The heaters were raging on the TCU sideline, players taking turns toasting their frozen fingers and feet on an evening when temperatures dipped into the teens.

TCU linebacker Daryl Washington didn't really need to snuggle up to a heater, though. The senior was keeping warm by bringing down ball carriers.

Washington had a team-high 10 tackles as the Horned Frogs held off Air Force in an icy mist Saturday night, 20-17, to run their record to 5-0 for just the third time since 1942.

Still, the win in adverse elements couldn't prevent the Frogs from slipping in the latest AP poll, sliding to No. 12.

Asked after the game if he thought the voters should consider the conditions and not so much the final score, TCU coach Gary Patterson simply said, "I can't worry about them."

"All I'm going to try to do is be 12-0," he said.

With the dicey victory over the Falcons (3-3, 2-1 Mountain West) on a shivering night, TCU remained in a position to play the part of BCS buster. It's a role the team shares with undefeated Boise State, who moved up a spot to No. 5 after a bye week.

Not that the Frogs were thinking about any of that late against Air Force.

They were simply trying to prevent a win from slipping away. TCU turned the ball over three times, including twice after driving inside the Air Force 10, to make things quite interesting.

The miscues made for a precarious finish, one that was only secured when the Frogs (5-0, 1-0) recovered an onside kick attempt with less than a minute remaining.

"That is a tremendous football team," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "They came in here, played well, under some circumstances that were probably a little bit different _ at least in terms of the climate _ and they handled it exceptionally well."

Patterson certainly won't quibble with a win, especially one at Air Force _ the site of a stunning loss in 2007 when the Frogs blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead and lost in overtime.

"People around the country know what kind of team Air Force is," Patterson said.

TCU's defense did its part, bottling up Air Force's option attack for chunks of the game.

But the Falcons found traction on the slippery turf late, finishing with 229 yards rushing against TCU's top-ranked run defense.

"Air force is a great team, they run the option really well," Washington said. "We had to come out and execute. We did a great job of doing that."

Playing in the shadow of All-American teammate Jerry Hughes, Washington is often overlooked.

Yet it doesn't bother him.

In fact, with opponents game planning to slow down Hughes at defensive end, Washington is freed up to roam around and make plays.

"He takes a lot of pressure of me and the rest of the team," Washington said. "It's good to have Jerry Hughes."

Washington has been biding his time over the years, waiting for his chance to shine. He's been groomed by TCU linebackers before him, those now playing in the NFL. The Frogs have been a linebacker factory in recent years, producing Jason Phillips (Baltimore Ravens), Robert Henson (Washington Redskins) and David Hawthorne (Seattle Seahawks).

"They kind of guided me," said Washington, who had two career starts coming into this season. "Those are great players. All I can do is learn from them and continue to do what I'm doing."

After TCU's win over Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl last December, Phillips sought out Washington for some parting words of wisdom.

"Jason said to me, 'It's going to be your year next year. You're going to be the leader of this defense ... They're going to be looking at you to keep this team rolling,'" Washington recounted. "I look forward to taking on that challenge. I love challenges."