FORT WORTH, Texas -- Ed Wesley was TCU's answer for the best rushing offense in the country. The sophomore running back was better than Air Force all by himself.
Wesley had a career-high 209 yards and scored twice, and the TCU defense stiffened after giving up its first October touchdown, leading the Horned Frogs (No. 5 BCS, No. 4 AP) to a 38-7 victory over the Falcons on Saturday night.
TCU piled up 377 yards on the ground and wore down the team with a vaunted triple option offense that's supposed to make the opponent weary. Air Force was held to 184 rushing yards -- barely half what the Falcons are used to, but slightly higher than the 169 yards they averaged in four previous games against TCU.
"They're big, they're fast, and they're bold," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said of the Frogs (8-0, 4-0 Mountain West). "The last three times we've been down here, they've been dominant."
It looked as if it might be different this time when the Falcons (5-3, 3-2) answered a game-opening touchdown from TCU with an 89-yard drive to the first TD the Frogs have allowed in Mountain West play. Nathan Walker, filling for Jared Tew after the starting fullback broke his leg last week, went 18 yards through a huge gap in the middle of the TCU defense before quarterback Tim Jefferson went another 19 yards and then weaved his way for the final 16 and a 7-7 tie midway through the first quarter.
It was the first touchdown allowed by TCU in nearly 200 minutes, since early in the fourth quarter of a 41-24 win over SMU on Sept. 24.
"We thought it was going to be a dogfight," Jefferson said. "The whole first half, we had that feeling."
Just like in last week's 31-3 win over BYU, TCU changed that feeling while leading by three late in the first half. This time, the Frogs were up 10-7 when they went 89 yards in 3:01, capped by Andy Dalton's 8-yard scoring pass to Jeremy Kerley for a 17-7 lead with 16 seconds left in the half.
"It was big going up by two scores," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "And then we talked about it at halftime that they were going to come back. Triple option teams come out in the second half and make adjustments. We had to match their intensity and speed."
The Frogs did, simply wearing down Air Force in the third quarter despite having two replacements in the offensive line. Wesley, who had a career-high 28 carries, finished off an 80-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring run that included a key block from Dalton. Then Dalton had a career-long 47-yard run to set up Matthew Tucker's 6-yard rush that made it 31-7 on the final play of the third quarter.
"A lot of it has to do with Ed, and a lot of it has to do with the offensive line," said Patterson, who didn't make Wesley available to reporters after the game. "For us to run the ball like we did speaks volumes for what we will do in the future."
The Falcons couldn't keep up. They had just 42 yards the rest of the first half, when Calhoun twice faced difficult fourth-and-1 decisions from Air Force territory. Both times, he chose pooch punts from Jefferson, and TCU turned both possessions into points to break a 7-7 tie.
"There are times when you end up a yard short, and you can't be a yard short," Calhoun said.
The last sign of life for the Falcons came on the opening possession of the second half, when they drove from their 5 to the TCU 39 after a 17-yard run by Kyle Halderman. Jefferson fumbled in the backfield on the next play, and although Air Force recovered, the drive stalled.
"They started off fast, and we had to adjust to the speed of the game," TCU safety Colin Jones said. "We adjusted to the speed of the game and made some small changes then everything started coming together for us."
TCU had six plays of 20-plus yards and 312 total yards before halftime. Dalton's 27-yard completion to Josh Boyce keyed a 71-yard, game-opening touchdown drive that the quarterback finished himself with a 5-yard run, extending his school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback to 20.
Wesley had 114 yards to 101 for the Falcons in the first half. He had two runs of more than 20 yards, including a 22-yarder that kick-started the drive to Kerley's scoring catch in the final seconds of the half.
TCU didn't have a bigger halftime lead because Dalton threw his first home interception of the season -- and first in 88 passes -- three plays after a 25-yard completion to Bart Johnson. Dalton later threw incomplete when the Frogs went for it on fourth-and-5 from the Air Force 25 early in the second quarter.