TCU’s two losses this season were marred by blown coverages and total letdowns on defense. Cornerback Jason Verrett endured a portion of that, giving up two touchdown passes in the Frogs’ opener at Baylor.
Verrett and the TCU defense atoned for their early season struggles Saturday night.
The Frogs, fueled by a Verrett interception and a Matthew Tucker touchdown in the fourth quarter, staved off a San Diego State comeback, beating the Aztecs 27-14 and earning their second straight Mountain West win Saturday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
Casey Pachall threw for 212 yards and Ed Wesley ran for a season-high 149 yards but the story of the night was the TCU defense.
The same unit that gave up 40 points to SMU a week ago, came up big on several occasions in the first half to allow TCU to gain some separation from SDSU and made the key stops late in the game to put away the Aztecs for good.
TCU held onto a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter when SDSU quarterback Ryan Lindley and the Aztec offense drove deep into Frog territory.
The TCU defense stopped SDSU on third down but the Aztecs would have a shot at a 31-yard field goal to tie the game.
SDSU tried to fake the field goal but the Frogs wouldn’t be fooled by the Aztecs’ trickery.
Holder Bria Stahovich was forced into throwing an errant pass that was tipped by several TCU defenders and fell incomplete, giving the Frogs the ball at their own nine-yard line.
That’s where Pachall and the offense went to work.
Pachall completed four of his next five passes, leading the Frogs down the field and capping off the drive with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Hicks. The 91-yard drive was TCU’s longest of the season.
SDSU responded, though, getting the ball back and driving down to the TCU three-yard line.
But the Aztecs would be denied again.
This time, TCU safety Tekerrein Cuba forced a Ronnie Hillman fumble. Cornerback Elisha Olabode recovered the loose ball in the endzone for a touchback that gave the Frogs the ball on their own 20-yard line.
Patterson said Hillman’s fumble was key in getting the Frogs out to an early lead.
“It’s a big deal,” Patterson said. “When you’re down there on the one and they don’t give you any points and we turned around and came back down the length of the field and scored. That was a big turnaround.”
After a Pachall interception on TCU’s next drive, the Frog defense delivered again. This time, safety Johnny Fobbs came intercepted a Lindley pass and returned it out to the 50-yard line.
From there, Pachall went back to shredding the Aztec secondary – but needed only one pass to do so.
The sophomore placed a perfectly thrown ball into the hands of receiver Josh Boyce for a 31-yard touchdown to put the Frogs up 17-0. It was Pachall’s second third down touchdown toss of the night.
The Frogs headed into halftime with that same lead, and did not look back when they came out for the third quarter.
SDSU recovered a Skye Dawson muffed punt then scored two plays later. The Aztecs added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter to put the score at 20-14.
And after sacking Pachall for a 14-yard loss and forcing TCU to a three-and-out, SDSU got the ball back at their own 33-yard line looking to tie the game.
The TCU defense had other plans.
Four plays into the drive, Lindley rolled right and was looking for fullback Chad Young. Instead, he found Verrett, who picked off the pass and took it back to the SDSU 49-yard line.
Patterson said he was glad to see Verrett, a California native, play well Saturday night, especially since he had family in the stands.
“It’s great for him, coming back to California,” Patterson said. “His family’s out here. He hurt his foot, we didn’t even know if he’d play. We thought about not bringing him, but he was ready to play Saturday. Good things happen to those who wait, I guess.”
After Verrett’s pick, the Frogs pounded out a nine play drive capped off by Tucker’s four-yard touchdown run.
That left the Aztecs with 5:23 to score two touchdowns.
SDSU couldn’t even manage one.
Lindley, who had success against TCU last year and had eight touchdowns coming into Saturday, struggled against the Frogs, completing only 15-of-41 passes for 201 yards.
But Patterson said his defense wasn’t doing anything different than it has been in games past.
“Nope,” Patterson said. “Same calls, same things we do.”
Patterson did say, though, he felt like his unit was more impressive than has been recently.
“We’ve been a work in progress,” Patterson said of his defense. “ We weren’t perfect…but as a whole team I felt like we were a lot more focused about what we needed to get done.”
The Frogs will have a bye week this week before returning to action Oct. 22 when they host New Mexico at Amon Carter Stadium.