SAN ANTONIO -- One of the greatest bowl game comebacks in the history of college football started with a wardrobe change.
Gary Patterson laughs at how stupid that sounds, but it felt necessary. His TCU team was down 31-0 to Oregon when he sneaked into his Alamodome office at halftime and quickly changed clothes. The black, long-sleeved mock turtleneck wasn't working.
He turned to his purple, short-sleeved Nike mock turtleneck, a lightweight shirt that absorbs sweat and, evidently, absolves fear. Had to change visors, too, to make the new look match.
And then his Horned Frogs scored 47 points, 38 of them in a row, and miraculously stunned Oregon 47-41 in triple overtime to steal a Valero Alamo Bowl victory Saturday night.
Gotta be the shirt, right?
"I will never wear black again," Patterson said with a smile.
And he had to chuckle, because he'd done this a few months ago at Iowa State. He wore black and led 24-21 at halftime. He changed to purple and won 45-21. How could he make this same mistake twice?
"You know, I'm trying to look thinner," Patterson joked. "At the end of the year, you're not in as good of shape. At least that's a good excuse."
TCU would've had a lot of reasonable excuses for losing this game. The incomparable Trevone Boykin was gone, sent home after a bar fight and third-degree assault charge. Josh Doctson, the best receiver in TCU history, was too hurt to play. An impossibly long list of injuries should've wrecked this season a long time ago.
The 31-point deficit had been understandable, almost justified. The Frogs had no business winning this one. Yet there they were, standing under a shower of confetti and balloons after pulling off the most insane rally imaginable. When the festivities were over, players snapped photos with fans and family. A few stepped on balloons, bursting them with their cleats.
Doctson watched the revelry with as much pleasure as he felt when Patterson addressed the team at halftime. TCU is a proud program, Patterson preached, and the first half wasn't what this program is about. So decide to play. If you do, you've got a chance.
"We checked ourselves as men," Doctson said. "Nobody wants to go out at the end of the year and get skunked."
Added Patterson: "The key to the story is, you can't look around and blame anybody else."
Across the field, Oregon endured its own dramatic change at halftime. Vernon Adams Jr. took off his pads and put on a hoodie. His marvelous day -- and college career -- were done after a hit to the head late in the second quarter. He didn't make it back to the sideline until early in the third quarter. By then, the Ducks were already in trouble.
A 10-play drive for a TCU field goal. Oregon goes three-and-out. An 11-play drive for a touchdown. Oregon fumbles the kickoff. Another easy TCU touchdown. Now it's 31-17 and the Ducks are panicking.
And, amazingly, Bram Kohlhausen is not. Good thing Patterson didn't change quarterbacks at halftime. Something finally clicked for Kohlhausen, the senior transfer who'd never started a game in his career, and there was no stopping him.
"Nobody had a doubt that, at 31 points, we could come back," Kohlhausen said.
He hit on 19 of 26 throws for 255 yards after halftime and scored four touchdowns, including the game winner on an option keeper that was as unexpected as his breakthrough.
When it was all over, Kohlhausen shrugged like it was no big deal.
"With their quarterback out, if we get something on the board and get a couple turnovers, defense plays well. ... I mean, 31 points was easy," he said.
"I don't know about easy," Patterson interjected. "But I'll stick with him, because he did it."
So did TCU's defense. Oregon backup Jeff Lockie was struggling to even catch snaps against the Frogs' swarming D. The Ducks could run only 18 plays in the second half. Net gain: 18 total yards. Each drive was stomped out as easily as all those postgame balloons.
Still, this game had to go to overtime. And double overtime. And then triple overtime. For a team that won on a miracle tip at Texas Tech, needed a bomb to beat Kansas State and somehow stuffed Baylor in a monsoon in overtime, this was the masterpiece.
By the time he was done celebrating, Patterson was simply too exhausted to contemplate it all on Saturday. Like everyone else who'd just witnessed one of the game's most unbelievable comebacks -- tying the bowl record set by Texas Tech in the 2006 Insight Bowl -- he walked off asking the night's impossible question.
"How do you explain any of it?" Patterson questioned. "I mean, seriously, how do you explain any of it?"