TCU coach Gary Patterson, as usual, was the last to leave Qualcomm Stadium late Saturday night in San Diego after the Horned Frogs defeated San Diego State 27-14.
As he walked through the stadium's tunnels toward the Horned Frogs' four team buses with his wife, Kelsey, he was still trying to figure out why his team has played its two best games on the road against Mountain West Conference opponents.
The Frogs (4-2, 2-0 in MWC) saw a 20-0 third-quarter lead become a one-score game, but the defense probably played its best game of the season. And the offense, although erratic at times, showed it could take the reins with old-fashioned smash mouth football, with a game-clinching scoring drive that featured nine rushing plays.
Saturday's victory along with the Frogs' dominating win at Air Force on Sept. 10 are by far the most complete games TCU has played in the first half of the season. Patterson and his staff have an off week to ponder the reasons. TCU, which earned four points in the USA Today coaches' poll Sunday, resumes action at 1 p.m. Oct. 22 against winless New Mexico (0-5, 0-1) at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
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Patterson suggested that his young players may be more focused away from home with fewer distractions.
"All we have is us," Patterson said of being on the road in the MWC. "We don't have family or parties. We need to fix it, whatever it is."
Perhaps it's as simple as Patterson and his staff knowing the two league foes so well that their team was better prepared. Or maybe the Aztecs (3-2, 0-1) and Falcons (3-2, 0-1) aren't as solid as many preseason predictions had them.
No matter the reason, TCU has beaten two of its biggest hurdles toward winning its third consecutive MWC title. The biggest hurdle comes Nov. 12 at No. 6 Boise State (5-0), which opens conference action next week against Colorado State (3-2, 1-0).
"We're a couple plays away from being a 6-0 football team," Patterson said. "We don't feel like we've played that well. Any time you can go on the road and win a ballgame you have to be pretty happy with that. We're going to have to do that a bit more before it's done."
With two league road games left at Wyoming (Nov. 5) and then at Boise State, there's no doubting his reference.
Kick into history
Kicker Ross Evans tied the Mountain West's career scoring record with nine points against San Diego State.
Evans' 356 points equals New Mexico running back DonTrell Moore (2002-05). With his next extra point or field goal, Evans, a senior, will set the record.
Evans made three PATs and two field goals, including a 47-yarder on the Frogs' opening possession Saturday. It's his longest since hitting from 48 yards in San Diego in 2009.
Pass defense: The Frogs made Aztecs quarterback Ryan Lindley look shaky from the start. He called timeout on his second play from scrimmage and completed just 15 of 41 passes with three interceptions. Johnny Fobbs, Jason Verrett and Kris Gardner (in for the injured Kenny Cain) each had interceptions.
RB Ed Wesley: In his second game back from injury, the junior rushed for 146 yards on 24 carries.
Return specialist Skye Dawson: His fumble on a punt return set up a short Aztecs touchdown drive as a 20-0 Frogs lead eventually turned into a 20-14 nail-biter.
TCU (4-2, 2-0) vs. New Mexico (0-5, 0-1), 1 p.m. Oct. 22, Amon G. Carter Stadium, The Mtn.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760