TCU uses big stage to make statement

ARLINGTON, Texas -- TCU pushed Oregon State around inside palatial Cowboys Stadium. No getting around that. The sixth-ranked Horned Frogs rushed for 278 yards, which is more than the Beavers 255 total yards. Oregon State ran just 51 plays; TCU 81.

"Still," the glum head shakes from the Beavers said afterwards. They had the ball and a chance with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter, but they made their biggest error of the evening. A miscommunication on a shotgun snap from senior center Alex Linnenkohl to sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz, who was making his first career start, sailed over a surprised Katz's shoulder, which forced Katz to kick the ball through the end zone for a safety.

Those would be the final points -- and the last time the Beavers touched the ball -- in a 30-21 defeat.

"I'm disappointed that we didn't give ourselves a chance on the drive at the end," Beavers coach Mike Riley said.

What happened was this: Oregon State, down seven, had a first down on its 18-yard line. A draw play was called. Katz saw something he didn't like. He tried to change the play. Linnenkohl didn't get the message and snapped the ball.

The Horned Frogs got two points and the ball and they didn't give it back.

"The safety was a big deal," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "You go up by nine and you play the game a lot different."

The biggest deal was TCU's running game and the Beavers lack of one. While Jacquizz Rodgers gained a tough 75 yards on 18 carries, the Beavers finished with just 73 yards on the ground. Three TCU runners gained at least 64 yards, topped by Ed Wesley with 134 on just 17 carries, which works out to a crisp 7.9 per rush.

Suffice it to say, the Horned Frogs option worked even though the Beavers knew it was coming.

"We just couldn't get off a block to make a play," Riley said.

Oregon State was still in the game in the fourth because of two interceptions of TCU quarterback Andy Dalton -- one by Lance Mitchell and the other by Dwight Roberson -- and a well-executed fake punt that netted 23 yards on a fourth-and-1. The fake punt set up the second of Katz's two touchdown passes, which gave the Beavers a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.

Katz made some nice throws -- his TDs covered 30 and 34 yards -- but he only completed 9 of 25 passes for 159 yards. Nonetheless, it was a solid first start on the road. He didn't throw an interception and was mistake-free until the muddled shotgun snap.

The only plus coming from that play was Katz taking responsibility for the miscue, just like a veteran quarterback would.

"We should have just stayed with the [called] play," he said. "That's on me."

Riley agreed, by the way: "He didn't have to get out of it."

As for TCU, it got another win over a BCS conference foe. In the constant fight for respect, this was another notch on the musket. Seeing that the Horned Frogs are 14-3 in their past 17 games against teams from BCS automatic-qualifying conferences, they might need another musket.

"The national spotlight and national attention I think will pick up," Dalton said. "I think a lot of people will watch the game tonight and see how we play football."

One thing is for sure: TCU still enjoys seeing itself as an underdog. It didn't escape detection that ESPN GameDay analyst Lee Corso picked the Frogs to go down by "three touchdowns."

"I did text [Corso]," Patterson said. "You guys thought that was a bogus text. That was me. I asked Chris Fowler, 'Lee: Three touchdowns?'"

Big week for the Mountain West Conference, too. Utah beat Pittsburgh, the Big East favorite, on Thursday, and BYU's win over Washington -- along with Oregon's 72-0 win over New Mexico -- gave the conference a 2-1 Saturday vs. the Pac-10. Why is the conference in turmoil when it's so darn good?

Perhaps the most disappointed Beavers were the Rodgers brothers, who were playing their first -- and likely only -- game together in the state of Texas. Both turned in solid performances -- James Rodgers caught four passes for 75 yards and a TD -- but both only saw what they didn't do.

"We left a lot of plays out there," James Rodgers said.

For both programs, this big stage was an opportunity. Both are nationally respected -- see national rankings -- but both want to take the next step. TCU knows only perfection will get it into the national championship conversation -- or even BCS bowl contention -- while the Beavers want to climb toward the top-10 while they make a run at their first Rose Bowl since 1965.

For TCU, mission accomplished. For Oregon State, it's another nonconference loss to start the season, which fits into a pattern: The Beavers started 2-3 in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and 2-2 in 2009.

Of course, if any team knows that an early loss doesn't end the season, it's the Beavers.

"It's very frustrating, but we can't let that get to us," James Rodgers said. "We've got 11 more games."

That's 11 more games, including a date with Boise State on Sept. 25, in which to make a statement.

But on this night, TCU made the statement: Count us in the mix in the national championship chase.