An ending befitting a cheesy bowl

LSU arrived in Phoenix on Thursday, with the Tigers facing a seemingly impossible act to follow in the Fiesta Bowl.

And never mind playing second fiddle to Central Florida’s annual quest to self-proclaim itself another national championship.

Child’s play, that, playing straight man to another tantrum by UCF in pursuit of its just rewards.

We shall see.

But the wonderful world of the Cheez-It Bowl was in the same Valley of the Sun Wednesday night.

How can LSU, UCF or all the false trophies on Earth ever hope to top that?

The whole country is buzzing about TCU’s 10-7 victory, left begging for more after it took nine interceptions and one hold-my-beer overtime for a winner to stumble home.

Fortunately the venue will be different. LSU and UCF will draw swords in State Farm Stadium in Glendale, the home of the Arizona Cardinals.

Wednesday’s Cheez-It Bowl, on the other hand, was played in Phoenix proper, in the Chase Field home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

That was fitting perhaps, because football psychologists are still sifting through the muck and the mire for explanations as to what sport, exactly, was on display while Cal and TCU were flailing away at each other on a football field in a baseball stadium.

It may take years, contingent upon untold billions in federal funding to explain it.

But whatever it was, it was spectacular. It was everything grand and glorious and entertaining about the bowl season.

It was educational — we learned that there are 16 flavors of Cheez-Its, a handy conversation-starter if there ever was one.

And it was another warning never to dismiss this bowl fare as meaningless — you never know what you might get.

It made me proud to be a Meaningless Bowl apologist — bring them on, the more the merrier.

Granted, it was late and maybe you missed it. Your loss.

For some of us, it was a seminal, life-changing moment. Those of us who happened to tune in to the Cheez-It Bowl will never forget where we were and exactly what we were doing when we realized we were suddenly mesmerized, hopelessly hypnotized by whatever it was that Cal and TCU were up to.

You could not take your eyes off the TV screen.

It was the perfect storm of a cheesy bowl sponsor, two inept teams and a properly sparse crowd.

It was everything a bowl should aspire to be — and more.

Who says dual, competitive ineptitude can’t be fun?

It would have been the perfect sequel to "Animal House" — this was the football game that would have been played after the smoke cleared from the Delta’s homecoming parade shenanigans.

A 10-7 game was never more … compelling?

Our TV hosts didn’t milk the gag by feigning defensive excellence. This was a Pac-12 vs. Big 12 matchup so we all knew better than that.

One number jumps out at you — the nine interceptions, in one football game, five by two Cal quarterbacks, four by one TCU quarterback.

There were six in the first half alone so there was no way to go to bed at halftime.

Let’s put that in perspective, just to see what LSU and UCF are up against.

Between the two, LSU and UCF have thrown 10 interceptions all season, 24 combined games, a total of 714 forward passes.

TCU and Cal needed only 71 passes to serve up the nine picks.

And, yes — they both kept throwing, damn the consequences.

Oh, but it gets better.

Two of TCU’s air indiscretions were already illegal forward passes when they left the quarterback’s hand — only to find even more mischief once escaping.

The first was an ill-advised attempt at a "trick" play that will live on as long as bloopers are irresistible.

The backwards pass to set the wheels in motion was pretty well telegraphed, but when a forward pass came back to the quarterback, it appeared to catch Cal off guard when he, in turn, threw another forward pass … that, as you already guessed, as illegal as it was, was promptly picked off.

LOL? I swear, my sides were hurting.

He also saw nothing wrong with firing one roughly 5 yards after he’d crossed the line of scrimmage — it, too, of course found the wrong address.

So strike up the Benny Hill music.

Oh, but they weren’t done yet.

TCU played eeny, meeny, miny, moe with its placekickers at the end of regulation before finally luring a duck hook that allowed the overtime everyone was begging for.

So it ended the only way it could after TCU intercepted the first pass of OT and almost had a pick-six, even as a Horned Frogs staffer got a 15-yard penalty mid-return when he tripped head-over-teacup over the first-down chains and onto the field for an — a Looney Tunes backdrop would fit here — illegal participation flag on the sports information director.

TCU then managed an uneventful field goal ­— fans were ducking for cover — and it was over.

But in the end it was important to remember that, even with Bears and Frogs running around like their heads were cut off, no animals were harmed in the filming of this American classic … even when the TCU mascot chug-a-lugged the postgame trophy, which was filled with all 16 flavors of Cheez-Its.

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<em><strong>Scooter Hobbs</strong> covers LSU athletics. Email him at</em>

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