CLEMSON, S.C. (AP)—Coach Gary Patterson wants to bust up talk about No. 15 TCU’s BCS potential.
“I’m not drinking that Kool-Aid,” Patterson pledged.
The Horned Frogs showed off their stellar defense and bolstered their Bowl Championship Series credentials with a 14-10 victory at Clemson on Saturday.
Andy Dalton threw two TD passes in keep the Frogs (3-0) perfect. It was only a week ago that Mountain West Conference heavyweights—Utah and BYU—stumbled to BCS-bid conference opponents.
That left TCU carrying the banner for the MWC heading into Death Valley to play Clemson for first time since 1965.
The Horned Frogs lived up to their reputation as rock-solid defenders. They held Clemson to 117 yards in the second half and stopped the Tigers twice on fourth-quarter drives inside the TCU 20.
“Our defense has played great. It’s nice to have them on our team,” Dalton said. “On offense, you don’t want to have games 14-10. But it’s nice to come out with wins like that.”
TCU trailed 10-7 entering the fourth quarter as it had its own problems against a Tigers defense that held Boston College to 54 yards a week earlier.
That’s when Dalton ended a 56-yard drive with a 25-yard TD pass to Antoine Hicks to move in front with 12:46 left.
TCU kept the Tigers (2-2) off the scoreboard on their two best second-half chances as a steady rain soaked Death Valley. The initial drive ended with Richard Jackson’s first field goal miss—he had made his last nine—in three games. The other ended at the Frogs 16 as Kyle Parker threw a fourth-down incompletion to the end zone with 1:55 left.
Clemson got the ball back one last time with 1:03 to go—and again TCU held as Parker’s desperation fourth-down heave was knocked aside.
“We kind of turned it up during the second half,” TCU star defensive end Jerry Hughes said. “Our goal this year was finishing football games.”
Tigers star C.J. Spiller rushed for 112 yards and had a touchdown.
Spiller also joined another do-everything star, former Southern California Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, in an exclusive college football club. They are the only players with at least 2,500 yards rushing, 1,500 yards in kickoff returns, 1,00 yards receiving and 500 yards in punt returns.
Spiller couldn’t bring Clemson coach Dabo Swinney his first victory over a ranked team since taking over last October.
When Parker’s final pass hit the ground, TCU defenders leaped and ran to the sidelines in celebration. And why not? Along with grabbing an impressive nonconference victory against an Atlantic Coast Conference team, the school left Death Valley with a $1 million guarantee for the one-time matchup.
“Both teams battled it out today, and it came down to a few plays,” Swinney said. “Unfortunately, they made a couple more at the end of the game.”
Dalton completed 17 of 26 for 226 yards, with a 6-yard TD pass to Curtis Clay in the opening quarter. Dalton also rushed for 86 yards and kept the Tigers off balance.
Dalton moved the junior into second place on the school career list 5,326 yards passing. He’s still more than 2,000 yards behind career leader Max Knake.
This game figured to be a low-scoring, trench fight between two of the country’s top defenses. And it was after a few early fireworks.
Clemson drove 72 yards with the game’s opening kick, moving easily on TCU for nearly 7 minutes. The Frogs toughened up in the red zone, though, holding the Tigers to Jackson’s ninth straight made field goal.
TCU took advantage of a big break on the following series when Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers tipped Dalton’s pass high in the air and into the waiting hands of tailback Ed Wesley behind everyone else for a 58-yard catch and run.
Dalton connected with Clay for a score moments later.
That’s when things got physical.
The Tigers got their fourth-down stop when TCU, which had driven to the Clemson’s 24, passed up a field goal try for a straight-ahead carry by Joseph Turner that was stuffed by linebacker Kavell Conner with 11:48 left in the second quarter.
The Horned Frogs got payback about 7 minutes later, nose tackle Jeremy Coleman halting Clemson’s Jamie Harper for no gain.
As usual, it took Spiller to open up the Tigers’ offense. He sneaked behind linebacker Daryl Washington for a 60-yard catch to the TCU 4. Three plays later, Spiller got in for a 1-yard score and a 10-7 lead at half.