FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- TCU did just enough one more time to
remain undefeated and continue the debate about whether it deserves
to be part of the Bowl Championship Series.
"The difference in that game was about three inches," coach
Gary Patterson said after the Horned Frogs (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) beat
Louisville 31-28 Wednesday night.
The Frogs didn't have the win until Nate Smith's 44-yard field
goal attempt on the final play of the game bounced off the
crossbar. That was his third miss in the second half
"It looked like it was right on," said TCU quarterback Brandon
Hassell, who passed for 251 yards and a touchdown while running for
61 yards and another score. "My heart was beating fast. When it
hit the crossbar, I just felt joy."
And an incredible sense of relief after the Frogs' fifth
three-point win this season.
TCU (9-0, 6-0 Conference USA) and Oklahoma (9-0), the No. 1 team
in every poll, are the only undefeated teams left in major college
football. Both have 11-game winning streaks.
Smith, who failed on a 22-yard kick in the third quarter, had
also missed a 47-yard attempt well short with 2:36 left. But TCU
wasn't able to run the clock out.
The Cardinals (No. 25 AP) got the ball back at their 20 with 55 seconds left
and no timeouts. Stefan LeFors completed passes of 10 and 19 yards
to J.R. Russell, then on fourth-and-15 scrambled away from pressure
to find Robert Haskins for 29 yards to the TCU 27 to set up Smith's
LeFors finished 31-of-46 for 459 yards with a touchdown, and ran
for a 9-yard TD on a fake field goal in the fourth quarter. Lionel
Gates had nine catches for 134 yards, and Russell caught eight
passes for 119 yards.
TCU is 9-0 for the first time since 1938, when the Frogs went
undefeated and won their only national championship with
quarterback Davey O'Brien.
The Horned Frogs are ninth in the BCS rankings, the same spot
they reached in 2000 after a 7-0 start. They will have to finish
three spots higher to be guaranteed a berth in one of the four
lucrative BCS games.
"They shouldn't have anything left to prove to anyone,"
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "Everybody they play, they
Kenny Hayter's 1-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter gave
TCU a 31-21 lead, capping an 11-play, 80-yard drive after Smith
pushed his 22-yard attempt just right.
Smith had made 13 of 14 field goals, including 21- and
26-yarders in the first half before his three misses. His only miss
before Wednesday had been a blocked 47-yard attempt against South
"In no way is this loss all his fault," Petrino said.
While the Cardinals piled up 580 yards, they also were penalized
15 times for 120 yards.
TCU's suddenly porous TCU defense was ranked fourth nationally
before giving up 1,657 yards and 110 points its last three games.
The Frogs were coming off a 62-55 win over Houston.
"If you told me before the season that we'd play bad defense
and be 9-0, I'd take 9-0 every time," said Patterson, the Frogs'
defensive coordinator before becoming head coach at the end of the
Hassell completed 17 of 27 passes and ran 11 times, improving to
5-0 as a starter. The junior had never thrown a pass before this
season, but is now in his second stint filling in for injured
starter Tye Gunn.
Reggie Harrell had eight catches for 128 yards for TCU.
LeFors' 12-yard TD pass to Ronnie Ghent and 2-point conversion
pass to Dolby Smith capped the opening Louisville drive of the
second half to tie the game at 21. Ghent finished with seven
catches for 78 yards, and the tight end has catches in 34 straight
LeFors completed all five of his passes on that drive for 82
yards, including gains of 37 and 24 after a holding penalty on the
first play pushed the ball back to the 10.
The Frogs then went back ahead to stay on Nick Browne's 44-yard
Louisville moved the ball from the start of the game, gaining 56
yards on its first three plays to the TCU 21. But the Cardinals
didn't score then, taken out of field goal range after LeFors was
sacked for a 12-yard loss on third down before a personal foul