8:00 PM ET, October 29, 2005
Qualcomm Stadium, SAN DIEGO, CA
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- TCU played just well enough in its first visit to San Diego to stay on track for the Mountain West Conference championship.
Cory Rodgers ran 6 yards for the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter and David Roach had an interception in the end zone as MWC newcomer TCU beat San Diego State 23-20 Saturday night, the 20th-ranked Horned Frogs' seventh straight win.
"We know we were very fortunate to get out of here with a win," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
Robert Merrill carried 29 times for a season-high 170 yards and two touchdowns for TCU (8-1, 6-0), which had won its previous four games by an average of 23.5 points. TCU rushed for 291 yards.
TCU can win the conference title outright if it beats second-place Colorado State at home on Saturday. The Rams beat New Mexico 35-25 on Friday night to improve to 4-1 in the conference. TCU has two games left while the Colorado State has three.
It would be TCU's first outright title since winning the Southwest Conference in 1958. Since then, the Horned Frogs have shared five league titles.
"We knew this game was important because without it we couldn't go home next week and win this thing outright in front of our own fans," Patterson said. "You can't ask for anything more."
With the score tied at 13, Rodgers, a wide receiver, lined up in a full-house backfield, took the handoff from Jeff Ballard and scored on the third play of the fourth quarter for a 20-13 lead. That capped a 13-play, 92-yard drive.
San Diego State (3-6, 2-4) moved to the TCU 2 before Roach intercepted Kevin O'Connell's third-down pass with 9:28 to go. San Diego State, knocked out of bowl eligibility, lost for the 19th straight time to a ranked team. The Aztecs are assured of their seventh straight non-winning season.
"The defense won the game for us," Merrill said. "If it wasn't for them, we would have lost. We struggled at times on offense to push the ball in, but they came up with big play after big play, especially in the second half."
Said Roach: "Our offense did not play its usual game. But they've lifted us up a number of times this year. Tonight it was our turn to step it up."
TCU's Chris Manfredini kicked a 37-yard field goal with 3:50 left, and O'Connell threw an 8-yard TD pass to Jeff Webb with 2:20 left. TCU's Drew Coleman recovered the ensuing onside kick.
After committing an uncharacteristic three turnovers in the first half, the Horned Frogs looked more like themselves with two interceptions in the second half. TCU leads the nation with 30 takeaways and 19 interceptions. They've forced 20 turnovers in their last five games, while committing just seven.
The Horned Frogs rallied from a 13-7 halftime deficit.
San Diego State went for it on fourth-and-3 from the TCU 38 midway through the third quarter, and Quincy Butler intercepted O'Connell. That set up Merrill's 21-yard touchdown run with 5:02 to go in the quarter. Manfredini shanked the PAT and the game was tied at 13.
"If you're going to beat a team like TCU, you better be aggressive," SDSU coach Tom Craft said. "I thought we played our hearts out."
Merrill also scored on a 1-yard run on TCU's first possession of the game.
SDSU went ahead 10-7 with three minutes left before halftime when O'Connell ran untouched on a 26-yard keeper on third-and-6.
Two of TCU's three turnovers set up field goals by Garrett Palmer.
Palmer kicked a 36-yarder as time expired at the end of the second quarter for a 13-7 lead. The drive was set up when safety Brett Sturm intercepted Ballard and returned it 27 yards to the TCU 46.
Early in the second quarter, Sturm knocked the ball loose from Rodgers after a reception and Antwan Applewhite recovered just before the ball went out of bounds at the TCU 20. That set up Palmer's 37-yard field goal to pull the Aztecs to 7-3.
Palmer missed a 35-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter.
O'Connell was 25-of-46 for 235 yards, and ran 17 times for 49 yards.
SDSU's leading rusher, Lynell Hamilton, had bleeding in his right hamstring and wasn't going to play, but two other running backs were hurt during the game. Hamilton didn't come in until late in the second quarter and finished with 15 yards on seven carries.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... TCU's Drew Coleman recovered an onside kick at the San Diego State 44-yard line with 2:08 left to end the Aztecs' upset bid.
Gameball goes to... TCU's Robert Merrill, who carried 29 times for a season-high 170 yards and 2 TDs.
Stat of the game... 291: The Horned Frogs came in averaging 169 rushing yards a game, but bettered that number by 122 yards.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||8-17||7-19|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||1-3|
|TD||12:02||ROBERT MERRILL 1 YD RUN (CHRIS MANFREDINI KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 51 yards.
|FG||12:31||GARRETT PALMER 37 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 1 yards.
|TD||3:00||KEVIN O'CONNELL 26 YD RUN (GARRETT PALMER KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 46 yards.
|FG||0:00||GARRETT PALMER 36 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 28 yards.
|TD||5:02||ROBERT MERRILL 21 YD RUN (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 55 yards.
|TD||14:26||CORY RODGERS 6 YD RUN (CHRIS MANFREDINI KICK)|
Drive info: 13 plays, 92 yards.
|FG||3:50||CHRIS MANFREDINI 37 YD FG|
Drive info: 12 plays, 60 yards.
|TD||2:20||JEFF WEBB 8 YD PASS FROM KEVIN O'CONNELL (GARRETT PALMER KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 65 yards.