TCU coach Gary Patterson saw it coming. The emotional high his players experienced last week with the win at Boise State left them running on fumes Saturday against Colorado State at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
In the end, as good teams will do, the Horned Frogs put together a rather commanding 34-10 win that betrayed the final statistics.
Total yards: Colorado State 408, TCU 372.
But just as the Frogs (9-2, 6-0 in the Mountain West) did Oct. 28 against BYU at Cowboys Stadium -- another game in which they were outgained -- they took advantage of mistakes and wore the Rams down with an increasingly reliable running game.
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But the play of the game came from the TCU defense.
Linebacker Tank Carder came off his man on a broken coverage assignment and picked off a pass late in the third quarter and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown. It gave the 34,094 in attendance something to get excited about and pushed the Frogs' lead to 27-3.
Although Colorado State (3-7, 1-4) responded four plays later with a 66-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Garrett Grayson to Raymond Carter, the defense shut the Rams out in the fourth quarter.
"We played with no emotion," Patterson said. "We played the same way coming off the Utah game a year ago. That team won the Rose Bowl, so maybe I'm the one who's screwed up."
The TCU offense, which was exalted last week after Casey Pachall's career-high 473 yards and five touchdowns passing, was muted Saturday. Pachall was routinely pressured and flushed out of the pocket and finished with a season-low 117 yards passing on 13 of 20 completions.
Instead, TCU, No. 19 in the BCS rankings, relied on its running game. The Frogs outgained the Rams on the ground 255-160. Waymon James led TCU in rushing for the third consecutive week with 108 yards on 15 carries. Matthew Tucker added 94 yards on 10 carries and touchdown and Ed Wesley had 63 yards and a TD on nine carries.
"I thought we opened up some pretty good holes today," offensive lineman Blaize Foltz said. "They did some stuff with their safeties and had a lot of movement up front. We picked it up, but we had some mental breakdowns and we need to fix that."
Mainly, though, the mental mistakes were confined to a lack of emotion. Patterson said he saw a lack of focus in his team during the week and before the game. He even pointed to defensive lineman D.J. Yendrey forgetting his blitz watch (a sheet of plays worn on the wrist) in the locker room as an indicator of where his team was mentally.
"That's about how much we were into the ballgame," said Patterson, who gave freshman Jon Lewis his first start in place of Yendrey. "That's the first time that I know of that a guy doesn't carry his blitz watch onto the field. That pretty much puts everything in perspective where we were as a football team today."
TCU never trailed, but led just 6-0 after the first quarter on two Ross Evans field goals. A 2-yard scoring run by Mansfield Timberview's Antoine Hicks capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive late in the second quarter to put the Frogs up 13-0.
"Coming down off that [Boise win] was pretty difficult," Foltz said. "I'm glad we finally came out of the funk. When we scored our touchdown and Tank made that big play it was finally like, 'Let's go, let's do something.' People are expecting us to win by 40 and if we don't do that it's a letdown. Colorado State came out to play and we came out flat, and it showed in the beginning."
TCU clinched at least a share of the MWC title with its sixth consecutive victory. The Frogs finish the regular season at home against UNLV on Dec. 3.
"I know this much," Patterson said. "I'll be a lot happier going to dinner tonight being 9-2 than 8-3, I can promise you that."