As I joked here at Crystal Ball Run yesterday, Friday night’s TCU-BYU affair provided none of the pregame excitement, hoopla or intrigue that it did just two years ago. In 2009 each team entered the game in the Top 20, each would finish with at least 11 wins, and both were piloted by a guy that would eventually find some modicum of success in the NFL.
But last night? Andy Dalton and Max Hall weren’t walking through that door. Neither were Dennis Pitta or Jeremy Kerley. TCU and BYU entered the game just shells of who they were a few years ago, but of who did play on Friday, it was clear that TCU had the better team and athletes, holding on for a 38-28 win. The victory came in front of a half-invested crowd in Dallas, who at times, seemed to be paying closer attention the baseball score on the scoreboard, than the football game on the field. The win that the Rangers couldn’t get in St. Louis, the Horned Frogs pulled out in the Metroplex however, in front of 50,000 fans in Cowboys Stadium.
For TCU it was another win that proved the old way of doing things in Ft. Worth just isn’t going to cut it in 2011. A school once known for their defense (TCU led the nation in defense each of the last two years), needed another big day from their offense in the win. Casey Pachall threw for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and Ed Wesley and Matt Tucker combined for just over 108 yards on the ground. The Horned Frogs scored 14 points in the first five minutes of the game, a lead they’d never relinquish.
However the story of the night was BYU’s general malaise and overall sloppiness (especially on special teams) which probably cost the Cougars the chance at a winnable game. BYU outgainged TCU by over 50 yards of total offense and had 10 more first downs, but couldn’t overcome three turnovers, and a handful of miscues on special teams.
The place where the problems were most glaring were on the punt team, where BYU had about as much success getting off kicks, as Charlie Weis does turning down dessert at the lunch buffet. It began in the first quarter when a botched snap on a punt allowed TCU to take the ball over at their own four-yard line, a place where the Horned Frogs punched in their second score of the game just two plays later. A blocked punt set up TCU’s third touchdown, and they scored again after BYU punter Riley Stephenson bobbled a snap in the second half. Overall, the Horned Frogs scored 21 points off Cougars turnovers.
The surprising thing is that outside the special teams miscues, BYU’s offense actually played pretty well. With Riley Nelson now entrenched at quarterback for the Cougars, this unit has much more fluidity to it than it did earlier in the year when Jake Heaps was under center. Nelson wasn’t great, but did throw for 215 yards, putting BYU in position to win their sixth straight game after losing two of their first three. It wasn’t meant to be, and now the Cougars fall to 6-3 on the season.
Looking ahead, what’ll be interesting is to see if TCU can clean up their somewhat sloppy play going forward. After a visit from the Wyoming Cowboys next week, the Horned Frogs will head up to the blue turf of Boise, ID the following Saturday to take on No. 4 Boise State. TCU and Boise are both undefeated in conference play, but the Horned Frogs will need a much better effort to pick up a win against the Broncos.
As for BYU, one of the few teams that has not yet had a bye this year, they will get a much needed one this weekend, before closing out the season with three winnable games against Idaho, New Mexico State and Hawaii. Playing as an independent for the first time this season, the Cougars could close out their campaign with nine wins, and position themselves nicely to make a quality bowl game. Not bad for a team which lost two of its first three games of the season.
Follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.