Skye Dawson stood at the four-yard line waiting for the ball to drop into his arms off the foot of punter Mike Sadler.
The ball fell through his hands and onto the turf where Michigan State took possession.
Two plays later running back Le’Veon Bell punched the ball in the end zone to give the Spartans a 14-13 lead.
Jaden Oberkrom hit a 53-yard field goal, a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl record, to take the lead back with 2:42 on the clock, but Dan Conroy answered with a 47-yarder to give Michigan State the 17-16 win.
“The bottom line to it is, you don’t fumble the ball on the two-yard line,” head coach Gary Patterson said. “We get the ball back, who knows what happens in the game.”
TCU jumped out first on a four-yard touchdown run by Matthew Tucker. The Frogs added two field goals to take a 13-0 halftime lead.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin had 136 passing yards in the first half including a 59-yard pass to wide receiver Kolby Listenbee and and a 61-yard reception by Josh Boyce.
Boyce led the team with five receptions which gave him 66 total receptions on the season to break TCU’s single season record. Kelly Blackwell had 64 receptions in the 1990 and 1991 seasons.
After putting up 204 yards in the first half, the Frogs could only muster 84 yards in the second half.
“First half we were going up and down the field,” Patterson said. “[Michigan State] found a way to stop us in the red zone, make us kick field goals. You have to give them a lot of credit to do so.”
The Frogs held Michigan State (7-6) to 76 yards in the first half, but the Spartans posted 151 yards in the second half. Bell had 107 in the second half compared to 38 in the first half.
“We just didn’t do our assignments, made mistakes and it cost us,” safety Sam Carter said.
Bell picked up eight of his carries on the Spartans first touchdown drive of the second half and also threw a 29-yard pass on the drive.
“What I thought happened in the fourth quarter, I thought Michigan State turned up the heat and I didn’t think we answered it,” Patterson said. “Plain and simple. You got to find guys that go make plays.”
TCU finished its inaugural season in the Big 12 with a 7-6 record. Patterson said the move to the Big 12 was a “slam-dunk.”
“It was a win-win before we won one ballgame or lost one ballgame,” he said. “As we go forward as a university in the Big 12, as the landscape of college football changes, I mean, there are going to be those moving forward and those left behind. We’re very fortunate to be where we sit right now.”
The Frogs had a winning record for their eighth straight season and the 11th time in Patterson’s 12 seasons as head coach.
“We never quit from start to finish,” Patterson said. “Against good defenses like Michigan State, you can’t make those kind of mistakes.”