HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) -- TCU can forget about the BCS.
Any debate about whether the Horned Frogs (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today; No. 10 Associated Press) belonged
in a major bowl ended Thursday night when their frantic,
fourth-quarter rally failed in a 40-28 loss to Southern Mississippi.
"We tried to live a dream but we came up just a little bit
short," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
Dustin Almond threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns and the
Golden Eagles capitalized on four turnovers to hand TCU its first
loss of the season.
Top-ranked Oklahoma is the only undefeated team left in Division
TCU was eighth in the Bowl Championship Series standings this
week. The Horned Frogs needed to stay unbeaten to have any shot of
becoming the first school from a non-BCS league to receive an
invite to one of the four big-money bowls.
Now, the best they can hope for is a piece of the Conference USA
title and a spot in one of five bowls with league ties.
That's a difference of about $13 million.
"When you come to somebody else's house to win a championship
you can't turn the ball over and you can't give up big plays,"
"I'm proud of my kids with the way they came back in the fourth
quarter and fought back after they got themselves down and just
about pulled it off," he said.
TCU (10-1, 7-1) trailed by 31-6 early in the fourth quarter
before scoring three touchdowns in a span of 4:30 with the aid of
two straight recovered onside kicks.
Brandon Hassell led the comeback attempt with his passing and
running. He swept around right end for a 1-yard TD with 6:55 left,
then threw for the 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 31-28.
Hassell finished 18-for-31 for 260 yards with two interceptions.
Southern Mississippi (8-3, 7-0) clinched at least a share of the
league title and can win it outright with a victory over East
The Golden Eagles blunted TCU's comeback bid by kicking a field
goal to make it 34-28. Then they put the game away by forcing TCU's
final turnover of the game.
Greg Brooks got free on a corner blitz and knocked the ball from
Hassell. Rod Davis recovered at the TCU 11 with less than three
minutes left. Moments later, Anthony Harris bulled into the end
zone from 2 yards out with 1:30 left.
"Like our guys have done so many times before, when the game
was on the line we found a way to make some plays when we had to,"
Golden Eagles coach Jeff Bower, who has led Southern Miss to three
previous C-USA titles.
Southern Miss has won five straight games and can earn a bid to
the Liberty Bowl by winning at East Carolina on Nov. 29. The
Pirates have won just once.
The win was the Golden Eagles' first ever against a ranked
opponent at home, and the fans celebrated by taking down a goal
"We went through hard times this season," Davis said. "We
were 3-3. People shoved us away. We kept fighting."
Almond, who has thrown 12 TD passes since regaining the starting
job five games ago, was 14-for-23 with an interception.
Southern Miss jumped out to a 24-6 lead with the help of three
big plays -- one by the offense, one by the defense and one by
The offense was first up as Almond and DaRon Lawrence took
advantage of a fallen TCU defender for a 50-yard touchdown pass
that made it 7-3 in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter the Golden Eagles' defense
struck. Etric Pruitt picked off Hassell's throw deep down the
middle and returned it 32 yards to the Horned Frogs 24.
Five plays later, Harris spun out of the pile, just barely
keeping his knee off the ground, and dived across the goal line for
a 1-yard TD to make it 17-6.
Marvin Young capped the outburst with a 52-yard punt return
That set up Almond's 9-yard TD pass through traffic to Anwton
It marked just the second time this season TCU was down at
halftime and by far the biggest deficit the Horned Frogs have faced
at any point this season.
Almond's third TD pass -- a 21-yarder to Young -- made it 31-6
late in the third quarter, but TCU wouldn't let its 12-game winning
streak die without a fight.
Kenny Hayter capped two short drives with 1-yard touchdown runs
in the fourth quarter for TCU, and Reggie Harrell had seven catches
for 108 yards.
"In the second half we came back but we needed a lot more,"
said Robert Merrill, who ran for 132 yards on 16 carries. "We
needed this win but we fell short."