The No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs secured at least a Rose Bowl berth with their 66-17 win over New Mexico Saturday while also clinching their second consecutive undefeated regular season and Mountain West Conference title.
Coupled with a 34-31 overtime loss by then-No. 4 Boise State to then-No. 19 Nevada Friday night, the Frogs’ path to a BCS bowl became clearer without the Broncos threatening to jump TCU (12-0, 8-0 MWC) in the standings.
Head coach Gary Patterson said the Broncos’ loss actually increased the pressure on TCU before its Saturday game because it gave the Frogs a clearer shot at a potential national championship or BCS berth.
“To be honest with you, I felt bad for Boise State,” Patterson said after Saturday’s game. “I know how hard they work to get where they’re at. We’ve been down the same road.”
Senior quarterback Andy Dalton echoed Patterson’s view and compared the Broncos’ loss to the one TCU had at Utah in 2008 that ended the Frogs’ BCS hopes that season.
“It’s a tough break for Boise,” he said. “It’s kind of a lot of how it was for us two years ago when we went to Utah [and lost 13-10], and unfortunately we didn’t make two field goals [like Boise missed Friday night]. So I feel for them.”
Patterson said the Frogs would still have to wait to see how No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon fare in their games next week before speculating what
TCU’s bowl fate would be 8212; BCS bowl or national championship.
“I’m still not counting out [Oregon or Auburn to lose],” Patterson said. “One’s playing a rivalry game [Oregon against Oregon State] and one’s playing in the SEC championship game [Auburn against South Carolina], so there’s still a lot of football left.”
If Oregon and Auburn do win out, TCU would likely receive a Rose Bowl invitation to take the spot the Pac-10 champion 8212; which would be Oregon 8212; usually fills. If one of the two loses, however, TCU would likely be next in line for a spot in the BCS National Championship, unless a team from an automatic-qualifying conference with one loss jumps TCU.
After watching Friday’s games unfold, which included wins by Auburn and Oregon, sophomore running back Ed Wesley said Boise’s loss gave the team a slight boost but didn’t make much of a difference in the team’s performance on Saturday.
Wesley set a career high as he topped 1,000 rushing yards for the season on a 44-yard run during TCU’s first drive of the game. Wesley is the first Horned Frog running back to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season since Robert Merrill ran for 1,107 yards in 2003.
The Frogs sprinted to a quick lead as Dalton threw for three touchdowns in the game’s first nine minutes to take a 21-0 lead. The touchdowns gave Dalton 26 total touchdown passes for the season, breaking Max Knake’s single-season school record of 24 set during the 1994 season.
Even though Dalton left the game in the second quarter with an elbow injury, he threw for 156 yards, which moved him past the 10,000-yard mark for career passing yards. His 10,095 career passing yards rank first all-time at TCU.
The Frogs’ momentum slowed in the second quarter when Dalton left the game, and the Lobos (1-11, 1-7 MWC) took advantage of a couple of TCU turnovers to make the score 31-17 TCU at halftime. TCU’s offense couldn’t produce any long drives before halftime with backup quarterbacks Yogi Gallegos and Casey Pachall, and it looked as if New Mexico might continue to keep it close.
Wesley said, however, that Patterson calmed the team down at halftime.
“[Patterson] pretty much told us that next year, Andy’s not going to be here anyways, so it’s time for some of these other guys to step up,” Wesley said.
The offense, led by Pachall, came out in the second half and scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to pull away, aided each time by a short field provided by the TCU defense and special teams.
The Frogs ran the ball on offense the rest of the game and ended up with their 66-17 win. The team’s 66 points were the most TCU had ever scored in a MWC game and were two shy of the most scored in a game all-time.