Nov. 27, 2010
TCU 66, LOBOS 17 - SATURDAY, UNIVERSITY STADIUM
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For a fleeting few minutes, until the Lobos returned a favor and repaid an error by turning the ball over to the mighty TCU Horned Frogs, you could feel momentum and confidence jump from Frogs to Lobos.
It was a delicate stretch in New Mexico's 66-17 loss to TCU Saturday in University Stadium. But it also was a real moment - or two.
"The toughest thing about this loss was we had a chance," said Pete Gardner, a senior defensive tackle. "We got a turnover and got momentum."
The first turnover came at the 4:53 mark of the first quarter. TCU's unflappable Andy Dalton completed a 12-yard pass to Antoine Hicks at the TCU 30. Hicks squirmed a bit when he got popped by Lobo Chance Aven and Spencer Merritt picked up the loose ball and carried it back to the TCU 12-yard line.
The Lobos scored on a Stump Godfrey 1-yard plunge and it was 21-7. Not bad, but the Lobos then hurt themselves badly with a Godfrey fumble. TCU went 10 yards in two plays to go up 31-7.
It looked like maybe the Lobos had no chance against the No. 3 team in the BCS standings, but Godfrey led UNM on an 11-play drive that ended in a 27-yard field goal by James Aho and it was 31-10.
The points were important, but UNM also sent a message that the Lobos could drive on the No. 1 defense in NCAA ball.
The Lobos' defense then struck again and struck hard. TCU's Dalton was looking to his left when he was destroyed by UNM's Jacori Greer. Dalton went down hard, fumbled, and never returned to the UNM grass. Lobo Joe Stoner picked up the loose change and rambled 35 yards to the TCU 1-yard line.
Godfrey cracked the end line again from a yard out and UNM was within striking distance at 31-17.
"We ended the half with an opportunity, being down two touchdowns," said Locksley. "We played a good team, but I also think a lot of it was us being our own worst enemy."
Said Godfrey: "That was a great feeling. The team was into it and the fans were into it."
TCU had to find a replacement for Dalton to finish the first half. Yogi Gallegos failed to get the Frogs into the UNM end zone on two offensive possessions. UNM had its chances to cut deeper into TCU's lead going into the half. Still, the 31-17 halftime score gave the Lobos some hope down only two touchdowns to a TCU team that suddenly was stumbling on offense.
The hope turned out to be false. TCU used the break to regroup and came out to score 21 third-quarter points. TCU might have been minus Dalton, but the Frogs still had the nation's top defense. That defense set up TCU's first TD of the second half when it pounced on a Godfrey fumble at the UNM 38-yard line. TCU scored in two plays to make it 38-17.
TCU made it 52-17 scoring after a Godfrey interception set up the Frogs on the UNM 23. TCU held the Lobos scoreless in the second half and the Frogs rolled to the 66-17 final.
The loss ended UNM's season at 1-11. TCU moved into its second consecutive undefeated season at 12-0 and 8-0 in Mountain West Conference play. The Frogs now sit back and wait to see which BCS Bowl comes calling, but the Rose Bowl in Pasadena is the popular bet.
"I'm disappointed for the 14 seniors," said Locksley after his Lobos ended their season 1-11 and 1-7 in MWC play. "It's been a tough two years. We didn't play well today."
The Lobos had some good moments and showed good fight to the end. They hurt themselves early by allowing TCU receivers to run free in the UNM secondary where the efficient Dalton made UNM pay with easy TD strikes.
TCU went up 21-0 cutting through the UNM defense like a hot knife through cold butter. TCU ended the game with 503 yards with 293 coming via the run. The Lobos had a modest 130 total yards and only 34 passing yards. TCU had 24 first downs to nine for the Lobos.
Godfrey went 7-of-14 passing for 21 yards with one interception. "You want your seniors to go out on a great note and obviously we didn't do that," said Godfrey. "That's the worst feeling I have."
Dalton went 9-of-14 in the first half for 156 yards and three TDs. TCU spread the wealth with its running backs with the top six backs averaging from 4.3 yards per carry to 7.9 per tote.
Locksley said his program now shifts into the recruiting and evaluation stage. "We'll evaluate every part of this program," he said. "There will be some changes. There will be some tough decisions that have to be made. I'll do whatever it takes to get this program back on track."
The Lobos played without tight end Lucas Reed on Saturday, out with food poisoning.
The TCU Horned Frogs will enter bowl territory with a second straight MWC title. The Frogs had been battling Boise State for the best bowl bid not going to a BCS conference team. Boise State lost Friday to Nevada, which should open a path to Pasadena for the undefeated Frogs.
TCU was the highest ranked opponent to visit University Stadium since No. 4 BYU smacked the Lobos 48-0 in 1984, BYU's national championship year.
TCU's 66 points was its highest scoring output of the season. Dalton became TCU's career passing leader with 10,022 yards and took over as the Mountain West's total offense leader with 11,617 yards.