Scores
EV1.net Houston Bowl

Final

(11) TCU 27

(11-1, 8-0 Big 12)

Iowa State 24

(7-5, 4-4 Big 12)

Coverage: ESPN2

2:30 PM ET, December 31, 2005

1 2 3 4 T
#11TCU 14 10 0 327
ISU 0 17 7 024

Top Performers

Passing: B. Meyer (ISU) - 254 YDS, 3 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: R. Merrill (TCU) - 11 CAR, 109 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: T. Blythe (ISU) - 5 REC, 105 YDS, 2 TD

Streaking Frogs looking forward to facing Cyclones

HOUSTON (AP) -- TCU won 10 games and the Mountain West Conference championship, then was snubbed by the BCS.

The No. 14 Horned Frogs know a win over the Big 12's Iowa State in the EV1.net Houston Bowl on Saturday could help their chances for that coveted invitation next season.

"To possibly beat a team like Iowa State on national television in a bowl game is just a stepping stone for us next year in the preseason rankings," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "Those are very important for you to get into a BCS game. You've got to be able to start higher than what we did this year."

Meaning you have to be in the poll. TCU was not ranked in the preseason after a 5-6 record in 2004.

The Horned Frogs entered the poll after a win over then-No. 7 Oklahoma in the season opener, but were derailed by SMU a week later. They have since won nine straight, the third-longest streak in country behind No. 1 USC and No. 2 Texas.

TCU (10-1, 8-0) is the lowest-ranked 10-win team, but has the best ranking among teams from non-BSC conferences. The Horned Frogs are making their seventh bowl appearance in eight seasons after their fourth 10-win season in six years.

Iowa State, making its fifth bowl appearance in six years, is just 7-4, but three of those losses came in overtime.

TCU quarterback Jeff Ballard has been exceptional since taking over for injured starter Tye Gunn, passing for 1,526 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushing for eight more. Ballard, a junior, had thrown one pass at TCU when he replaced Gunn in the third quarter against BYU and led the Horned Frogs to an overtime win.

He looks to improve his record as a starter to 8-0 in front of a hometown crowd. Ballard grew up just outside of Houston in Friendswood.

"The Big 12 is always looked at as a powerhouse conference, and if we are to win this game it would give us a little more pride, a little more advantage knowing we can play with the best," Ballard said.

The Cyclones will get a boost from running back Stevie Hicks, who has struggled with groin and ankle injuries, but said he's the healthiest he's been all year.

"We've got to establish some running game," said Iowa State coach Dan McCarney. "We've been real inconsistent with that this year. But if we can't run the ball at all against TCU, we're in for a long day."

The Cyclones were 4-0 during the regular season, when Hicks ran for at least 90 yards. Hicks expects a challenge from TCU's big, strong defense.

"They're fast and they're physical," he said. "They run sideline to sideline real well, so we're just going to have to go right at them."

TCU will employ its rushing duo of Robert Merrill and Mountain West freshman of the year Aaron Brown. The two have combined for 1,512 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns.

While the running game could be important, both coaches said defense will be the key.

TCU's defense has the most interceptions in the country with 24, led by Quincy Butler's five, and its turnover margin is second to USC.

"They're just relentless," said Iowa State quarterback Bret Meyer. "If there's a ball on the ground, they're going to get it. If the ball is in the air, they're going to try and make a play on it. They're just ballhawks."

Meyer has thrown for 2,622 yards, and sophomore receiver Todd Blythe is second in the nation in yards per catch (19.46), and has 895 yards with seven scores.

The Horned Frogs will have to shake off a little rust -- they will have gone 49 days since their last game, the longest break in the country. Patterson said he doesn't think it will be a factor because TCU had 18 practices in that span.

"I was worried about our offense being a little bit behind, but actually our offense is ahead of our defense," he said.

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Passing Leaders

TCUCMP%YDSTDINT
C. Pachall56.41468610
T. Boykin59.7119877
Iowa StateCMP%YDSTDINT
S. Richardson55.31397116
G. Rohach57.6120887

Rushing Leaders

TCUCARYDSAVGTD
B. Catalon1075695.36
T. Boykin1053133.07
Iowa StateCARYDSAVGTD
A. Wimberly1415674.02
S. Johnson903584.03

Receiving Leaders

TCURECYDSAVGTD
J. Doctson3644012.24
D. Porter2643516.75
Iowa StateRECYDSAVGTD
Q. Bundrage4867614.19
E. Bibbs3946211.82