Iron Skillet '97: TCU ends SMU bowl hopes

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
8:00
AM CT
The second in a series flashing back to memorable moments in the Battle for the Iron Skillet. This season's version kicks off Friday night at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.

The Horned Frogs came into the final game of the 1997 season at 0-10. Head coach Pat Sullivan had already resigned but was coaching out the rest of the season.

SMU arrived at Amon Carter Stadium looking for its first bowl game since the death penalty and riding a five-game winning streak.

TCU fell behind by 10 but stormed back behind quarterback Jeff Dover, who came off the bench to pass for two touchdowns and run for another in leading the Horned Frogs to a 21-18 victory.

Horned Frog fans stormed the field following the victory, possibly more stunned than anything else. The win kept a 6-5 SMU team from getting invited to a bowl game.

What's interesting is where the two programs went after that game. TCU ended up hiring Dennis Franchione to replace Sullivan, and Franchione's 1998 team won the Sun Bowl over USC, vaulting the Frogs toward the success that has carried on through Gary Patterson's tenure.

That 1997 season was Mike Cavan's first on the Hilltop, and it was the program's first winning season since the death penalty. But it wasn't something that could be sustained. Cavan's Mustangs went 5-7 the next year and 4-6 and 3-9 after that, resulting in Cavan's departure and the hiring of Phil Bennett. Things didn't get much better until June Jones was hired in 2008 and last season led the program to its first bowl game in 25 years.
Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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