PROVO In a battle between the preseason Mountain West Conference favorite and the current league leader, BYU prevailed and maintained its perfect MWC record and hopes for a second straight undefeated MWC record with Thursday's 27-22 victory over TCU at Edwards Stadium.
Harvey Unga rushed for two touchdowns and Max Hall completed 26 of 44 passes for 305 yards and another score as the Cougars (7-2, 5-0 MWC) held on to hold off the Horned Frogs (5-5, 2-4).
"The thing I liked about our team tonight, more so than any other game this year, was the heart and the will that they showed throughout the entire game," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "When it is backed up by key plays, that is when a team starts to come together."
En route to the Cougars' 17-9 halftime lead, Hall scrambled for 20 yards on a third-and-10 on the first possession, with Unga covering the final 15 yards on the next play for the first score.
TCU started its second drive at the BYU 45 and drew inside the 20 before settling for the first of Chris Manfredini's three goals.
BYU took a 14-3 lead on an 89-yard drive, aided by a 24-yard pass from Hall to Dennis Pitta and, after the first-quarter break, a long 66-yarder to Austin Collie to the TCU 6. It concluded with Hall tossing a 1-yard TD pass to back Joe Semanoff.
Frog DB Brian Bonner later picked off Hall, giving TCU the ball at BYU's 20. But TCU stalled, with Manfredini kicking a 36-yard field goal.
BYU upped the margin to 17-6, driving to TCU's 15 before a holding call erased a TD pass to Pitta. Mitch Payne booted a 33-yard field goal.
TCU had the half's final drive, with QB Andy Dalton pushing the Frogs effectively from their own 21 to the BYU 15. A pass interference call on BYU DB Corby Hodgkiss would have given TCU a first-and-goal at the BYU 6, but it was reversed one of several calls that got swapped out after replays and ruled an incompletion. Manfredini kicked his third field goal this one from 33 yards out but not until after BYU had called back-to-back timeouts.
The Cougars looked to break away early in the second half, with Kelly Poppinga picking off Dalton on the third play, returning it to the TCU 3. Unga's second TD run and Payne's PAT made it 24-9.
But BYU mustered only a 29-yard Payne field goal the rest of the game, while the Cougars had to focus on stopping the Frogs.
And stop they did, stifling TCU's three fourth-down attempts all in the second half.
An apparent BYU takeaway was overruled, as quarterback Marcus Jackson scrambled down to the BYU 5 before his fumble in the end zone was recovered by DB Kellen Fowler. However, the call was reversed by replay, with Jackson ruled down at the 5 and TCU soon scoring on Marcus Brock's 1-yard run. TCU's run for a two-point conversion was stopped, leaving the score at 24-15.
BYU tight end Vic So'oto committed BYU's second turnover, a fumble at the TCU 38. However, the giveaway didn't result in points, as the Frogs were forced to punt.
The Frogs got to BYU's 31 on the next possession, with TCU back Aaron Brown crushed by David Nixon for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-one.
After Payne's field goal, the Frogs again drove deep, reaching BYU's 26 before Ben Criddle deflected away Dalton's fourth-down pass.
BYU's next possession chewed up clock, with C.J. Santiago's punt putting the Frogs at their own 6, but TCU answered with its best drive, going 94 yards in 11 plays. Dalton tossed a 7-yard TD pass to Bart Johnson, and Manfredini's PAT pulled the Frogs to 27-22 with 3:49 to play.
BYU couldn't run out the clock on its subsequent possession, giving TCU one last shot. But the Cougars stymied the Frogs with sacks of Dalton Nixon on second down and Bryan Kehl on fourth down, giving the ball back to BYU to run out the final minute-plus of the game.
The Cougars converted on 13-of-20 third-down chances and both teams scored nearly every time they reached the red zone BYU being 5-of-6 and TCU 5-of-5.
But the differences were that BYU scored three TDs and two field goals, and TCU the inverse, making for the five-point final difference. Also, BYU scored a touchdown on its takeaway, while TCU managed a field goal on BYU's two turnovers."As far as (BYU's) third downs," said TCU coach Gary Patterson, "the bottom line is they are the best passing team in the league."