LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP)—Andy Dalton made a bet over the summer with his TCU teammates that he was hoping to lose. Win 10 straight and the junior quarterback vowed to shave his flame-red hair.
The Horned Frogs did and Dalton honored the pact, showing up last week with a pseudo Mohawk and “TCU” etched into the side. But all future bets regarding Dalton’s locks are off.
That’s probably wise given the way No. 4 TCU is playing. The Horned Frogs are off to their best start in 71 years after routing Wyoming 45-10 on Saturday.
The win keeps TCU (11-0, 7-0) in the thick of BCS contention and clinches at least a share of the Mountain West Conference crown. TCU last went 11-0 in 1938, capped off by a win over Carnegie Tech and a No. 1 final ranking in the AP poll. The Horned Frogs have not won a national title since, but they still have an outside chance this season.
All that stands in the way of the Frogs and a perfect regular season is a win over struggling New Mexico next week.
As for getting caught looking too far ahead—dreaming of a possible big-money BCS bowl game—defensive lineman Jerry Hughes said that’s not possible.
“This team has done a great job blocking out all distractions,” he said. “We’re all focused on winning the next game. … We’ve just got to take care of business now. When you start looking too far into the future, things start to get away from you.”
That almost was the case Saturday—at least early.
TCU found itself tied at 10 after Wyoming’s Chris Prosinski scooped up a fumble and raced 98 yards for a score midway through the second quarter. But the tie lasted all of 16 seconds as Greg McCoy returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards for a score.
Then, minutes later, Dalton found a hole in the Cowboys zone and hit Jeremy Kerley in stride, the receiver taking it from there as he sprinted 45 yards for a score and a 24-10 lead.
In a flash, the Frogs turned a potential scare into some breathing room.
This wasn’t the most polished victory TCU has turned in this season, the team turning the ball over four times. But the Frogs broke open a tight game by scoring 35 unanswered points, and have now outscored opponents 278-63 over the last six contests.
“It looks like we lucked out again,” said TCU coach Gary Patterson, tongue firmly in cheek. “We turned the ball over, but we did what we needed to do today. It could have been worse.”
Patterson reminded his team all week to not let all the BCS scuttle distract them from the task at hand. Except for a sluggish start, the Frogs didn’t.
“Today was getting ourselves ready,” Patterson said. “This group has done a great job of taking the next ball game. That’s why we are at where we’re at right now.”
Wyoming (5-6, 3-4) had just 178 yards of total offense and five first downs against a stingy TCU defense.
Austyn Carta-Samuels finished 4 of 10 for 83 yards and threw an interception. He eventually gave way to Robert Benjamin, who couldn’t move the sputtering offense, either.
“There’s no question that TCU deserves that No. 4 ranking,” said Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, whose team remains a win from becoming bowl eligible. “They are an excellent football team and we knew all along that they have no weaknesses and are very strong in all areas. … It was a tough game.”
Matthew Tucker rushed for a career-high 134 yards and two touchdowns, while Joseph Turner also scored twice.
Turner was dinged up early in the game when two Wyoming players fell on him, but returned after halftime.
“I had to sit out a little bit and make sure I wasn’t too dizzy,” Turner admitted. “It was real hard to sit out.”
Dalton had a solid day, leading an offense that gained more than 500 yards. He was 10 of 19 for 168 yards through the air, his only real blemish an interception deep in Wyoming territory in the first quarter.
He was even more effective with his feet. Wyoming left the middle of the field wide open, allowing Dalton to run quite a few quarterback keepers and finish with 88 yards.
Dalton then got to sit back and watch the action in the fourth quarter.
The quietly confident Dalton carved his name deeper into the TCU history books. His 28 wins are one shy of matching the school record that Slingin’ Sammy Baugh set from 1934-36.
“It’s pretty cool to be considered with a guy like that. He did an unbelievable job with this program,” Dalton said.
As for the BCS talk, Dalton said he’s tuning it out.
“It’s all speculation who will go and then who should go,” Dalton said. “Each team thinks they should have the shot. We can only focus on the game.”