Brian Johnson said he won't forget the last time Utah faced TCU in Fort Worth.

"It's burned in my memory forever," he explained.

Not only did the Utes' 18-game winning streak come to an end with a 23-20 overtime setback, Johnson had a less-than-stellar showing in his first collegiate game in his home state.

Sept. 15, 2005, was a tough day for the quarterback.

Johnson said it was a combination of things that made the last game at TCU so disappointing. The end of the winning streak came before family, friends and a national television audience.

"We didn't really play well — particularly well offensively — that game," said Johnson, who completed just 15 of 30 passes for 208 yards in the loss.

On Thursday, Johnson and the Utes return to Amon G. Carter Stadium determined to have a better showing.

"I'm just excited to get back out there and get a chance to go at them again," said Johnson, who played his high school football about four hours down the road in Baytown, Texas.

"Any time you get to go home and play in front of your friends and family it's always a good thing," he added. "Any time you have all those guys there rooting you on it's always good for you."

Johnson, who is expecting many of his supporters to make the trip, is one of nine Texans on Utah's roster — a number Utah coach Kyle Whittingham would like to eventually see swell to 20 to 25.

"Playing at TCU is a great recruiting tool," Whittingham said. "We tell every recruit that we'll make a trip to their home state every other year."

Hours before Thursday's game, several Utah coaches will do some recruiting in the Lone Star State.

Starting cornerback Brice McCain, whose hometown of Terrell is only a 45-minute drive from TCU, is also eager to make the trip. He hasn't been home since May.

McCain, Johnson and offensive lineman Robert Conley (LaMarque) are Texans in Utah's starting lineup. Wide receiver Jereme Brooks (League City) and safety Joe Dale (Irving) are key contributors in reserve.

"It's real big going home," McCain said.

Other than that, however, he said the game doesn't hold a lot of extra significance.

At 4-3 overall and 1-2 in Mountain West Conference play, the Utes are in dire need of a victory.

"Every game is special to us," McCain said. "So we come into every game, no matter who we play, like we've got to win. We've got to win the rest of the way. Every game will be important."

TCU is in the same boat. The Horned Frogs, who were the preseason favorites to win the league, sport an identical record as the Utes.

Thursday's game could be a battle as both teams fight to stay in the conference title chase.

Utah's Texans know what to expect.

"They're very competitive guys, and I love to play against them," Johnson said. "You know you're going to get their best shot. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Despite the homecoming element, it's a business trip for the Utes.

"I'm excited to go out there, get a chance to play in front of my family and hopefully come away with a win," Johnson said.

On the air

Utah (4-3, 1-2) at TCU (4-3, 1-2)

Thursday, 6 p.m.

Carter Stadium

Radio: 700AM

TV: Versus