shakier ground.
We knew this year would feel different; Marcus Mariota's shadow was always going to loom large until Oregon proved it could win without him. For the first six games, the Ducks faithful were grouchy and in a panic. And this loss certainly doesn't leave us with good feelings heading into the offseason. But the six game winning streak, when Oregon was looking like they might not make a bowl game, showed the college football world that Oregon football isn't going anywhere. Changes will be made (starting undoubtedly with Don Pellum after this final performance), but Oregon football will continue to be a perennial contender in the Pac-12.
As for this season - and this game, call it an Uber, get it home, and put it to sleep. This one won't feel good tomorrow morning.