DALLAS-If the Horned Frog faithful were worried about TCU overlooking rival SMU, those fears were calmed early in Saturday night’s contest at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
The Frogs’ offense capitalized on good field position provided by a defense that forced three turnovers and held SMU to negative-eight yards rushing. At the end of the night, the latest installment of the Iron Skillet saga went to TCU, 48-7.
“You get to 4-0 and not many teams in the country can say that,” head coach Gary Patterson said. “Now we’ve got to get back, get healthy and get ready for a really good Oklahoma team.”
SMU coughed up possession of the football one minute into the first quarter, when Frogs’ safety Stephen Hodge forced a fumble of Mustangs’ receiver Aldrick Robinson. The turnover negated a first down for SMU and gave the Horned Frogs a short field to work with.
On the Frogs’ first offensive play from scrimmage, sophomore quarterback Andy Dalton connected on a 22-yard pass to Jimmy Young that moved the football to the Mustangs’ 17-yard-line. Then, with a third down looming, Dalton threw the ball over the middle of the field to senior running back Aaron Brown. Brown shifted through the Mustangs’ defense to set up TCU with a red-zone opportunity. One play later, running back Joseph Turner strolled past the goal-line with a 4-yard touchdown run, putting TCU up 7-0.
With the Mustangs back on offense, the Frogs defense would pressure SMU’s freshman quarterback, Bo Levi Mitchell into throwing an interception to TCU defensive end, Jerry Hughes. Hughes returned the ball 24 yards to pay dirt, giving TCU a 14-0 lead with 9:15 left in the first quarter.
The Frogs’ defense never allowed Mitchell to get comfortable, and having senior linebacker Jason Phillips playing more snaps helped disrupt the SMU passing play, as the inside linebacker excelled in run pursuit as well as pass coverage. Phillips had missed time earlier in the season due to injury.
“The last time we came here we got upset pretty bad,” Phillips said. “For us to come in and play like we did tonight was big. SMU has a pretty tough offense and they threw some new wrinkles at us that we handled pretty well.”
Mitchell finished the game 20-36 for 218 with one touchdown and two interceptions.
In the second quarter, TCU threatened to add two more touchdowns, but Dalton had sure scores dropped by receivers Jeremy Kerley and Walter Bryant. However, freshman kicker Ross Evans would split the uprights on a pair of field goals to increase the Horned Frogs lead to 20-0 at halftime.
Going into the half, TCU kept the chains moving with 11 first downs while limiting the Mustangs to three first downs and 87 total yards.
The Horned Frogs welcomed back senior running back Aaron Brown, who missed the first three games for violating university policy. Brown played a big role in TCU’s success moving the ball downfield in the first half, as he carried the ball six times for a total of 18 yards. He also caught four passes that went for a total of 60 yards.
The Frogs received the football to open the third quarter and pushed its lead to 27-0 on a 4-yard run from Joseph Turner. With the ball back, SMU’s Mitchell continued to struggle from under center. Frogs’ defensive tackle Cody Moore picked off a shuttle pass from the freshman quarterback to give TCU favorable field position once again.
With 7:06 left in the third quarter and the Frogs facing another third down inside the Mustangs’ 10-yard line, TCU quarterback Andy Dalton took the snap and rushed for five yards and a touchdown to make the score 34-0.
SMU got its only touchdown of the game when Mitchell tossed a 4-yard touchdown to Cole Loftin with 5:25 to play in the third quarter.
“Giving up that touchdown made us mad, but that’s football,” Phillips said. “As an aggressive defense, we are going to give up a big play every once in a while. But when that happens we have to let it motivate us and come back better for it.”
As the players left the stadium, fans in purple chanted, “Beat OU.” With the latest game in the win column, the team now sets its sights at the 2nd ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
“The Sooners have great athletes at every position and their quarterback may be the best in the nation,” Phillips said. “We’re going to probably go at it a little harder this week in practice.”