ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes before leaving with an elbow injury and No. 4 TCU capped its second straight undefeated season with a second consecutive Mountain West championship, beating lowly New Mexico 66-17 on Saturday.
The next stop for the BCS-busting Horned Frogs could very well be the Rose Bowl.
TCU (12-0, 8-0 Mountain West) has been jockeying with Boise State for a possible BCS appearance and got a major boost from Nevada, which knocked off the previously unbeaten Broncos on Friday night to clear the Frogs an easier path to Pasadena.
If form holds next week across the college football landscape, it could be a purple Rose Bowl.
Fullback Luke Shivers scored twice on short runs and reserve quarterback Casey Pachall passed for one TD and ran for another as TCU, as expected, dominated New Mexico (1-11, 1-7).
But before the Frogs could address their postseason prospects, they needed to complete the formality of ending the regular season. The Frogs were the highest ranked opponent to visit Albuquerque since No. 4 BYU won 48-0 on the Cougars’ march to the 1984 national title.
Other than Dalton’s injury, everything went just right for TCU.
Dalton, the nation’s active quarterback leader with 41 victories, was setting up to pass in the second period when he was taken down by New Mexico’s Jacori Greer. Dalton fumbled, and linebacker Joe Stoner picked up the ball and returned it 36 yards to the 1 to set up a touchdown.
Dalton was briefly examined by trainers. Moments later, he was up and cheering for his teammates, and his exit seemed precautionary.
Oregon beat New Mexico 72-0 in the season opener but TCU coach Gary Patterson, asked about comparison scores, said during the week he would be happy to get past the Lobos by one point.
No problem there.
The Horned Frogs had their highest scoring output of the season, outperforming a 62-7 win over Tennessee Tech on Sept. 11. With Dalton watching, TCU scored five unanswered TDs in the second half to pull away from a 31-17 halftime margin.
TCU’s seniors also set a record with their 43rd victory, the most successful class in school history.
The Frogs raced to a 21-0 lead in the opening period, with Dalton throwing easy TD passes to Antoine Hicks, Waymon James and Jimmy Young — all undefended and wide open — before New Mexico started contesting the left side of the field.
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.
The Frogs struck quickly in the third, getting three TDs after brief drives that started deep in New Mexico territory. Each score was set up by a big play: a fumble recovery by Colin Jones, a 50-yard punt return by Curtis Clay and an interception by Jurrell Thompson.
Pachall scored on an 8-yard run and threw a 21-yard TD strike to Logan Brock, then Shivers scored on a 1-yard run to put TCU up 52-17.
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