Frogs come up big for seniors in finale

Frogs come up big for seniors in finale

If fans missed the pregame senior day festivities on the field, they didn’t miss much – these seniors continued the celebration of their collegiate careers throughout the 51-10 win over New Mexico.

“I think (winning on senior day is more important than anything else as an underclassman),” said junior quarterback Andy Dalton. “To send the seniors out with a win, that’s what you want to do.”

Dalton held up his end offensively, throwing or running for every TCU offensive touchdown. However, almost all the seniors had at least a moment to shine in the win.

Seniors Daryl Washington and Rafael Priest each recorded their first collegiate interception returns for a touchdown. Defensive end Jerry Hughes and nose guard Clarence Leatch provided the pressure that forced New Mexico quarterback Donovan Porterie to make several bad throws, and each recorded a sack. Receiver Ryan Christian and senior deep snapper Clint Gresham contributed on special teams. Senior tailbacks Joseph Turner and Chris Smith both contributed on the ground and quarterback Marcus Jackson commanded the huddle for most of the fourth quarter.

It was an all-around productive day for the winningest class in TCU football history.

After the game, Turner talked about what senior day meant to him.

“It meant everything to have my immediate family on that field,” Turner said. “It was nice to get the everyone out there all together, because I see the football players and this team as my family, so it was good just to have my (immediate) family get to be part of that too.”

The Horned Frogs overcame a slow start and inconsistency through the second and third quarters to become the first TCU team to win 12 games in the regular season. The Frogs scored on an early safety after a wild snap, but could only add one touchdown in the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter the game turned into the Andy Dalton show. Dalton drove the score to 30-0 when he threw 3 touchdown passes in under three minutes, two of them to Antoine Hicks. Hicks had five catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Dalton finished with 15 completions on 24 attempts for 228 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran nine times for 45 yards and another score.

With the win, Dalton also tied Sammy Baugh as the winningest quarterback in TCU history.

After the 21-point burst, the offense slowed to a halt and the defense gave up ten points to the Lobos as New Mexico put together their only long drive of the game. A Jeremy Kerley fumble on the ensuing kickoff led to a Lobo field goal, and neither team would score again until the fourth quarter.

During halftime, Washington stood up and spoke to the team and the defense played with enthusiasm in the second half. They forced four punts and three interceptions on New Mexico’s second half drives.

In the fourth quarter, Dalton hit Johnson again near the right sideline. Johnson wove through traffic before stretching the ball over the goal line.

“It was a short out route and I was supposed to catch it and go outside and get to the sideline,” Johnson said. “But the way Andy (Dalton) threw it, it was low. I caught it and saw that there was a crease, used some vision and found my way to the endzone, somehow.”

Johnson finished with four catches for 48 yards and two scores.

On the ground, the committee of running backs combined for 147 yards behind freshman Matthew Tucker’s 62 yards, while seniors Turner and Smith added 44 and 22 yards, respectively.

The defense held the Lobos to just 10 net rushing yards and limited New Mexico to 172 total yards offensively. Fittingly, the defense put the final nails in the coffin early in the fourth quarter.

Facing third and 20, Porterie could not find an open receiver and released the ball just as he was hit by Hughes. The pass hit Washington in the numbers and he took it to the house.

Washington had spoken with linebacker Tank Carder that morning about getting a pick six.

“Tank was talking about that in the hotel and I was like ‘Man, I need to get me one,'” Washington said. “I want to win, but I want to get me one … I kind of prayed about it.”

Priest followed up with one of his own on the ensuing New Mexico drive for the last score of the game. The Frogs ate up what was left of the clock and coach Patterson headed up to the media room, where representatives from the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls were in attendance. Patterson’s message was clear after completing his first unblemished season.

“We can play with anybody,” Patterson said. “I’ve watched the games over the last two weeks, and the coaches know we can play with anybody.”

The team will find out who “anybody” might be this Sunday during the BCS Selection Show.