SALT LAKE CITY — This wasn't the same TCU team that left Rice-Eccles Stadium back in 2008 with a loss in a game it controlled and had every opportunity to win.
This TCU team threw everything it had at Utah, took shots, took chances and thoroughly dominated the Utes in a 47-7 victory. It was the Horned Frogs' 23rd straight regular-season victory. They haven't lost during the regular season since that 2008 meeting against the Utes.
That loss, and how the Horned Frogs finished 2008 with a big win over Air Force and a bowl victory over Boise State, changed TCU's program, making it into the national title contender it currently is.
"I think we learned a lot in that ballgame," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "It gave us a mindset and it made us understand as a team the confidence level we could play with at any point and any time. Ever since then, we have."
The Horned Frogs had an evident swagger from start to finish against the Utes. They outgained Utah 535-198, forced four turnovers and didn't allow the Utes to advance past midfield until there was 12:26 left in the game.
Statement win? Absolutely.
"I think we made a big statement," said TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. "Utah is ranked No. 5 in the nation. To get a win like this proves we can play with anybody."
As long as Dalton is pulling the trigger, it's hard to argue with him. He shot down what was a highly touted Utah defense, completing 21-of-26 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 233.9.
Dalton threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter, the second of which was a 93-yarder to Josh Boyce that took the life out of what was a passionate Utah crowd. The Horned Frogs kept pouring it on, leading 40-0 before the Utes even got into their territory.
It made last year's 35-7 deficit to TCU look manageable in comparison for the Utes.
"It kind of goes back to how it was last year," Dalton said. "We got up early and it's tough for them to come back."
TCU thought more about 2008 than it did last year's game in preparation for Saturday's contest. The Horned Frogs outgained the Utes 416-275 in that '08 game and led by 10 points in the first quarter, but lost 13-10 on a last-minute touchdown pass by Brian Johnson.
TCU left nothing to chance this time.
"We took some shots," Patterson said. "When we came here last time, it felt like we didn't play very well. Our offense got in the red zone a lot of times but we didn't make any plays, so we wanted to take some shots."17 comments on this story
The Horned Frogs, who finish their season with a home game against San Diego State next week and a road contest against New Mexico, hope to get their shot at playing for a national title.
Currently ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings, they'll probably need some help to get the opportunity.
They made a persuasive argument to be considered for the title game with Saturday's beatdown of the Utes. It'll take them a couple more weeks to talk about that possibility, though.
"We'll see if we win the next two weeks, then we'll have that conversation," Patterson said.