The deep pass was thrown right to Virginia leading receiver Darius Jennings, bouncing off his facemask for an incompletion near midfield early in the game.
Then after halftime, Jennings appeared to have a catch near the goal-line before a jarring hit by TCU' safety Chris Hackett knocked the ball loose for another incompletion.
Add in four turnovers and the Cavaliers were left with a 27-7 loss Saturday at the 17th-ranked Horned Frogs, who won their 11th consecutive game to extended FBS's longest winning streak.
''We drove the ball, had a lot of opportunities,'' quarterback Michael Rocco said. ''But we kind of stubbed our toe on our own doing.''
Brandon Carter had a 68-yard touchdown on one of his two one-handed catches and linebacker Kenny Cain recovered a fumble along with two interceptions for the Horned Frogs (3-0).
Casey Pachall threw for 305 yards with three touchdowns and his first interception of the season.
Pachall got a lot of help from Carter on the score that capped TCU's opening 94-yard drive after a punt by the Cavaliers (2-2) that Anthony Harris slapped back from the goal-line to prevent a touchback.
Carter was behind safety Brandon Phelps near midfield when he snared a pass with one hand, then sprinted untouched to the end zone.
''I thought I put it a little high, but they have 6-7, 6-6 and 6-5 linemen who jump whenever you throw the ball,'' Pachall said. ''I thought I got it over his head, but he made a great play. It's not that I expect it, but when it happens, it doesn't wow me because I've seen him do it numerous times, especially in practice.''
Josh Boyce had his TCU-record 18th career touchdown catch. Freshman Jaden Oberkrom had field goals of 46 and 47 yards, the longer kick coming after Cain's 40-yard return on the second interception.
Cain is the first TCU linebacker with two interceptions in a game since Chad Bayer on Nov. 20, 1999, the same day LaDainian Tomlinson set an NCAA record with 406 yards rushing for the Frogs against UTEP.
The Frogs hadn't allowed a touchdown this season until Virginia finally scored with 4 1/2 minutes left, when backup quarterback Phillip Sims threw a 5-yard TD to E.J. Scott to make it 20-7.
''Even though the score is indicative of the way they played, believe it or not, there are some positive things that occurred for us against a top 20 team,'' Virginia coach Mike London said.
Carter had five catches for 128 yards, his second consecutive 100-yard receiving game. Pachall, the nation's most efficient passer, completed 21 of 32 passes and is the first TCU quarterback since Casey Printers in 2001 with consecutive 300-yard passing games.
Late in the first half, Carter reached up with his right hand for another big play, turning a short pass into a 43-yard gain to the Virginia 3.
The Frogs failed to convert that one when Pachall tried to force a ball to Boyce that was intercepted by Maurice Canady, the first turnover Virginia forced this season.
Boyce's TD catch put the Frogs up 14-0 in the second quarter. The play ended with Pachall emphatic fist-pumping and Boyce cradling the record-setting football to the sideline.
That seven-play drive was set up by Cain's fumble recovery at the Virginia 42. Kevin Parks, who had 84 yards on 12 carries, lost the ball after being hit by Elisha Olabode.
Cain's first interception came later in the second quarter on a ball that deflected off the intended receiver. In the second half on the pick he returned, Cain reached out and grabbed Rocco's pass that was thrown behind a receiver.
Coming off a 56-20 loss at Georgia Tech a week earlier, the Cavaliers now go back home to play Louisiana Tech before seven consecutive ACC games to wrap up the regular season schedule.
''I'm concerned we lost two games, concerned that we had four turnovers. ... That's about the extent of the concern,'' London said. ''We'll make sure we look at things we're doing and make the appropriate decisions.''