Andy Dalton overcomes miscues to lead Horned Frogs past Mustangs

DALLAS -- TCU coach Gary Patterson saw his players slump into the locker room at halftime, their heads drooping because they were barely winning.

So imagine how they looked when they were losing just 1:02 into the second half following a second straight interception thrown by quarterback Andy Dalton.

Then Jeremy Kerley returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards, Dalton started making clutch plays instead of mistakes and the No. 4 Horned Frogs bullied their way past SMU, 41-24 on Friday night.

"I'm very happy with the win," Patterson said. "But I'm disappointed with some of the mistakes."

After falling behind 17-14 early in the third quarter, Dalton bounced back to lead the Horned Frogs (4-0) to touchdowns on their next three drives. With TCU ahead 35-17, entire sections in the Ford Stadium-record crowd of 35,481 began heading home.

The folks in purple stayed til the end, but didn't necessarily like everything they saw.

The Horned Frogs' usually vaunted defense allowed their most points, most yards (361), most yards rushing (192) and had their fewest sacks (one). They also allowed a rare 100-yard rusher, giving up 139 yards to Zach Line, a converted linebacker who was a goal-line specialist last season.

"We saw what they did on defense and thought we could have some success with (the draw play)," said Line, who also had a 29-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. "It was good to come out here and compete and show that we can play with these guys."

This was TCU's final game outside the Mountain West Conference. The Horned Frogs go to Colorado State next weekend to begin pursuit of their first trip to a BCS title game.

SMU (2-2) had won five straight at home and was looking for its biggest victory yet under third-year coach June Jones.

The Mustangs jumped ahead 7-0 on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Padron to Aldrick Robinson, then found themselves down 14-7 with TCU driving late in the second quarter.

Then Ryan Smith intercepted a pass at SMU's own 10 with 1:38 left until halftime. A terrific, one-handed catch by Darius Johnson went for 50 yards, leading to a 26-yard field goal that tightened things up at the break.

The Horned Frogs had the ball to open the third quarter. On the second play, Sterling Moore intercepted a pass and returned it 32 yards to the 1. Padron threw another TD pass and things suddenly were very interesting.

"They came out swinging and we weren't ready for it," Kerley said.

So Kerley swung the momentum back his team's way.

His big return left TCU only 13 yards from a go-ahead touchdown and seemed to get Dalton back on track.

He finished off that drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Bart Johnson. Dalton completed a pair of third-down conversions on the way to a 9-yard touchdown run by Waymon James on the next series, then ran 14 yards on a third-and-7 to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Luke Shivers at the start of the fourth quarter.

TCU's size, strength and depth was simply too much for SMU. The Horned Frogs beat the Mustangs for the 10th time in 11 meetings.

"I thought we played with energy early, but then they wore us down," Jones said. "When you play against that team, you've got to make plays when you have chances to make plays."

Dalton was 14 of 26 for 174 yards and one touchdown -- the 49th of his career, tying Max Knake's school record set from 1992-95.

James ran eight times for 41 yards and two touchdowns, and Matthew Tucker ran 19 times for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Padron was 14 of 35 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. TCU's Tejay Johnson intercepted a Padron pass and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.