FORT WORTH BYU's quest for an undefeated season came to an unceremonious end Thursday night against TCU.
So did a lot of other things such as the No. 9 Cougars' top 10 ranking, a nation-leading 16-game winning streak, a 18-game Mountain West Conference winning streak, and, almost certainly, their shot at a BCS bid. The fast, athletic and inspired Horned Frogs jumped out early and didn't let up in a 32-7 rout over BYU at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
"It just hurts. The BCS, winning streak, when you get beat 30-something to seven, that stuff doesn't matter," BYU defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen said. "When you have high expectations like our team has and as hard as we worked to get better, it just feels horrible."
TCU (7-1, 4-0), which had lost two in a row in this series took out a couple of years' frustration on BYU (6-1, 2-1).
"BYU has been the top team in our conference the last two seasons and our guys have been focused on them since January," said Horned Frog coach Gary Patterson. "We really wanted to come out and be the best TCU football team that we could be and I think we did that. We knew it would be a big stage, and we got some breaks and turnovers, and it worked out well for us."
"I was very impressed with TCU tonight," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Coach Patterson had his team more prepared than I had our team. They were sharper in every phase of the game and executed at a higher level from beginning to end. That comes down to simply coaching and preparation. We're looking forward to learning a lot from this game. There are many things to learn. I don't think we played to our potential in any phase of the game."
The loss marked BYU's worst defeat since a 49-23 loss at Notre Dame in 2005. It was the Cougars first setback since falling at Tulsa, 55-47, on Sept. 15, 2007, and it was their first MWC loss since losing to Utah, 41-34, in 2005.
Nobody in Provo is disputing that TCU's defense is best in the nation. The Horned Frogs entered the game ranked No. 1 in total defense, rush defense and sacks and they were mighty impressive against the Cougars, who had been rated No. 8 in the country in passing.
TCU sacked quarterback Max Hall seven times, forced four turnovers and limited the Cougars to just 297 yards of total offense, including 23 yards rushing.
"I take a lot of responsibility (for the loss)," said Hall, who threw two interceptions. "They were fast and they got to me. The bottom line is they were strong and they forced me into some bad decisions. I thought that I had been fairly good at handling the pressure, but tonight it just got to me. TCU deserves a lot of credit for their performance."
"It was frustrating," said BYU receiver Austin Collie, who caught six passes for 116 yards. "We had to fight for every yard that we got. It was a battle out there. The drive that we scored on was, honestly, a war. It is hard. It is disappointing."
Meanwhile, TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, who had been sidelined the previous two games due to a knee injury suffered against Oklahoma, outplayed Hall. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
To change things up, Patterson inserted wide receiver Jeremy Kerley at quarterback early in the game. On the Frogs' second series, Kerley took a direct snap and ran for 23 yards. A few plays later, the speedy sophomore took another direct snap and scored on a 16-yard touchdown that gave TCU a 14-0 lead.
"(Kerley) got us on our heels," Mendenhall said. "We were slow in adjusting."
"We wanted to come with some surprises against a team like this," Kerley said. "I'm not taking anything away from them because they are a good football team, but I think we played with some explosion tonight and caught them a little off-guard. This is college football and it is a crazy game. Any team can lose at any time and any team can pull out a win at any time."
It became apparent early on that this would not be BYU's night. On the Cougars' opening drive, on the fourth play from scrimmage, Hall was almost intercepted by TCU linebacker Daryl Washington, who bobbled the ball before dropping it. Had he been able to hold on, he would have scored a touchdown.
But the Horned Frogs didn't have to wait long for their first score anyway, as two plays later, Hall was blindsided by defensive lineman Jerry Hughes and fumbled the ball away to Matt Panfil. It was the first of three first-half sacks by Hughes.
Following a pass interference call on Cougar cornerback Brandon Howard, Dalton connected with Jimmy Young for a 25-yard touchdown strike for a quick 7-0 lead.
BYU turned the ball over again on a Hall interception late in the first quarter that TCU cashed in on in the form of a field goal to take a 17-0 advantage.
Meanwhile, the Frog offense had its way with the Cougar defense, marching on 72-yard and 94-yard touchdown drives in the first half. At intermission, TCU seized a commanding 23-0 lead after a missed extra point.
The Frogs' Aaron Brown returned the opening kickoff into BYU territory and TCU added a field goal to go up 26-0. On the ensuing possession, the Cougars finally got on the scoreboard with 4:26 remaining in the third quarter on a 15-play, 72-yard drive, capped by a two-yard run by Hall. Trouble was, the drive took 7:07 off the clock.
TCU answered by scoring another touchdown four minutes later to make it 32-7. BYU turned the ball over deep in TCU territory on its next two possessions, which pretty much summed up the night for the Cougars.
Though disappointed with the loss, BYU coaches and players pointed out the season isn't over."It's tough. It's a conference game but we have to get over it," said linebacker David Nixon. "There's still half the season left and we can't let this get us down. We still have a lot of football left. We can still accomplish some of our goals if we continue fighting. We know we have a good team. We didn't show it tonight, but we have a good team. We're going to get better, I promise you that."