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TCU kept its eyes on the prize

TCU safety Stephen Hodge (left) celebrates after a fourth-quarter interception. TCU safety Stephen Hodge (left) celebrates after a fourth-quarter interception. (Denis Poroy/Associated Press)
By Bernie Wilson
Associated Press / December 25, 2008
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SAN DIEGO - Boise State's tricks were no match for TCU's speedy, aggressive defense Tuesday night.

Plus, the Horned Frogs had L.T. on their side.

Joseph Turner scored on a 17-yard run midway through the fourth quarter to give the No. 11 Horned Frogs their first lead of the night, which they preserved for a 17-16 victory over No. 9 Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl.

"We just wore them down. They can't last forever," Turner said.

Boise State (12-1) was trying to finish 13-0 for the second time in three seasons.

"It's OK - you're not going to win every time," BSU coach Chris Petersen said. "As long as you learn from it and become better for it down the road, we can live with that."

It was the second time in five years Boise State lost a chance at a perfect season by losing its bowl game. In 2004, it lost to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl to finish 11-1.

The Broncos took a 10-0 lead on Ian Johnson's 20-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter, but their high-scoring offense bogged down against TCU's tough defense.

TCU (11-2) piled up yards if not points until finally wearing down the Broncos' defense in the fourth quarter. The Horned Frogs moved 80 yards in 10 plays on the winning drive, with Turner finishing it off by shedding a tackle inside the 5-yard line and diving into the end zone for a 17-13 lead.

LaDainian Tomlinson, the former TCU standout who's in his eighth season with the San Diego Chargers, jumped in celebration and pumped his fist near the TCU bench.

It was a good night to be a Horned Frog - current and past.

"Two top defenses, two top offenses in the nation, we just wanted it more," TCU running back Aaron Brown said.

There wouldn't be a crazy, victorious finish for Johnson and the Broncos as there was two years ago in their memorable, highly entertaining overtime win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

"They had better athletes than we've ever seen," Johnson said. "They played with so much heart. You didn't look over there one time and say, 'We broke them.' They knew they were going to come back and they believed in themselves the whole time."

After Turner's TD, Boise State got to the TCU 14 before having to settle for Kyle Brotzman's 33-yard field goal to make it 17-16.

The Broncos got the ball back with 6 seconds left on their 33, but Jeremy Childs's lateral after a catch flip was grabbed by TCU's Matt Panfil.

"The game plan going in was to stop the run and watch all the trick plays," said TCU safety Stephen Hodge, who had 10 tackles and an interception. "They know the trick plays."

Said Johnson: "You could see they were a little ready for what we had planned."

TCU outgained Boise State, 472 yards to 250. Boise State had only 28 yards rushing.

Boise State entered averaging 39 points and 456 yards, one of the benefits of dominating the Western Athletic Conference.

Johnson scored on a 20-yard run midway through the first quarter. It was his 58th career rushing TD, breaking former San Diego State star Marshall Faulk's WAC record and giving the Broncos a 10-0 lead.

Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore faked a sweep handoff to Childs, then handed to Johnson, who broke outside and found open field. Officials brought the ball to the sideline for Johnson to keep.

The Broncos needed the points, because TCU's fast, aggressive defense finally clamped down.

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