TCU coach Gary Patterson knew the option was coming Thursday night, just not on fourth-and-1 from the Air Force 29.
Jim Ollis took Shaun Carney's pitch and rambled 71 yards down the Falcons' sideline to tie it in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter and Ryan Harrison's 33-yard field goal in overtime sent Air Force past the stunned Horned Frogs 20-17.
Harrison's game-winner on second down, which kept the Falcons unbeaten under new coach Troy Calhoun, followed a miss by TCU kicker Chris Manfredini, whose 36-yard attempt hit the left upright on the first possession of overtime.
The senior has missed just six times in his career and two of them were on this night.
The Falcons (3-0, 2-0 Mountain West), who overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, were swarmed on the field by thousands of cadets who hadn't had this much to celebrate in a long, long time.
The Frogs (1-2, 0-1), still smarting from their 34-13 loss at Texas on Saturday and their subsequent ejection from the Top 25, were well within Manfredini's range with the wind at his back going toward the south end zone in the final minute of regulation.
Instead of playing the percentages, they went for the touchdown on first-and-10 from the 22 only to see cornerback Carson Bird snare Andy Dalton's underthrown pass to Jimmy Young in the end zone with 49 seconds left.
``I was surprised he threw the ball,'' Bird said. ``I was surprised by the throws he made all game long and the decisions he made.''
Although Calhoun said he liked the gutsy call and insisted ``we would have done the exact same thing,'' Patterson blamed the curious call on his offensive coordinator, Mike Schultz.
``We shouldn't have went to the end zone,'' Patterson fumed after falling to 9-1 against the service academies. ``We should have run the football. Why we threw the football, I don't know. I don't call that side of the ball. We made a mistake.''
After saying all week that he expected the Falcons to run the option as much as they did during Fisher DeBerry's 23 years at the academy, Patterson had his defense pack the interior on fourth-and-1, never anticipating the option at that time.
``I got a little antsy looking at our play call,'' Ollis said. ``Because I knew if we could get the play off, get it out and get the pitch, get them outflanked, that we'd have a chance.''
Calhoun, the first Air Force coach to start 3-0 since Buck Shaw in 1956, figured the Horned Frogs wouldn't know what was coming because the Falcons had shown a tendency to run up the gut on third- or fourth-and-short, either with the tailback or fullback.
``Again, they're extraordinarily well-prepared and were packed down in there, so we had a chance to get the ball to the perimeter,'' Calhoun said. ``And once we did, we're in pretty decent shape. We had it sealed off. Chad Hall got enough of the safety and Ryan Williams got just enough of the corner.
``And Jimmy showed a little bit of speed there, too.''
Patterson, who wouldn't allow any of his players to speak with reporters after the game, said simply, ``They had a good play called. We were in a defense to stop fourth-and-1 and they got to the edge and we couldn't catch them.''
Despite two turnovers in the red zone, two missed field goals, six penalties, including three false starts by lineman Nic Richmond, the Frogs led 17-3 in the fourth quarter after Andy Dalton hit Walter Bryant for an 11-yard score with 13 minutes remaining.
Carney responded by hitting Travis Dekker for 50 yards, setting up a 9-yard touchdown strike to Keith Madsen and then came the 71-yard run by Ollis with 5:55 left.
Ollis finished with 138 yards on 16 carries, the second straight tailback to gain 100 yards on TCU, which had gone 19 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher until their trip to Austin last weekend.
``We finally showed up,'' Carney said. ``I thought the offense played terrible. TCU's defense is outstanding. There's no secret about that. There's a reason they were No. 3 in the country last year. They have amazing players. Coach talks about a bunch of them going to the NFL. (But) we just weren't playing well.
``Finally we just said, hey we've got about 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, we've got to do something and we started throwing the ball a little bit and starting making plays.''
And TCU continued to make mistakes and at least one curious call.