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How TCU matched the biggest comeback in bowl history by beating Oregon in triple OT

TCU seemed doomed. But thanks to some key injuries, some improbable play, and a crucial wardrobe change, the Horned Frogs made history.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon appeared set to run away with the Alamo Bowl, bursting out to a 31-0 lead over TCU. The script seemed pre-written. A Horned Frogs team with its backup QB was simply outmatched against an Oregon team whose biggest losses were when their QB was hurt. We'd seen a lot of bad bowl blowouts this year, and this was just the latest.

But after halftime, the Horned Frogs bounced back. They turned their deficit into a thrilling 47-41 victory in triple overtime. It matches the largest comeback ever in a bowl game, tying Texas Tech over Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl. Since that game, the past 1,463 teams trailing by 31 points or more had lost. Until Saturday night.

So how did they do it? Here are four key factors, plus a bonus.

1. Oregon's star quarterback got hurt

Vernon Adams, the transfer from Eastern Washington, was playing just fine as the Ducks coasted to a 31-0 lead in the first half. But he got injured on a brutal hit towards the end of the first half, putting Jeff Lockie in the game.

With Adams, Oregon had one of the best offenses in college football this year. In fact, he had the top QB rating amongst qualified passers. When Adams had a broken finger earlier in the year, Oregon was blown out by Utah and lost to Washington State in overtime.

Lockie went 4-for-6 passing for 15 yards in the second half. The senior isn't the quarterback Adams is. Oregon didn't trust him to make difficult throws, and he didn't even do that well on the throws they did trust him with.

The offense completely stalled. The Ducks only managed two first downs in the second half. TCU had the ball for 21:54; Oregon had it for just 8:06.

2. Bram Kohlhausen started to play

With Trevone Boykin out, TCU turned to Kohlhausen, a senior with zero career starts. He'd played in reserve duty, and threw two touchdowns (on 5-for-11 passing) in the second half against Oklahoma, but this was his biggest role in his five years at TCU.

In the first half, he struggled mightily, going 9-for-19 with 69 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception.

In the second half and overtime, Kohlhausen went 19-for-26 with 255 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. He also made some gutty runs, including the game-sealing triple overtime touchdown. He did this in spite of several injuries on big hits.

I'd like to give some smart football explanation for why Kohlhausen turned from a shaken backup into an unstoppable throwmonster, but quite frankly, I can't. Kohlhausen looked better in the second half of the biggest game of his life than he did in games against Stephen F. Austin and Kansas.

3. Oregon's center got hurt

"Center" isn't the position we think of when we think of game-changers, but after senior Matt Hegarty got hurt in the first half, his backup, Doug Brenner, routinely failed to give Lockie clean snaps.

GIFs via ESPN

On that second play, the Ducks appeared to complete a pass, but Lockie had fallen to a knee trying to retrieve the low snap, leading to a loss of five.

The sloppy exchange bit them on third down in triple overtime.

That snap looked catchable, but it was a bit low, and it's clear the exchange between Lockie and Brenner wasn't good enough to allow Oregon to run their offense.

4. Everything stopped going wrong for TCU

Let's not pretend TCU played well in the first half, but, like, even their blocked punts turned into Oregon first downs.

That's just plain poor luck, no poor play.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Gary Patterson changed shirts

Here's what coach Gary Patterson wore in the first half:

But as Patterson told ESPN, "black wasn't working." Here's what Patterson wore in the second half:

Patterson changed from his black shirt-and-visor combo, and swapped into a powerful purple set. Festooned in indigo, he vaulted the Horned Frogs to victory.

Now, some would say that Patterson simply changed shirts because he is a notably sweaty man. Others would say that the color of Patterson's clothing had no effect on the game whatsoever.

These people are fools. By changing into TCU's true preferred color of choice, Patterson appeased the college football gods, and turned a certain loss into the most magical comeback in bowl history.

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