3:00 PM ET, November 15, 2003
Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- TCU just keeps prolonging the BCS debate.
So far, the Horned Frogs (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) have the perfect answer for the critics and doubters who don't believe they deserve a chance to play in one of the top four bowls.
This pass eluded Matthew Grimmett, but the Horned Frogs had few other problems.
"Everybody can criticize and do what they want, but the bottom line to it ... we're 10-0," coach Gary Patterson said emphatically after TCU's 43-10 win over Cincinnati on Saturday. "That's all we care about."
Kenny Boyd returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, linebacker Marvin Patterson pounced on a fumble in the end zone and the Horned Frogs (10-0, 7-0 Conference USA) won their 12th straight game.
TCU and Oklahoma, the No. 1 team in every poll, are the only undefeated teams in major college football.
The Frogs are sixth in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings, the highest ranking ever for a team from a non-BCS conference. If they stay in the top six, they will be guaranteed a spot in one of the four most lucrative bowl games. Fiesta Bowl representatives were at the game.
Next up is Thursday night at Southern Mississippi (7-3, 6-0). That game is for the outright C-USA title and seemingly the last challenge to keeping the BCS dream alive for the Frogs, who end the regular season Nov. 29 at winless SMU.
"All we can do now is keep winning games," said Nick Browne, who tied a school record with five field goals.
"We're one game away from winning a championship," coach Patterson said. "There's no time to relax, there's no time to savor this one at all."
Patterson, as intense as he has been all season while talking after the game, wasn't even going to grade the film. Instead of congratulating his team for the win, he told the players to get some rest and be ready for a hard practice Sunday.
TCU is 10-0 for the first time since 1938, when quarterback Davey O'Brien led the Frogs to their only undefeated season and lone national championship.
After winning five games by three points and another by a just a touchdown, the Frogs had their biggest win of the season. And by beating Cincinnati (5-5, 2-4), they avenged one of their two losses from last season.
"It feels a lot better than winning by three points and having to come down to the wire," said quarterback Brandon Hassell, who had a 22-yard TD run.
TCU clinched at least a share of the C-USA title for the second year in a row, having shared the title with Cincinnati last season. The Frogs broke a 69-year-old school record with their 13th straight home win.
"They deserve any recognition that they get. Their record shows exactly how good they are," said Cincinnati linebacker Jason Russell.
While TCU's offense sputtered much of the game (298 total yards), defense and special teams did more than enough against the Bearcats.
After starting its opening drive of the second half at the 4 following a punt, Cincinnati lost a yard on the first two plays. Bo Schobel then sacked Gino Guidugli in the end zone and stripped the ball. Patterson jumped on it for a 27-10 lead.
The Frogs led 10-0 in the first quarter despite two interceptions by Hassell, who is 6-0 as a starter in place of injured Tye Gunn.
Cincinnati went three and out after Franklin Callicott's interception at the 18. Flander Malone then came straight up the middle to block Chet Ervin's punt, and Boyd scooped up the ball and carried it into the end zone for a 10-0 lead.
Tyrone Sanders blocked Ervin's 49-yard field-goal attempt on the first series of the game. Robert Merrill had a quick 18-yard run, but Hassell was picked off by Daven Holly on a terribly underthrown pass.
Browne's 23-yard field goal midway through the first quarter came after TCU drove 73 yards before failing to convert on first-and-goal from the 8. Browne kicked a 45-yarder in the second quarter, and added kicks of 22, 35 and 34 yards in the second half.
Browne also kicked five field goals in the 2002 season opener against Cincinnati, when the Bearcats overcame a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter and won in overtime. The Frogs are 20-1 since, the only loss at East Carolina, which was also the last team to beat TCU at home in 2001.
Merrill ended the scoring with a 19-yard TD with seven minutes left, two plays after Chris Peoples' interception set the Frogs up at the Cincinnati 24.
Cincinnati's only TD came on Guidugli's 56-yard pass to Hannibal Thomas. Chris Manfredini kicked a 24-yard field goal on the last play of the first half.
Guidugli, Cincinnati's career passing leader, hit 24 of 44 passes for 254 yards. The TD was the 50th of his career.
Hassell was just 9-of-18 for 121 yards, but had 15 carries for 79 yards. His 22-yard TD keeper in the second quarter came right after he scrambled for 11 yards to convert fourth-and-6.