FORT WORTH, Texas (AP)—TCU coach Gary Patterson immediately reminded everybody that the No. 4 Horned Frogs still have games left to play, making the expected ‘we’re not done’ comments.
Yet, he actually smiled.
And deservedly so, even if he’s not ready to talk about just how close they are to finally busting into the Bowl Championship Series.
“We’ve got two games left, we’re not going to talk about anything else,” said the typically staid and reserved Patterson.
With the hometown fans finally taking notice, and representatives from the major bowls watching, TCU crossed its last significant hurdle to an undefeated regular season with a 55-28 victory over No. 16 Utah on Saturday night.
“If the nation didn’t think that this was enough style points, then I don’t know what is,” Patterson said. “We’re just going to go about our business.”
The Horned Frogs (10-0, 6-0 Mountain West) put the game out of reach with three touchdowns in a 2 1/2 -minute span early in the second quarter and stretched their winning streak to 12 games since a last-minute loss last November at Utah (8-2, 5-1).
Utes, last season’s BCS busters, had won 22 of 23.
TCU also has won 13 in a row at home since losing when the Utes last visited two years ago.
With a record crowd of 50,307—a sellout at 79-year-old Amon Carter Stadium without the benefit of an instate opponent—and representatives from the Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls watching from the athletic director’s suite, the Frogs put on quite a show. Fans stormed the field when it was over.
“We made a big statement,” said quarterback Andy Dalton, who was 17-of-29 passing for 207 yards with a TD.
Matthew Tucker had the first and last touchdowns (runs of 41 and 9 yards) for TCU, with five teammates getting into the end zone in between. It was the first time Utah gave up more than 50 points since 1996, and the most allowed since 1990. The lopsided game even caught the Frogs by surprise.
“Not in my wildest dream,” defensive end Jerry Hughes said. “I figured it was going to be a dogfight.”
Even without guaranteed access to the BCS, the Frogs have upped the ante. Instead of wondering if they can make one of the big-money games, now they have a legitimate chance to be the first team from a conference without an automatic BCS bid to play for the national title.
The Frogs are fourth in the BCS standings, the highest a team from a non-AQ conference has reached. They trail only Florida, Alabama and Texas—all winners Saturday.
Ed Wesley ran for 137 yards and a touchdown and TCU had 549 yards overall, its third straight game with at least 500.
Utah’s Eddie Wide, who had posted six straight 100-yard games, was held to 25 yards on 14 carries.
Jeremy Kerley scored on a 3-yard run with 14:11 left in the first half after a blocked punt. He then had a 39-yard punt return to the Utah 29, setting up Antoine Hicks’ 1-yard TD run. Tank Carder then returned an interception 15 yards to make it 35-7 with 11:40 left.
“It was one of our worst performances,” Utah linebacker Stevenson Sylvester said.
“We knew we would have to play our best and we didn’t do that,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “The key thing now is how we respond. We’re still working on a pretty good season.”
The Frogs, 10-0 for only the second time since its 1938 undefeated national championship team led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Davey O’Brien, play next week at wobbly Wyoming. They close the regular season Nov. 28 at home against New Mexico (0-10).
Utah was the original BCS buster in 2004 and last year capped the only undefeated season by an FBS team with a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.
The Utes, who had won six in a row since a 31-24 loss at Oregon in mid-September, entered freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn’s second start as a nearly three-touchdown underdog. Utah was 5-1 in the series, the only loss in overtime at TCU in 2005, and won 13-10 last year in Salt Lake City by driving 80 yards to score the game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
There would be no chance of a comeback this time, especially considering that before its quick three-TD spurt, TCU missed a chance to be up 14-0 before Utah’s first offensive snap.
The Frogs’ opening drive ended when Tucker took a handoff, juked a defender and sprinted toward the right sideline untouched for a 41-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, Utah’s David Reed had to jump over a teammate that had slipped down and then took a bone-jarring hit from Tyler Luttrell that knocked the ball loose. TCU recovered at the Utah 16, but didn’t make a first down and Ross Evans missed a 26-yard field goal attempt.
Utah tied the game 7-all when receiver Shaky Smithson took a direct snap and scored the first of his two 10-yard TD runs.
Ryan Christian, a converted senior running back who had his first two receiving touchdowns last week, made it three when he turned a quick pass into a 16-yard touchdown after shaking past a defender at the line of scrimmage. It was 14-7 before Utah’s next possession ended with the blocked punt.