TCU moves to 5-0 for first time since 2003

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

AIR FORCE ACADEMY -- TCU doesn’t care about style points.

The fact that the Horned Frogs squeaked out a 20-17 win against Air Force in 19 degree weather and snow doesn’t matter to coach Gary Patterson because his team hit its goal of being 5-0.

“All I’m going to try to do is be 12-0,” Patterson said. “The only way to get to be 12-0 is 5-0 and so we’re 5-0 right now.”

TCU is 5-0 for the first time since 2003 and for only the third time since 1942. But the win didn’t come easily. TCU battled wind, snow and an icy field in the coldest game TCU has played in while a member of the Mountain West Conference.

The Horned Frogs led 20-10 early in the fourth quarter and appeared to be cruising toward a victory as it was slowing the Falcons No. 2 nationally ranked rushing defense. But a fumble by TCU receiver Jeremy Kerley with less than four minutes remaining gave Air Force the ball back at the TCU 46-yard line and the Falcons scored on the subsequent possession to cut the score to 20-17.

TCU sealed the win by recovering an onside kick, but the fumble was one of three turnovers for the Horned Frogs in the game.

“You can’t turn the ball over against them, we did that, got back in the game and they fought,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to give them a lot of credit and you have to give our guys a lot of credit.”

TCU had multiple scoring opportunities, which Patterson said he’ll point out to his players when they watch film this week. The Horned Frogs turned the ball over twice inside their own 10-yard line.

But the defense was as stout as it’s been all season. It held Air Force to 287 total yards of offense, almost 100 yards below the Falcons average, and just 14 first downs.

Patterson said he was proud of the way his team fought in the game and the resiliency it showed to not let the weather or the turnovers affect it.

“To me, a win [is a win]. Everybody needs them,” Patterson said. “But you know, when you play a team that is 2-0 in conference. … Playing them at home, playing them at night and playing them on TV. Two years ago, we lose in overtime in this kind of ballgame.”

TCU remains the highest nationally ranked Mountain West team and might be able to close the gap on Boise State, which was idle this week. No. 4 LSU lost to No. 1 Florida, which should move the Horned Frogs up to No. 9, the first time they’ve been ranked that high during the regular season since the 2000.

TCU has an admirable resume with three road wins against quality opponents. It has also played in some poor weather, battled turnovers and had to come from behind. Patterson said all of things continue to show the resiliency of his team as it continues to press on toward a possible BCS berth.

“I told my team, I said maybe the man upstairs just isn’t going to make it easy,” Patterson said. “Every way we do it, we’re going to do it the hard way. The last two weeks it’s been in a downpour, this week it’s in the snow. If you’re going to win a championship, you’ve got to win on the road. That’s hard to do, especially for TCU. We’ve got bring our own energy and I felt like we did a good job of that today.”