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College Sports

TCU pushes Nebraska, but falls short on offense

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By WHIT CANNING
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

LINCOLN, Neb. _ And so, after all the hype, the knowing smirks, the escalating point spread and the predictions of painful oblivion, it came down to this:

The TCU Horned Frogs walked off the field at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium on Saturday, indeed beaten, 21-7, by their fourth-ranked hosts, feeling disappointed and somewhat battered, with half of the defensive line in the hospital.

But to the curious bystander, they might have seemed a victorious cohort, judging from the ringing ovation delivered by thousands of scarlet-clad admirers, who know a class act when they see one.

"I expected this group to play well," TCU coach Gary Patterson said after a brutal battle in the Pigskin Classic. "A lot of people talked about all the people we lost, and how we don't have LT [LaDainian Tomlinson] anymore. But we wanted to come up here and play this game and give people a good look at the players we've still got.

"We got a lot of exposure out of it, and that's good. We didn't want people to forget us."

Don't worry, Gary.

"We played very hard," athletic director Eric Hyman said, "and we got a lot of very positive coverage throughout the day from the ABC [TV] crew. We showed that TCU will not back down from anyone, and that's the way we want it to be from now on."

After watching his vaunted ground game squeezed down to 159 yards, Nebraska coach Frank Solich also seemed impressed.

"TCU is a very physical football team," he said. "They were a very good defensive team last season, and, statistically, they were the best. We had too many plays that went for minus yardage (15 for minus-68), and our defense kept us in the ballgame."

That it did. TCU's visions of a momentous upset never materialized in the face of the endless pursuit of Nebraska's "Blackshirt" defense, which limited the Frogs to 186 total yards. On the day, TCU's ground game managed 56 yards on 28 tries.

"I don't really know what was wrong, exactly," said quarterback Casey Printers, whose 67-yard touchdown pass to Matt Schobel in the second quarter was virtually the Frogs' lone offensive moment. "They definitely have a good defense. ... Their corners are very quick. We never got anything going in the ground game, and our receivers were often covered."

The scoring play, on which Printers rolled right, scrambled back to his left and sailed the ball downfield to Schobel behind the secondary, tied the score at 7-7 in the first quarter. But, like most victims of the Cornhuskers, the Frogs were unable to contain Heisman Trophy candidate Eric Crouch, whose 220 yards of total offense gave him 5,510 for his career, breaking the school record.

"Our plan was to contain him, and we succeeded to a degree," Patterson said. "But he got it done when it mattered. He made the difference, and that's what winners do."

Crouch ripped off a 12-yard run for a first down on his first carry, then set up Nebraska's first score with a 33-yard scramble out of the shotgun. I-back Thunder Collins got the score from 6 yards out.

After the TCU score, Crouch threw a 41-yard pass that put the ball on the Frogs' 11-yard line, and he eventually scored on a 1-yard sneak.

TCU missed its best chance in the third quarter, after Jared Smitherman knocked the ball loose from Keyuo Craver on a punt return and Chad Bayer recovered at the Nebraska 35. But four plays later, TCU punted on fourth-and-10.

Crouch then engineered a 98-yard drive that clinched the game, contributing the key play, a 42-yard option run, himself. Collins ran 26 yards for the score with 25 seconds remaining in the third, and it stayed that way through the final period.

Whit Canning, (817) 390-7760

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