Offensive firepower has been the focus of most of the talk surrounding the Frogs this year, but in Saturday’s 33-6 title-clinching win over Colorado State, the defense stole the show. “We just have a fast defense,” said senior defensive tackle Ranorris Ray. “Tonight was a real good showing. We played smash-mouth and flew around to the ball at the same time, and that caused a lot of problems for the offense.”
The win over the second-place Rams locked up a championship for TCU in its first season in the Mountain West Conference.
“We wanted to get to this point to where we got a chance to play … for a conference championship,” said head coach Gary Patterson. “This was a good win, but really it’s something that our kids put themselves in position for.”
The Frog defense limited the Rams to 253 yards, forced four interceptions and recorded four sacks.
Sophomore strong safety Brian Bonner intercepted two passes and shared a sack for a safety with sophomore defensive end Chase Ortiz.
Bonner credited a strong front four with pressuring CSU senior quarterback Justin Holland and forcing him into bad decisions.
“The defensive line, I’m going to keep praising these guys all week,” Bonner said. “That defensive line, that defensive line – all (Holland) could do is just throw it out of bounds, run it, or throw it to us.”
Senior defensive tackle Jared Kesler, said the depth of the Frog line gives the team and edge over its opponents.
“We have so many guys rotating in and out,” Kesler said. “Everybody stays fresh, so everybody has a lot more energy. They can give a good push and kind of rush the quarterback a little bit.”
Patterson said Kesler, who is battling a knee injury, turned in a gutsy performance and played his best game of the season.
“He just epitomizes what this team is about, and I don’t know if I can say much more than that,” Patterson said.
The Frogs sealed the title in their most convincing, well-rounded performance of the season.
The tailback tandem of junior Robert Merrill and freshman Aaron Brown combined for 178 yards on the ground, with Brown running for a touchdown.
Junior quarterback Jeff Ballard managed the offense, going 13 of 25 for 160 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for a score and 44 yards on 13 carries.
“We played a good game on both sides of the ball and gave ourselves a chance to win,” Ballard said. “We limited mistakes and our defense came up big, making turnovers like they’ve been doing all season.”
The win was the Frogs’ eighth straight and moved the Frogs to No. 18 in the Associated Press and USA Today polls.
The Frogs will host last place Nevada-Las Vegas next week with their eyes on completing an undefeated conference season.
“I want their championship ring to say 10-1, not 9-2,” Patterson said. “They deserve that.