Coverage: CBS Sports Network
3:30 PM ET, December 2, 2006
Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- TCU didn't overlook its regular-season finale, even with a bowl berth already in hand and another Mountain West Conference title out of reach.
The Horned Frogs instead played keep-away and completely dominated Air Force. And it started with the opening coin toss.
After winning that toss, TCU took the ball to start the game instead of deferring as it normally would do. The Frogs scored on that opening drive -- and all four of their first-half possessions -- and beat Air Force 38-14 on Saturday for their seventh straight victory.
"Fortunately for us, it turned out OK," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "We went out, scored and we stayed up."
Jeff Ballard completed all 12 of his passes and ran for a touchdown in the first quarter to put TCU (10-2, 5-3 Mountain West) up 14-0 when Air Force had run only seven plays with one first down. The Horned Frogs held the ball for nearly 20½ minutes while building a 24-0 halftime lead.
"It kept our legs fresh and we were able to fly around," linebacker Jason Phillips said.
Air Force (4-8, 3-5) finished its third straight losing season with one of the worst offensive games in school history. The Falcons had only 128 total yards, 220 below their season average, and didn't go above their record low of 102 yards (against Notre Dame in 1977) until a late 74-yard drive when backup quarterback Jim Ollis scored on a 19-yard keeper.
"We didn't imagine we'd hold them like that. When you play an option team, they're going to break some big runs," safety Marvin White said. "We give thanks to our offense. They controlled the clock, and (Air Force) didn't have that many opportunities."
The Falcons, who haven't been shut out in 168 games since a 13-0 loss to Mississippi in the 1992 Liberty Bowl, didn't score until Hunter Altman returned a blocked punt 15 yards for a touchdown with 12:28 left.
"It was too much too soon. We dug ourselves into a 14-0 hole and couldn't get out of it," Falcons coach Fisher DeBerry said. "This game is about blocking and tackling. We did not tackle very well and we did not block very well."
Poinsettia Bowl-bound TCU has trailed only 17 minutes -- just more than a quarter combined -- since consecutive conference losses to MWC champion BYU and Utah. Those setbacks came after TCU's 13-game winning streak that was then the longest in NCAA Division I-A.
"We had to readjust, and we changed our saying," Patterson said. "We started off with `Get it done.' After the Utah game, we said `Beat the odds."
While the Frogs weren't able to recover to defend the Mountain West title they won in their first season in the league, they reached 10 wins for the fifth time in seven seasons.
TCU earlier this week accepted an invitation to play Northern Illinois on Dec. 19 in San Diego. That will be the first of 32 bowl games played this season.
Ballard, one of 22 TCU seniors playing his last home game, was 20-of-25 for 220 yards and a touchdown while playing only three quarters. He is 18-2 as TCU's starter and has thrown 124 passes without an interception, the third-longest active streak in the nation.
With a 24-0 lead, TCU was at the Air Force 1 to start the second half when Lonta Hobbs fumbled trying to score. Chris Thomas reached from behind to poke the ball loose, then reached into a pile to recover the fumble -- a play that was upheld after being reviewed.
The Horned Frogs still scored two plays later, when Torrey Stewart returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown. The Falcons fumbled on a double reverse on their next drive, setting up Brown's 1-yard TD run that made it 38-0.
On the game's opening drive, Ballard completed seven passes for 58 yards before Hobbs scored on a 12-yard run, going virtually untouched into the end zone. Ballard hit five more passes on the next drive, ending that with a 1-yard keeper that made it 14-0.
During its winning streak, TCU has outscored its opponents 70-10 in the first quarter and 176-13 before halftime.
Quentily Harmon made an acrobatic play to put TCU up 21-0, when he caught a pass and was knocked off his feet. He came down on a bent leg at the 3, but his knee never touched the ground and wound up in a scrum of players, pushing forward into the end zone to cap a 19-play, 97-yard drive.
"It's good to see us come back after being 3-2 and gaining team chemistry," Harmon said. "It's really a blessing to have everyone on the same page."