FORT WORTH (AP) – Close victories aren’t enough for TCU.
While the Horned Frogs (11-0) are still undefeated and remained third in the new BCS standings Sunday night, their margin ahead of Boise State got smaller after their closest victory of the season.
TCU had already dropped a spot to fourth behind the Broncos (9-0) in the AP poll earlier Sunday, a day after having to rally from a two-touchdown deficit then holding on to beat San Diego State.
“There are so many things going on that we have no control over,” receiver Bart Johnson said after the 40-35 victory.
As center Jake Kirkpatrick put it: “We are 11-0, and not many people can say that.”
But even after beating the Aztecs (7-3) to clinch at least a share of the Mountain West Conference title, TCU was passed by Boise State in the AP Top 25, as well as the USA Today coaches’ and Harris polls — the two human polls that factor into the BCS standings.
Oregon and Auburn, the only other undefeated teams, remained 1-2 in all the polls after tight games of their own Saturday.
TCU and Boise State, the non-automatic qualifiers, are trying to position themselves for a shot at the BCS national title game if Oregon or Auburn slip and lose a game. Or at least a spot in the Rose Bowl.
Even if TCU and Boise State both finish undefeated, there is a distinct possibility that only one of them will be a BCS buster this time after they played each other in the Fiesta Bowl last season.
After the home finale, TCU now has to wait two weeks to finish its regular season.
A problem for the Frogs is that they will be favored to win by a large margin at New Mexico (1-9) on Nov. 27. So a lopsided victory will be expected and likely do little, if anything, to impress voters.
The Frogs also have to wait to see how being idle next weekend might affect them in the polls when Boise State, coming off a 52-14 victory over Idaho, will be playing Fresno State with a chance to put up more big numbers.
“All we have to do is just keep fighting,” Johnson said. “Go get healthy, get ready for New Mexico and win big, and we’ll sit back and let it unfold.”
A week after a dominating 47-7 victory over then-undefeated Utah, the Frogs found themselves in a 14-0 hole less than 6 minutes into their game against San Diego State.
“I cautioned after the Utah game of a letdown,” coach Gary Patterson said. “The bottom line we found a way to win. … Now we move on. That’s all we have control over.”
TCU scored touchdowns on five of its six drives after the early deficit and led 37-14 in the third quarter. But the Aztecs scored three touchdowns in the final 16 minutes to make it close.
“Our kids fought back after trying to mess the whole thing up to start the ballgame,” Patterson said. “San Diego State did a good job in the fourth quarter. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. … They made it a ballgame at the end.”
Making things worse for the Frogs, their victory over Utah looked much less impressive after the Utes lost again — 28-3 at Notre Dame (5-5) on Saturday.
The final home game for 26 TCU seniors was also the last game at Amon G. Carter Stadium before the 80-year-old campus facility undergoes a $105 million renovation.
It wasn’t the kind of game quarterback Andy Dalton and the other TCU seniors are used to playing even though they got their 42nd win — matching the record four-year mark set by last season’s seniors that made up the Frogs’ first BCS-busting team.
TCU has a 20-game home winning streak, but hadn’t allowed 35 points at home since the 2004 season finale. The Frogs had allowed only 27 points combined their previous five home games this season.
“When you look at the game, and think about the way we played, I felt like we didn’t play to the best of our ability,” senior safety Tejay Johnson said.
Not by their own lofty standards.
San Diego State gained 199 of its 300 total yards on three late TD drives. Only one Mountain West opponent had gone over 200 yards in a game (231 by Air Force) against TCU and SMU (361) is the only team that had more.
Still, TCU remained the nation’s top defense, allowing only 223.2 total yards and 10.9 points a game. The Frogs are trying to be the first team to lead the nation in total defense three consecutive seasons.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)