Now that the hometown fans are finally taking notice of No. 4 TCU, maybe the rest of the nation will also realize that the BCS-hopeful Horned Frogs are for real.
Utah certainly can’t disagree.
In likely its last significant hurdle to an undefeated regular season, TCU scored three touchdowns in a 2 1/2-minute span early in the second quarter and beat No. 16 Utah 55-28 Saturday night.
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“If the nation didn’t think that this was enough style points, then I don’t know what is,” coach Gary Patterson said. “We’re just going to go about our business.”
The Horned Frogs (10-0, 6-0 Mountain West) stretched their winning streak to 12 games since a last-minute loss last November at Utah (8-2, 5-1), which had won 22 of 23. TCU also has won 13 in a row at home since losing when the Utes last visited two years ago.
With a record crowd of 50,307 – a sellout at 79-year-old Amon Carter Stadium without the benefit of an instate opponent – and representatives from the Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls watching from the athletic director’s suite, the Frogs put on quite a show. Fans stormed the field when it was over.
Matthew Tucker had the first and last touchdowns (runs of 41 and 9 yards) for TCU, with five teammates getting into the end zone in between. The 55 points were the most allowed by Utah since 1996, a lopsided game that even caught the Frogs by surprise.
“Not in my wildest dream,” defensive end Jerry Hughes said. “I figured it was going to be a dogfight.”
Even without guaranteed access to the Bowl Championship Series, the Frogs have changed the question about if they can be a BCS buster. Now it’s can they be the first outsider to play for the national title?
The Frogs are fourth in the BCS standings, the highest a team from a conference without an automatic bid has reached. They trail only Florida, Alabama and Texas – all winners Saturday.
Ed Wesley ran for 137 yards and a touchdown and Andy Dalton threw for 207 yards and a score. TCU had 549 yards overall, its third straight game with at least 500.
Utah’s Eddie Wide, who had posted six straight 100-yard games, was held to 25 yards on 14 carries.
Jeremy Kerley scored on a 1-yard run with 14:11 left in the first half after a blocked punt. He then had a 39-yard punt return to the Utah 29, setting up Dalton’s 28-yard pass to Jimmy Young and Antoine Hicks’ 1-yard TD run. Tank Carder then returned an interception 15 yards to make it 35-7 with 11:40 left.
“It was one of our worst performances,” Utah linebacker Stevenson Sylvester said.
The Frogs, 10-0 for only the second time since its 1938 undefeated national championship team led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Davey O’Brien, play next week at wobbly Wyoming. They close the regular season Nov. 28 at home against New Mexico (0-10).
Utah was the original BCS buster in 2004 and last year capped the only undefeated season by an FBS team with a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama while being the first outsider to play in two of the big-money bowl games.
The Utes, who had won six in a row since a 31-24 loss at Oregon in mid-September, entered freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn’s second start as a nearly three-touchdown underdog. Utah was 5-1 in the series, the only loss in overtime at TCU in 2005, and won 13-10 last year in Salt Lake City by driving 80 yards to score the game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
There would be no chance of a comeback this time, especially considering that before its quick three-TD spurt TCU missed a chance to be up 14-0 before Utah’s first offensive snap.
The Frogs’ opening drive ended when Tucker took a handoff, juked a defender and sprinted toward the right sideline and untouched for a 41-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, Utah’s David Reed had to jumper over a teammate that had slipped down and then took a bone-jarring hit from Tyler Luttrell that knocked the ball loose. TCU recovered at the Utah 16, but didn’t make a first down and Ross Evans missed a 26-yard field goal attempt.
Utah tied the game 7-all when receiver Shaky Smithson took a direct snap and scored on a 10-yard run. That came a play after Wynn converted third-and-8 with a 31-yard pass, avoiding a secondary blitz, rolling to his left, motioning to receiver DeVonte Christopher and then floating the ball into his arms.
Ryan Christian, a converted senior running back who had his first two receiving touchdowns last week, made it three when he turned a quick pass into a 16-yard touchdown after shaking past a defender at the line of scrimmage. That made it 14-7 with three minutes left in the first quarter, and Utah’s next possession ended with the blocked punt.