Bright lights are something the Horned Frogs should get used to. After a 48-6 beatdown of UNLV Saturday under the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip, the spotlight of the college football world will shine on Salt Lake City this week when ESPN’s College GameDay will arrive to watch No. 5 Utah host No. 3 TCU.
Saturday will mark the third time in the last two seasons that GameDay will be at a TCU game.
The Horned Frogs (9-0, 5-0) jumped ahead of Boise State and moved up to No. 3 in the BCS rankings this week. Thanks in part to losses by Michigan State and Missouri, Utah (8-0. 5-0) is ranked No. 5. TCU will participate in its first matchup of Top Five teams since 1956, when the fourth-ranked Frogs lost to No. 5 Texas A&M.
TCU helped set up this week’s marquee matchup by methodically picking apart UNLV (1-7, 1-3) Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium. For the fifth-straight game the TCU defense kept its opponent from reaching double figures in points. The defense held the Rebels to 197 yards, intercepting UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton twice.
With the defensive effort, the Frogs regained the top spot nationally in total defense (217.3 yards per game) and kept their top rankings in scoring defense (8.67 points per game) and pass defense (119.0 yards per game).
Despite three fumbles, two of which the Rebels recovered, TCU’s offense held the ball for more than half the game and gained 530 yards. Quarterback Andy Dalton led the Frogs, going 16 of 23 for 252 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing for two more scores.
Head Coach Gary Patterson admitted that though the Frogs played well, he could still find the negatives in their game.
“We fumbled. Defensively we let them go right down the field running the football on us, using play action,” Patterson said. “As a general rule I’m not very happy during the game.”
TCU players were not made available for comment.
Once the Horned Frogs took a 21-6 lead, UNLV Head Coach Bobby Hauck called for a fake punt late in the second quarter. The pass fell incomplete and gave the ball and momentum back to TCU at halftime.
Dalton threw both of his touchdown passes in the second half, including a third quarter, 54-yard strike to Josh Boyce that marked TCU’s longest play from scrimmage this season.
Second half scoring aside, Patterson said style points were not on his mind.
“(Tonight) wasn’t about scoring points, it was about shortening the game,” Patterson said. “You guys see how we’re always going to do it. We’re going to take a knee and go about our business.”
For UNLV, Clayton finished with 128 passing yards and a touchdown, while the Rebels used four different ball-carriers to gain 69 yards on 24 carries.
After the game, Patterson explained why he thought there was a chance GameDay would select the TCU-Utah matchup.
“People know about Utah, they know about TCU. What would you want any different,” Patterson said. “We understand what kind of football team they have, how talented they are and we understand that we’ve got to go play a good ballgame.”
And after Utah’s win over Air Force Saturday, Utes quarterback Jordan Wynn admitted to The Sporting News that he has looked ahead to the Horned Frogs.
“I’ve been taking it one game at a time,” Wynn said. “But honestly, we all knew when the day was.”