TCU doesn't deliver big BCS statement
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Texas Christian University Horned Frogs have posted a score.
They are not the leaders in the BCS standings, but they are the leaders in the BCS clubhouse. Now they can sit back and sweat, waiting to see if it will be enough to play for a national championship.
Third-ranked TCU improved to 11-0 here. After a week off, it will improve to 12-0 Nov. 27 at New Mexico. The Lobos are 1-9 and absolutely in contention to be the worst FBS team in America -- they have no chance against the Frogs. Book it.
So while Oregon, Auburn and Boise State all must face one more ranked team between now and December, TCU has done all it can do. But it didn't leave the voters with much of a statement Saturday.
The Horned Frogs played 47 dominant minutes and 13 terrible ones against 7-3 San Diego State. During the dominant stretch, the Frogs outscored the Aztecs 40-7. During the terrible stretch -- which encompassed the game's first six minutes and its last seven -- the Aztecs outscored the Frogs 28-0.
Final score: 40-35.
Not the kind of result that wins over any converts. Especially when you couple that with a couple of body blows to the Frogs' strength of schedule: Utah's 25-point loss at Notre Dame and Oregon State's stunning home loss to Washington State. In a single Saturday afternoon, two of TCU's four biggest victories were devalued.
And this victory flirted with being a defeat. The Frogs had to kill the final 4 minutes, 50 seconds off the clock to avoid giving San Diego State a chance for the winning drive.
"It's not the score we would like to have," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "But it falls under my category of one point. (That's one of Patterson's mantras -- just be one point better than your opponent every time out.) So I guess I should cheer up."
At that point, Patterson sent his message to the fans through the media.
"So, everyone, be happy."
There wasn't an abundance of happy from the players, who are smart enough to know there is no room for off games when you're from a non-AQ conference. Quarterback Andy Dalton, by all accounts a stand-up guy for four years, took the occasion of his final TCU home game to refuse interviews. Dalton threw four touchdowns but also had an interception and a fumble that the Aztecs recovered for a touchdown.
The Frogs who did talk to the press sounded subdued but tried to look on the bright side.
"We're 11-0," center Jake Kirkpatrick said. "Not many people can say that."
"We got a win," safety Tejay Johnson said. "That's the only stat that matters."
Some less-vital stats were not good. After giving up a total of 23 points the past six games, the Frogs surrendered a season high.
"We don't very often give up 35 points in this house," Patterson said.
Indeed. Last time it happened in Amon G. Carter Stadium was 2004.
The TCU secondary was beaten on several deep balls from SDSU quarterback Ryan Lindley to his speedy receivers, in particular Vincent Brown. Lindley completed just 11 passes all day, but for a total of 262 yards. That included a 49-yard flea flicker, a 50-yard bomb, a 42-yarder and touchdowns of 35 and 33 yards.
"You can't let the ball get thrown over your head," Patterson said.
It was fair to wonder where the Frogs' heads were when the game began. Appearing flat after the 40-point victory over Utah last week, they fell behind 14-0 in rapid fashion. During that time offensive line coach Eddie Williamson had chest pains on the sideline and had to be taken to a hospital, where he was reported to be in stable condition Saturday night.
"That kind of put us into disarray early," Patterson said.
After that, TCU's defense took over. After the gadget-play bomb on San Diego State's second offensive play, the Aztecs did not muster another first down until late in the third quarter. For the game they only had seven, which makes the 35 points all the more unusual.
Offensively, TCU was without leading rusher Ed Wesley. He tried to play on an injured foot but carried the ball only one time for no gain before sitting out the rest of the game. In his absence, backups Matthew Tucker and Waymon James each ran for 100 yards. Tucker and James iced the game by combining for eight straight carries to grind out first downs and run out the clock.
"Our kids fought back after trying to screw the thing up early," Patterson said. " Now we move on."
TCU moves on into the BCS clubhouse. Its score is posted. Whether it will be enough to play for a title, nobody yet knows.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.