The Frogs made a splash in their first Mountain West Conference game, knocking off defending champ Utah and ending the nation’s second-longest winning streak at 18, on a touchdown catch by wide receiver Michael DePriest in overtime, 23-20.Freshman tailback Aaron Brown, filling in for the injured Lonta Hobbs, ran for 163 yards on 17 carries in his first collegiate action.
Head coach Gary Patterson said Brown’s fresh legs helped TCU wear down the Utah defense and that he was surprised by the power displayed by the 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound runner.
“I knew he could run on the outside, but I didn’t know he could run that well on the inside,” Patterson said.
The Utes took an early lead in the game, scoring on their second drive after sophomore quarterback Brian Johnson hooked up with wide receiver Brian Hernandez for 45 yards down the right side.
Tailback Quinton Ganther finished the drive by stretching over the goal line for a touchdown on a five-yard run.
The Frogs answered on the first play of the second quarter, when tailback Robert Merrill ran three yards for a touchdown, following Brown runs of 18, 15 and 13 yards.
A humble Brown gave credit to his teammates and paid respect to the reigning Fiesta Bowl champions after the game.
“We knew it was going to be a long game,” Brown said. “We knew what they were capable of. We just played TCU football.”
Johnson responded to the TCU score with his feet, converting two fourth downs on the ground on the way to a Utah field goal, making the score 10-7 before halftime.
Utah came out of the half determined, forcing a three-and-out and then driving 48 yards for a touchdown.
Johnson came up big on the series thanks to some evasive maneuvering and solid protection from the Ute offensive line. He patiently connected with Ganther and wide receiver Brent Casteel for big third-down gains and capped the drive by cutting back around the right end for a one-yard score.
Brown again made his presence felt for TCU with a 50-yard run on the next series, setting Merrill up for another short touchdown run.
After a Utah punt, sophomore kicker Chris Manfredini tied the game at 17 by converting his first field goal attempt as a Frog, a 30-yarder.
Following a scoreless, nine-punt fourth quarter, the Utes started overtime with the ball, but a key stop by safety Jeremy Modkins forced Utah into kicking a 34-yard field goal.
Merrill shouldered the rushing load in overtime, gaining 21 of TCU’s 25 yards, including a 15-yard scamper around left end to put the Frogs in a goal-to-go situation. On third down, a wide-open DePriest ended the game by hauling in a low Tye Gunn pass for a four-yard touchdown.
DePriest described himself as a role player and said he performs when needed.
“When it’s my turn to step in there and make a play, I step in there and make a play,” DePriest said.
The Frogs head to Brigham Young next week in search of their second consecutive win, following a disappointing loss to rival SMU.