SAN DIEGO — Louisiana Tech nearly knocked off No. 16 TCU in a matchup of conference champions.
Casey Pachall and the Horned Frogs rebounded, though, in time to head from the Mountain West to the Big 12 Conference on an eight-game winning streak.
Pachall highlighted a record-setting game with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Skye Dawson with 4:26 left to lift TCU to a 31-24 victory over Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl on Wednesday night.
"When you play in a bowl game against a champion and they have had as much time to prepare, anything can happen," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
It was the eighth straight victory for Mountain West Conference champion TCU (11-2), which moves to the Big 12 next year. It was the third time this season TCU overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to win, including a 36-35 victory at Boise State on Nov. 12, the Broncos' only loss.
"It feels great because it's going to give us a lot of momentum," Pachall said. "As a young team, no one expected us to get this far."
Pachall was 15 of 29 for 206 yards. He set school single-season records with 228 completions, 2,921 yards and a completion percentage of 66.5, breaking marks previously held by Andy Dalton.
On the winning play, the sophomore took the snap in the shotgun and Dawson ran past safety Chad Boyd to pull in the long pass.
Pachall said he changed the play when he saw a blitz coming.
"It was a great catch by Skye and a touchdown," the QB said.
"Once I saw single coverage, I pretty much knew I could get by the guy," Dawson said. "You have to secure the ball and get in the end zone."
TCU is 3-0 in the Poinsettia Bowl.
The Horned Frogs, who beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last season, had hoped to make it to a BCS bowl for the third straight season.
"It didn't turn out the way we expected or how we wanted it to but we came out with a win," Dawson said."
Western Athletic Conference champion Louisiana Tech (8-5) had its seven-game winning streak snapped hours after coach Sonny Dykes agreed to a contract extension through 2017.
TCU tied it at 24 on Luke Shivers' 1-yard run with 7:49 left that capped an 18-play, 72-yard drive that consumed 9:21. A replay review took away a yard on a completion from Pachall to Matthew Tucker to bring up a fourth-and-1 from the 9. Tucker gained 6 yards for the first down. On third-and-goal from the 8, a pass-interference call in the end zone gave TCU a first down on the 2. Shivers scored two plays later.
The Bulldogs had to punt on their next drive and TCU scored the go-ahead touchdown six plays later.
Louisiana Tech seemed to have the momentum after turning two TCU turnovers into scores in the third quarter to take a 24-17 lead.
TCU's Brandon Carter fumbled a punt that was recovered on the 12, setting up Hunter Lee's 2-yard run that tied it at 17.
Quinn Giles intercepted a pass from Pachall on Louisiana Tech 39. Three plays later, Myles White made a sensational one-handed, over-the-shoulder catch of a 61-yard pass from Colby Cameron for a touchdown and a 24-17 lead.
White reached up for the ball with his right hand and pulled it in.
"I tracked the ball late," he said. "I reached out and by the grace of God it kind of fell into my body. I thought we were going to bust the game open from that point."
The teams traded field goals in the first half before Quinton Patton pulled in a 2-yard TD pass from Cameron. The play originally was ruled an incompletion, but was overturned after video review. Patton got one foot inbounds before tumbling out of the side of the end zone.
"I felt like we had the best of them in the first half," White said. "Against good teams, you can't be lackadaisical against them."Comment on this story
Late in the first half, TCU cornerback Greg McCoy jumped a route, intercepted Cameron's pass and returned it 25 yards to the Bulldogs 25. Four plays later, Ed Wesley ran 7 yards up the gut to tie it at 10.
"They were hitting us in the mouth in the first half and we had to counter," Dawson said.
TCU had 190 yards rushing.
"I was a little disappointed in the way we played tonight," Dykes said. "I wish we would have played better. I think we would have had a good opportunity to win. But they made plays down the stretch when they needed to and we didn't."