Andy Dalton bounced back from interceptions on consecutive throws by leading three straight touchdown drives, lifting No. 4 TCU to a 41-24 victory over longtime rival SMU on Friday night.
Playing on the road for the first time this season, the Horned Frogs were in a bit of trouble when Dalton's second interception set up a touchdown that gave the Mustangs a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter. Then Jeremy Kerley returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards and TCU was back in control.
Dalton capped that drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Bart Johnson. Dalton completed a pair of third-down conversions on the way to a 9-yard touchdown run by Waymon James on the next series, then ran 14 yards on a third-and-7 to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Luke Shivers at the start of the fourth quarter. That put TCU ahead 35-17 and entire sections in the Ford Stadium-record crowd of 35,481 began heading home.
The Horned Frogs (4-0) won their seventh straight road game, although this was far from a hostile environment. About a quarter of that record crowd was wearing purple, either folks displaced from the Fort Worth campus or who made the hourlong drive.
Although this was a convincing win, the TCU defense wasn't as dominant as it likes to be. The Horned Frogs allowed their most points, most yards (361), most yards rushing (192) and had their fewest sacks (one).
SMU (2-2) had won five straight at home and was looking for its biggest victory yet under third-year coach June Jones. Kyle Padron guided the Mustangs to a 7-0 lead, had them within four at 14-10 at the half and then threw a go-ahead touchdown pass just 1:02 into the third quarter.
But once Dalton stopped making mistakes, SMU was unable to keep it close. The Mustangs were simply worn out by TCU's size, strength and depth.
The Horned Frogs beat the Mustangs for the 10th time in 11 meetings.
This was TCU's final game outside the Mountain West Conference. The Horned Frogs go to Colorado State next weekend to begin pursuit of their first trip to a BCS bowl game.
Dalton was 14 of 26 for 174 yards and one touchdown — the 49th of his career, tying Max Knake's school record set from 1992-95.
James ran eight times for 41 yards and two touchdowns, and Matthew Tucker ran 19 times for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Padron was 14 of 35 for 169 yards and two touchdowns, plus an interception. Darius Johnson made a terrific one-handed catch on a 50-yard pass following Dalton's first interception, setting up a 26-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the first half.
Sterling Moore intercepted Dalton's pass on the second play of the second half and returned it 32 yards to the 1.
TCU's Tejay Johnson returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
SMU's Zach Line ran for 139 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He's only the 21st player to crack triple-digits against TCU in Gary Patterson's 117 games as head coach.