TCU is getting the hang of this fast start thing. For the third consecutive week the Horned Frogs exploded out of the gate. The quick start propelled the Frogs to a 38-28 win over BYU on Friday night at Cowboys Stadium.
Before many of the 50,094 in attendance had settled into their seats Casey Pachall hit a wide-open Skye Dawson downfield for a 48-yard touchdown on the Frogs’ second play from scrimmage.
A few plays later, a bad snap on an punt attempt put the Cougars in a big hole and gave the Frogs the ball at the BYU 4-yard line. Backup quarterback Matt Brown ran in for a score to make it 14-0 less than five minutes into the game.
It was that kind of night for TCU, which scored its first four touchdowns on a combined nine plays.
BYU struck for 10 unanswered points to make it 14-10, including a 22-yard touchdown pass from Riley Nelson to Michael Alisa. But the Cougars’ kicking game, which cost them field position and points throughout the night, gift-wrapped a TCU scoring opportunity. Greg Burks blocked a punt and TCU took over at the BYU 37.
Ed Wesley’s 28-yard run to the 2-yard line set up Brown’s second keeper and gave TCU a 21-10 lead with 6:57 left in the first half.
BYU (6-3), which is competing as an independent after being a founding member of the Mountain West in 1999, came right back and was threatening to score after Cody Hoffman’s 52-yard kickoff return gave BYU the ball at the TCU 40.
JJ Di Luigi’s 27-yard run put the Cougars at the 13, but TCU linebacker Kenny Cain intercepted Nelson’s tipped pass in the back of the end zone for a touchback.
The turnover slowed down BYU, which had started to gain some momentum behind Nelson’s ability to scramble for big gains. He led BYU with 84 yards on 23 carries.
“The quarterback was hard to handle,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “You’ve got to give him a lot of credit. We didn’t do a good job of containing him at times. But I was really proud of my team. Probably one of the better games we’ve played this year.”
Wesley, who rushed for 59 yards on 12 carries, set up another TCU score on a punt return in which he caught the ball on a bounce and returned it 19 yards to the BYU 45. Pachall found a wide-open Josh Boyce for a 33-yard touchdown pass two plays later to give TCU a 28-10 lead with 36 seconds left in the half.
BYU’s kicking-game woes erupted again on the Cougars’ opening possession of the second half. Punter Riley Stephenson dropped the snap and TCU took over at the BYU 38. Waymon James put the Frogs up 35-10 a few plays later after Pachall had connected with Boyce for a 16-yard pass and Matthew Tucker ran for 9 yards.
But once again BYU went on a 10-0 run to pull within 35-20 late in the third quarter, with JD Falslev returning a punt 67 yards for a score.
The Cougars were threatening to score when Nelson was pressured and Frogs defensive lineman Jon Koontz recovered a backward pass at the TCU 29-yard line with 12:20 remaining.
TCU put together a game-clinching, 13-play drive that ate 6:48 off the clock and resulted in Ross Evans’ 35-yard field goal.
Several plays were integral to keeping the drive alive. On a key third down, BYU defensive back Travis Uale was called for a personal foul when he had helmet-to-helmet contact with tight end Logan Brock on an incomplete pass.
The 15-yard penalty gave the Frogs a first down at midfield. On fourth-and-1, Wesley kept it alive with a tough, tackle-breaking 8-yard gain. The field goal gave the Frogs a 38-20 lead with 5:32 left in the game.
“I didn’t get a chance to look at it,” Patterson said of the penalty, which BYU fans booed heavily. “We stayed on and used up minutes. We did what we needed to do and kicked a field goal and made it a three-score game.”
BYU scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion with 2:01 remaining .
BYU outgained TCU 354-283, but Wesley, Tucker and James made big runs to keep drives alive. The trio combined for 129 yards.
“I thought all three of them ran hard and made some unbelievable plays in this game,” Patterson said of the running backs. “They made some tough third downs and fourth downs. It was great to have three of them. Ever since Ed came back we’re all staying healthy.”