From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The TCU Horned Frogs, ranked fourth in the nation, shoot for perfection once again as they close out the 2010 regular season against the New Mexico Lobos in Albuquerque.
TCU, which is third in the most recent BCS rankings, trailing only Oregon and Auburn, has already locked up at least a share of the Mountain West Conference title even though it wasn't in action last weekend. Needing either a win over New Mexico or a Utah loss to BYU to take the crown outright, the Horned Frogs have now won three MWC championships since joining back in 2005.
The last time the Frogs were in action they gave up a whopping 35 points to San Diego State in the final game at Amon Carter Stadium, but still TCU picked up the win by five points. To put in perspective the accomplishments of SDSU in that meeting, in the six previous games for TCU it had allowed a total of just 23 points, so the lapse by the nation's top defense was certainly notable.
As for the Lobos, their season can't come to an end soon enough. Fighting through one of the longest losing streaks in the nation earlier in the campaign, UNM has managed just a single victory in 2010, a narrow 34-31 triumph over Wyoming at home earlier this month. Since then the team has fallen to both Air Force and, most recently, BYU on the road by a final of 40-7 last Saturday. At 1-10 overall and just 1-6 in conference, New Mexico is at the opposite end of the spectrum from TCU.
In terms of the all-time series, TCU has taken eight of the previous 11 meetings between the two teams, including a lopsided 51-10 final in Forth Worth a year ago.
"Bottom line, we found a way to win," head coach Gary Patterson said after the meeting with San Diego State. "You've got to give San Diego State a lot of credit and now we move on. That�s all we've got control over."
Quarterback Andy Dalton, who was recently named a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, converted 21-of-36 passes versus SDSU for 240 yards and four touchdowns, shaking off a couple of sacks and an interception. Jeremy Kerley was again a popular target for the signal-caller as he hit Kerley eight times for 85 yards and three TDs. Running backs Matthew Tucker and Waymon James supplied support on the ground with 131 and 102 yards, respectively, the latter also scoring once.
"They've both been playing all year," said coach Patterson of their efforts. "Tucker had a great game. They both went over 100 yards. We did what we needed to do."
Ranked fifth in the nation in pass efficiency rating (163.94), Dalton has commanded as much respect from the opposition as the powerful TCU defense this year. The QB has thrown at least one TD in every game this season and now has 23 scoring strikes against just six picks as he closes in on 2,500 yards. But make no mistake, Dalton's success is directly tied to that of the TCU running attack which is ninth in the nation with almost 260 ypg.
And then there's the TCU defense. Sure, it took some hits against San Diego State but still this is a group that is first in the entire country in yards per game allowed (223.2) and points (10.9). On an individual level, safety Tejay Johnson represents everything that is great on this side of the ball, which is why he's been named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in the nation.
Unfortunately for a team like the Lobos, it might be quite some time before a member of their defense is considered one of the best in the nation at something/anything. Granted, Carmen Messina has put together back-to-back seasons of at least 100 tackles, making him the first to do that since Brian Urlacher, but all that really means is that far too many of his teammates aren't getting the job done and he has to clean up after them. Against the Cougars last weekend Messina finished with 11 stops to put him over the top, but there's little celebration going on for a team that is just 1-10 right now.
"He has been one of our consistent guys on defense," said Lobo coach Mike Locksley of Messina. "He's not even close to 100 percent, but he finds way to have the production you want."
The run defense for the Lobos is dead last in the nation with 236.3 ypg allowed, the pass defense meanwhile giving up another 219.6 ypg as well. Opponents have found it rather easy to exploit UNM at every turn and are scoring an average of 42.4 ppg, which is more than all but one other team in the nation is allowing right now.
Now under the direction of freshman quarterback Stump Godfrey, the offense is just trying to get through another 60 minutes of action without getting hurt or too embarrassed. Godfrey tossed a couple of interceptions last week versus BYU and lost a fumble, accounting for three of his team's four turnovers. Miscues have been plaguing this group all season long and now they are ranked last in the conference and 117th in the country in turnover margin with an average of minus-1.0 per game. Because of all those countless mistakes the offense for the Lobos is now 118th in the country with only 278 ypg, resulting in a mere 15.7 ppg.
Coach Patterson has been quite vocal about the BCS and what he needs to do to give the Horned Frogs a bigger profile, so what that means for the Lobos is 60 minutes of doom and gloom on both sides of the ball this week.