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Dalton, defense lead No. 5 TCU past Wyoming, 45-0

Andy Dalton stood in the pocket and spotted Bart Johnson about 40 yards away in the end zone with a defender in seemingly good position to make a play. The TCU quarterback threw it anyway.

Dalton's best throw of the day sailed over the defender's outstretched arms for a 31-yard touchdown that put to rest the TCU quarterback's worst game of the season a week earlier, and the No. 5 Horned Frogs recorded consecutive shutouts for the first time in 55 years in a 45-0 victory over Wyoming on Saturday.

Dalton was 14 of 17 for a season-high 270 yards and three touchdowns, surpassing his 116-yard total from a week ago against Colorado State on the strike to Johnson, which put TCU ahead 21-0 on the first play of the second quarter.

"People just say that Andy Dalton is methodical. Well, how many games has he won now?" said TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose quarterback is the active major college leader with 35 victories. "It just doesn't happen by chance. It doesn't always have to be flamboyant to be great."

TCU (6-0, 2-0 Mountain West) led 31-0 at halftime a week after going to the break up just 6-0 against Colorado State, where Dalton finished 11 of 24 with a late TD pass in a 27-0 win.

But this Dalton was the one Frogs fans remember. In his last home start, he set a TCU accuracy record by going 21 of 23 in a 45-10 rout of Baylor. He's now 50 of 61 for 719 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions in three home starts.

Part of the problem in Colorado was misfiring on deep throws, but Dalton was on target against the Cowboys. He opened the scoring by hitting Jeremy Kerley in stride for a 50-yard touchdown one play after a nifty 14-yard run on third-and-7, Dalton's 17th rushing first down of the season.

Dalton hooked up with Skye Dawson on another deep ball for 43 yards to set up a highlight-reel run by Ed Wesley, who spun out of a crouch with his knee just inches from the ground and bounced off several more defenders for a 17-yard score that put the Frogs up 28-0.

Wesley finished with 115 yards and a touchdown on just 17 carries. He and Dalton both were on the bench for good early in the fourth quarter after Dalton's 4-yard TD pass to Antoine Hicks, who also had a 2-yard scoring run on his first carry of the season.

Offensively challenged Wyoming (2-4, 0-2 Mountain West) had to go with backup quarterback Dax Crum because the injured Austyn Carta-Samuels didn't make the trip. Crum completed a 40-yard pass on a handoff-reverse-throwback trick play to start the game but the Cowboys generated just 151 total yards after that. The nation's second-worst offense was held under 200 yards for the second time.

"There's no magic here," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. "They're a great football team, and we're a rebuilding team. It showed today."

The Cowboys had a chance to ruin TCU's bid for consecutive shutouts when Crum hit Robert Herron for 38 yards on a drive that reached the Frogs' 13. But TCU's Tyler Luttrell intercepted Crum at the 4 with 7:13 left in the game.

Crum finished 11 of 17 for 116 yards with an interception but didn't get much help from the running game, which generated just 75 yards on 28 carries.

"Coming out here going against TCU is always a tough task, especially when you kind of get thrown in the fire unexpectedly," Wyoming receiver David Leonard said. "I thought he handled it well. TCU's just a great team."

The back-to-back shutouts were the first for TCU since 1955, when the Frogs had three straight shutouts against Texas Tech, Arkansas and Alabama. TCU, ranked seventh nationally in total defense coming in at 238 yards per game, held Wyoming to 191.

The late defensive stand also kept TCU ahead by 45, the same margin from No. 4 Boise State's 51-6 victory at Wyoming three weeks ago. The Frogs and Broncos might be battling for a spot in the BCS national championship, and the chances of that improved with top-ranked Alabama's loss to South Carolina on Saturday.

Leonard says he would have a hard time choosing.

"It's kind of hard to say exactly because each defense does things extraordinarily well," Leonard said. "The thing TCU has is they have a lot of experience out there, guys coming back from a great season last year and playing well again this year."

The Cowboys started the game with the same kind of trickery that helped them win at Toledo last week. The ball changed hands four times on the first play, the final exchange a wobbly 40-yard Crum pass that Travis Burkhalter had to wait for as he stood all alone at the TCU 40. He was tackled on the spot, and the drive went nowhere.

Wyoming gambled again with a fake punt on fourth-and-8 later in the first quarter, but Tashaun Gipson gained just 1 yard to the Wyoming 37. Two plays later, Dalton spotted Johnson and fired.