Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 | 4:57 p.m.
- Payne looks to go out with a bang (Dec. 02, 2011)
As if the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs needed any extra motivation for Saturday's Mountain West Conference finale with UNLV, they got it midway through the second quarter.
That's when it was announced at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas, that sixth-ranked Houston had been upset by Southern Miss, 49-28, in the Conference USA championship game.
TCU, which seemed lethargic while building a 7-3 lead, suddenly was playing for a whole lot more than a third straight Mountain West title and fourth straight 10-win season. Nope, Garry Patterson's defending Rose Bowl champions were back in the hunt for a third straight BCS bowl appearance, possibly the Sugar Bowl.
It didn't take long for the Frogs, who need to finish 16th or better in Sunday's final BCS poll and ahead of Southern Miss to earn an automatic BCS berth, to garner some style points.
TCU (10-2, 7-0) scored four touchdowns over a 5-minute, 19-second span en route to a 35-6 halftime lead and then cruised to a 56-9 victory over the Rebels (2-10, 1-6), who dropped their 16th straight road game dating back to an Oct. 24, 2009, win at New Mexico.
"Yeah, they saw the Houston score," Patterson said when asked what prompted the late second quarter scoring outburst by his squad.
"We heard the fans' reactions before we could see the score," added safety Greg McCoy. "But after that it was fuel to our fire. We just saw the opportunity and took it."
The good news for Bobby Hauck and company? TCU is headed to the Big 12 Conference next season and is no longer on the schedule.
You can't blame the Rebels if they cringe a little when they hear the words "Fort Worth." Counting Saturday's latest butt-kicking, UNLV has now been outscored 224-56 in five losses at TCU, an average margin of defeat of 33.6 points.
The Rebels, despite starting third-team freshman quarterback Taylor Barnhill, actually made things interesting for the first 23 minutes.
UNLV's defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs to start the game. The Rebels then took advantage of good field position, starting on their own 47 after a 23-yard punt, to take a 3-0 lead on the first of three field goals by Nolan Kohorst, this one a 39-yarder with 5:35 left in the first quarter.
But TCU came right back to take a 7-3 lead on quarterback Casey Pachall's 8-yard quarterback draw, capping a nine-play, 55-yard drive.
Still, the Rebels, who came into the game 39-point underdogs, had to feel pretty good about themselves trailing by just four points midway through the second quarter.
Then the roof caved in.
In the span of a little over five minutes, TCU scored four touchdowns, including a 99-yard kickoff return by McCoy after a 43-yard field goal by Kohorst, and a 16-yard interception return by linebacker Kris Gardner. The Frogs also scored on a 32-yard touchdown run by Matthew Tucker one play after blocking a Chase Lansford punt.
"Within two minutes it went from 14-6 to 35-6 from the blocked punt, kickoff return and interception for touchdown," Hauck said. "We were in the game and playing hard and fairly well, but any time we match up with TCU's speed, skill and athletic ability, you are holding your breath every time the ball goes out."
TCU made it 42-6 on the first possession of the third quarter, driving 74 yards in 10 plays capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by tailback Waymon James. That marked the fifth touchdown in a 12-minute span for the Frogs.
There was not much UNLV could do after that, especially with Barnhill, a limited passer who had been moved to H-Back a month earlier, at the controls. UNLV was 0-for-15 on third downs and finished with just six first downs and 164 yards in total offense. Barnhill completed 4 of 12 passes for 48 yards and was sacked three times.
"The 0-for-15 on third down is the best we've seen this year," Patterson said. "We've kept getting better and they had to play a freshman quarterback."
Barnhill, who also started UNLV's Nov. 12 loss at New Mexico, got the nod because sophomore starter Caleb Herring and backup Sean Reilly were both still nursing injuries.
"Caleb is having trouble with his shoulder injury," Hauck said. "We tried to warm him up early and he couldn't do it."
About the only bright spot in this one for the Rebels was the coin toss. Former linebacker Bryce Saldi, a Dallas-area native who continues to recover from a serious brain injury suffered during a July 3, 2009 skateboarding accident, was an honorary captain who took the field for the coin flip.
"He's still part of this team and we still love him," senior tight end Austin Harrington said. "It was a great thing we were able to do that for him. He never ceases to amaze me on how much he progresses each time I see him. I think it was great that TCU let us do that."