TCU put an exclamation mark on its first Mountain West Conference season Saturday night, pounding the Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels 51-3 at Amon Carter Stadium.The win, TCU’s tenth straight, capped a 9-0, championship run through conference for the 11-1, No. 18 Horned Frogs.
“I told them that we wanted to play this game like we were champions,” head coach Gary Patterson said. “I think we did.”
A stingy TCU defense held the last-place Rebels to six first downs, 25 rushing yards and 157 yards of total offense.
“They’re out there being aggressive,” Patterson said of his defense. “They’re out there doing the things they need to do and they don’t care who’s in the ballgame… One guy gets tired and the next guy goes in.”
Freshman tailback Aaron Brown ran 18 times for three touchdowns and 105 yards and junior quarterback Jeff Ballard threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns with one interception to lead the Frogs in the win.
The Frogs wasted no time out of the gates.
Ballard hit senior reserve wide receiver Ryan Pearson for 15 and 16 yards on the game’s first series, which sophomore Chris Manfredini sealed with a 29-yard field goal.
A Rebel fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave TCU the ball at the UNLV 31, and on fourth and five from the 26-yard line, junior wide receiver Quentily Harmon made a juggling catch as he jumped across the goal line for a touchdown.
“The defense and the special teams always come through and give us good field position,” Ballard said. “To be able to jump out and get going on the scoreboard, I guess relaxed us.”
TCU senior cornerback Drew Coleman stepped in front of a third-down pass for on interception on the next UNLV series, returning it 22 yards to set junior wide receiver Cory Rodgers up for a 9-yard touchdown run that made the score 17-0 just over seven minutes into the game.
With the help of a Ballard interception deep in TCU territory, UNLV kicker Sergio Aguayo connected on a 32-yard field goal to cut the Frog lead to 17-3, but that would prove to be all the Rebels could muster on the night.
Aaron Brown extended the TCU lead early in the second quarter when he took a fourth-down option pitch 1 yard for a touchdown.
“I’m not a selfish player — if I score, I score,” Brown said. “I just do what I’m taught. I just run north and south.”
After a 22-yard Manfredini field goal, Brown added another 1-yard scoring run just before halftime, making the score 34-3. Brown dazzled on the drive, juking past a cover man on a 33-yard reception and taking a Ballard pitch 10 yards for a first-down run.
The halftime break did not take away TCU’s offensive momentum, as the Frogs scored on their first three possessions of the third quarter.
Manfredini hit a 22-yard field goal before Ballard connected with Rodgers for 55 yards and a touchdown down the left sideline for a 44-3 TCU lead.
Brown impressively capped the next Frog drive, rushing up the middle, rolling off a potential tackler, and streaking toward the corner of the end zone, leaving a trail of Rebels in the dust on his way to a 31-yard touchdown, the final score of the night.
With the team’s schedule complete, the Frogs will now have to play the waiting game. The team knows it will go to a bowl game, but Patterson said the team will continue to work just as hard as it has been while watching where it will go in the postseason.
“I can tell you there’s probably a whole bunch of people who don’t want to play us in a bowl game,” Patterson said.