Then another when Oregon State converted a fake punt that set up a touchdown, like Boise State did to the Frogs eight months earlier.
But sixth-ranked TCU overcame the miscues, and bad memories, for a 30-21 victory over No. 24 Oregon State in a tough opening test Saturday night. It was the Frogs' first game since the Fiesta Bowl loss that spoiled their first undefeated regular season since their only national championship in 1938.
"I guess you could say the sour taste is gone," defensive end Wayne Daniels said. "We worked all summer long just to get to this point."
The Frogs can now start looking forward to the possibility of trying to become a two-time BCS buster. No longer is that loss to Boise State their last game.
"It's good to have that behind us," Dalton said. "It's a new season and hopefully the momentum will keep coming."
None of TCU's remaining opponents, including Mountain West rivals Utah or BYU, are currently Top 25 teams. The only opponent left from an automatic BCS-qualifying conference is Baylor, but the Bears haven't had a winning season since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996.
That is why the season-opening victory over Oregon State of the Pac-10 was so vital for the Frogs.
"As usual, no matter what we do and how we do it, we're always having to prove ourselves. And that's OK with us," said Gary Patterson, in his 10th season as the Frogs' head coach. "To get one of these kind of games, where it's one of your tougher games behind you and you won it, is a big deal for us."
TCU is 14-3 against teams from conferences with automatic BCS berths since 2002, and is the only non-automatic qualifying school to beat such opponents in each of those nine seasons. The Frogs won at ACC teams Virginia and Clemson last September.
Next for TCU is its home opener Saturday against FCS team Tennessee Tech, where Patterson was a linebackers coach in 1983-84.
While TCU can't make it back into the Bowl Championship Series with a loss, Oregon State can still be the Pac-10 representative in the Rose Bowl. The Beavers were so close to doing that last year until losing their regular season finale to Oregon.
There is an open date for the Beavers before their home opener Sept. 18 against Louisville and then a trip to No. 3 Boise State.
Oregon State has the dynamic duo of brothers Jacquizz and James Rodgers, and both scored touchdowns in their first college game in their home state of Texas. New starting quarterback Ryan Katz threw for 159 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
Dalton threw for 175 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 64 yards and two more scores Saturday night to make up for his two interceptions that both led directly to Oregon State touchdowns.
"The quarterback, he can do a lot," said Lance Mitchell, the Beavers safety who had 18 tackles and one of the picks. "He makes plays on his feet. It's tough on a defense to make plays against a mobile quarterback."
With his 30th career victory, Dalton became TCU's winningest quarterback, snapping a tie with "Slingin' Sammy" Baugh, who held the mark alone since the mid-1930s until he was matched last November. Dalton is also the winningest active FBS quarterback.
"He's very confident, crafty, and quick," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.
Dalton had only five interceptions last regular season before three in the Fiesta Bowl. One was returned for a score and the last came after TCU had reached the Boise State 30 in the closing minute of that 17-10 loss.
After both OSU touchdowns set up by interceptions, TCU immediately responded each time with TDs of its own. Dalton scored on a pair of keepers.
"I didn't let those (interceptions) affect me. I knew I had to come back and play well for us to win," Dalton said. "At times I made some stupid mistakes, but I also made a couple of plays."
And won again.