SAN ANTONIO – This place. This beautiful place in south Texas where the light winter breeze gently ruffles the palm trees that line the downtown streets.
This place haunts Chase Daniel, the can’t-do-wrong quarterback who had his team and its fans dreaming dreams no one dared before the season.
On Saturday this place ended a championship dream for him. Again.
It was here, at the Alamodome, that Daniel spilled coffee on his flawless high school resume four years ago.
His Southlake Carroll (Texas) Dragons were marching down the field for the winning score against Katy High in the class 5A championship. Daniel was leading the way. All his team needed was a field goal to win.
But Daniel forced a pass where it shouldn’t have been forced, and it was intercepted. Katy won 16-15.
Saturday was Daniel’s chance for redemption.
It was his chance to redeem that blemish on his perfect season at Southlake. More importantly, it was his chance to redeem this season’s loss to the Oklahoma Sooners, the only blemish on this otherwise perfect season.
He couldn’t do it. The Sooners won 38-17.
Goodbye Big 12 title. Goodbye Heisman.
But Daniel tried. Like a championship boxer, he didn’t stop fighting until he was knocked out.
He threw passes in tight spaces. He went all “Tim Tebow” on the Sooners and used his legs to pick up first downs. He rushed for a score. He yelled. He pleaded. He begged for his teammates to rally.
It wasn’t enough. Daniel threw 16 incompletions, a key interception and failed to pass for a touchdown for the first time this season.
“We expected to win the Big 12 Championship,” Daniel said after the game. “This one’s going to hurt for a while.”
With his team trailing by a touchdown late in third quarter, Daniel had a chance to lead the Tigers down the field for a potential game-tying score. On the second play of the drive, Daniel threw a bullet to tight end Martin Rucker.
The pass was too hot for him to handle. Rucker batted the ball in the air, and it landed softly in the hands of OU linebacker Curtis Lofton, who returned it to the Tigers’ 6 yard-line. OU scored two plays later, and the game was all but over.
It was Lofton, you’ll remember, who picked up the fumble on Daniel’s botched handoff late in the first game and returned it for a score.
This place. It haunts.
Daniel wasn’t ready to concede though. He drove the Tigers right back down the field. A chance to cut the lead to seven. But as was the case all game, the Tigers faltered in the red zone and had to settle for their third field goal.
Five minutes later, OU scored and extended its lead to 35-17.
Daniel made one last push in the fourth quarter.
His efforts were futile. The Tigers went three-and-out.
Daniel walked off the turf, his head bowed. He got back to the sideline and tossed his helmet to the ground. He helplessly watched from the bench as OU milked the clock down to 3:42.
Then chants started. “Over-rated,” sang the Sooner faithful.
Daniel couldn’t watch.
This place haunts.