No. 23 TCU overcomes slow start, downs ULM
Fort Worth, TX – Greg McCoy returned the opening kickoff of ranked Horned Frogs shook off a 17 win over Louisiana-Monroe.
Casey Pachall threw for 204 yards with a touchdown and Matthew Tucker rushed for a pair of scores for the Horned Frogs (2-1), who played at home for the first time this season after opening with a road loss at Baylor and a road win at Air Force.
It also marked the 100th win at TCU for head coach Gary Patterson.
"We got to have more emotion to win ball games," Patterson said. "If I was going to pick a game that we weren't going to play emotionally and that we were going to have to fight back, this is as good as any of them, because we found a way to win. If this would have been San Diego State or SMU, we wouldn't have won the ball game. We learned a lesson today and we came out on top. We won the ball game and that is the positive of it."
Kolton Browning and Cody Wells each threw a touchdown pass in a stunning first quarter for ULM (1-2), which built a 17-14 lead after 15 minutes but couldn't sustain the momentum and lost to a ranked team for the second time this year. The Warhawks opened the campaign with a 34-0 loss at Florida State before beating Grambling last Saturday.
TCU carried a 21-17 lead into the break, but quickly increased the margin when McCoy fielded the second-half kickoff at his own six-yard line and raced up the right sideline virtually untouched for the score.
ULM's first series of the third quarter ended in disaster when Jyruss Edwards fumbled at his own 28. The Horned Frogs capitalized quickly when Tucker scored on a one-yard run to make it 35-17.
"I thought the two pivotal plays of the game were the kickoff return for the touchdown and the fumble," stated ULM head coach Todd Berry. "You take those 14 points away and we're back to where we were at halftime."
After a Warhawks punt, TCU marched 93 yards the other way and came up empty. The 18-play drive ended in the first minute of the fourth quarter when Ross Evans hit the right upright with a 19-yard field goal try.
Neither team managed a serious threat from there and ULM's next-to-last series ended at midfield with 3:40 remaining. The Horned Frogs went exclusively to the ground and tacked on a 28-yard field goal by Evans with 27 seconds left for the final margin.
"We played with more confidence," Patterson said when asked about the difference in the second half. "We had the long kickoff return and all of a sudden, our guys thought that we could do this. We have to believing in ourselves."
TCU had a balanced attack offensively with 207 rushing yards and 204 through the air. Pachall completed 15-of-23 passes, while Josh Boyce had seven receptions for 134 yards. Waymon James added 89 yards on the ground, Aundre Dean chipped in 67 and Tucker finished with 66.
ULM stunned the home crowd early with a 74-yard drive on the game's opening possession, capped by a 23-yard field goal from Justin Manton, but TCU answered immediately with Pachall's 68-yard scoring strike to Josh Boyce less than two minutes later.
A 38-yard kickoff return set the Warhawks up near midfield and they cashed in when backup quarterback Wells hit Brent Leonard with a 22-yard touchdown pass. The back-and-forth continued on the next series when Tucker scored on a five- yard run to put the Frogs back in front.
It took just five plays for ULM to again stun the TCU defense, as Browning found Tavarese Maye behind the secondary for a 37-yard touchdown pass and a 17-14 lead with 19 seconds remaining in a wild first quarter.
"The first quarter on defense was terrible," noted Patterson. "We've got to learn how to play four quarters."
Things calmed down in the second, as the only score was a two-yard run by Antoine Hicks that gave TCU its 21-17 edge with 5:16 to play in the half. The 73-yard TD drive came only after a fumbled punt that ULM recovered had to be replayed because of offsetting penalties.
Manton missed a 43-yard field goal try on the final play of the half.
TCU has won 10 straight home openers...The Horned Frogs also matched a Mountain West Conference record with their 21st straight home win. Utah, which now plays in the Pac-12, also won 21 straight at home before losing to TCU last year. The Utes were also the last team to win at TCU in 2007...Wells was 5-for-5 passing for 38 yards on his lone series for ULM, while Browning completed 24-of-37 passes for 194 yards...Leonard finished with 13 catches for 92 yards in defeat.