COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The final score and the stat sheet don't quite tell the story of TCU's 35-19 win over Air Force on Saturday at Falcon Stadium.
The No. 25 Horned Frogs, coming off an ego-bruising loss at Baylor, jumped all over the Falcons, leading 21-0 early in the second quarter and 28-3 just after halftime to cruise to a Mountain West Conference victory before 42,107 fans. And they did it short-handed and with several players battling flu-like symptoms.
TCU's Casey Pachall completed 20 of 25 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He completed his first 11 passes, and the Frogs scored touchdowns on their first two possessions.
The TCU defense, which gave up 564 yards and 50 points to Baylor, made a critical stop on the Falcons' opening possession. On fourth-and-3, sophomore walk-on Jon Koontz beat his block at defensive end and stopped quarterback Tim Jefferson for a loss to give the Frogs the ball at midfield. Pachall then led a nine-play, 49-yard drive to give TCU a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard pass to fullback Luke Shivers.
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Running back Matthew Tucker, filling in for Ed Wesley (shoulder injury), rushed for 95 yards on 16 carries, including two first-half touchdowns.
"We knew they were going to be hyped up," Pachall said. "Each time we had the ball we had to score, because with the triple option, we didn't know how many times we'd get the ball. It was crucial that we come out with our intensity high and score every time."
Pachall's only miscue was a fumble on a scramble with under a minute to play in the first half. Instead of the throwing the ball away, Pachall tried to outrun linebacker Jamil Cooks, who forced the ball loose. The Falcons managed a 37-yard field goal to end the first half.
"I thought the play before the half wasn't very good," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "He needed to throw that ball away. Sometimes you can't make all the great plays. You just have to throw it away and learn how to kick field goals and punt."
TCU's defense, without starting linebacker Tanner Brock (injured foot), sparked the offense again in the second half. After the Frogs fizzled on their opening possession and had to punt, Travaras Battle forced a fumble and Greg Burks recovered, setting up the Frogs at the Air Force 48.
Pachall connected with freshman receiver David Porter twice on the drive, including a 21-yard touchdown, to give TCU a 28-3 lead.
The Falcons turned to backup quarterback Connor Dietz in the second half, and he helped Air Force tack on 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a touchdown with four seconds remaining.
"We won, but we're a long way from where we want to be," Patterson said. "We knew it would be two hard road games. Offensively, we need to know how to finish a ballgame; we didn't do that. Defensively, our two's came in and we need to learn how to play."
Despite final statistics that reflect a close game -- Air Force had 416 total yards compared with TCU's 410 -- this was a one-sided game with the Frogs dominating every area. Unlike against Baylor, when TCU felt it held its own offensively and on special teams, this time the defense clamped down when it mattered.
"It was pretty much a two- or a three-touchdown game for the last three quarters," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "I thought there was a difference today. I thought the whole day, there was a difference. Whatever the final score ended up, the differential was probably even larger."