The Horned Frogs overcame three first-half turnovers and erased a 13-7 halftime deficit Saturday to beat San Diego State 23-20 in a game that moved TCU one shaky step closer to its first outright conference title in almost 50 years.”We know we were very fortunate to get out of here with a win,” head coach Gary Patterson said.
Junior wide receiver Cory Rodgers ran for a six-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to put the Frogs up 20-13, their first lead of the second half.
The Aztecs drove to the TCU two-yard line, but sophomore safety David Roach intercepted SDSU quarterback Kevin O’Connell in the end zone with 9:28 remaining to protect TCU’s lead.
Even after sophomore kicker Chris Manfredini added a field goal with a little less than four minutes left to give the Frogs a 10-point lead, the Aztecs continued to threaten. O’Connell threw his only touchdown of the day on the ensuing possession, putting SDSU in an onside kick situation.
Senior cornerback Drew Coleman’s kick recovery closed the door on the Aztecs’ upset bid.
Rodgers said SDSU’s effort was nothing less than he expected.
“They came out determined,” Rodgers said. “We know that everybody is going to give us their best shot.”
The Frogs were led by junior running back Robert Merrill, who took advantage of a poor SDSU rushing defense (ranked No. 92 nationally) by rushing for a season-high 170 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Jeff Ballard, however, who told reporters a week ago that Oct. 22’s victory over Air Force was “like pitch and catch,” failed to throw a touchdown pass in a game he has started for the first time this season.
The TCU defense played an uncharacteristic first half, forcing no turnovers and allowing 13 points.
Halftime provided a necessary boost for the Frogs’ league-leading scoring defense, as it picked off two passes and held the Aztecs to only seven points.
Sophomore defensive end Tommy Blake said that despite the halftime deficit, the defense was not ready to quit.
“We knew it was going to be a fight – they’re athletes just like us and they’re well coached,” Blake said, “but we work too hard not to win.”
A victory at home against Colorado State on Saturday clinches a title for the Frogs in their first Mountain West Conference season.
Blake said the team is starting the week with a renewed focus on its season-long goal – winning the MWC.
“We got to work, we got to be ready,” Blake said. “We want this championship.