By Lynn DeBruin
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Andy Dalton passed for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns and No. 4 TCU looked every bit like a team worthy of busting into the BCS championship game with a 47-7 demolition of No. 6 Utah on Saturday.
Receiver Jeremy Kerley, a QB in high school, threw a TD pass as the Horned Frogs (10-0, 6-0 Mountain West Conference) jumped out to an early 20-0 lead, quieting a sellout crowd clad almost entirely in black for the “blackout” showdown.
By halftime, the Horned Frogs had outgained Utah 328-72 en route to a 23-0 lead. The loss snapped Utah’s 21-game home winning streak and dropped the Utes to 8-1 (5-1 MWC).
Dalton, whose 39 career victories are the most in the nation by an active quarterback, made it look easy.
He found Josh Boyce for a 26-yard TD pass on the opening drive, then came back to Boyce eight minutes later with a 93-yard scoring strike, as the receiver spun away from a defender near midfield and sprinted free for the score.
Utah’s Jordan Wynn, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going against the TCU’s No. 1-ranked defense. He started 5 of 12 for 42 yards, with a sack and a fumble, then opened the second half with an underthrown pass that Tanner Brock intercepted and returned 57 yards to the Utah 4, setting up another TCU touchdown.
Wynn, who started off slow in last year’s 55-28 loss to TCU, threw behind receivers, and overshot receivers, but also had a couple of balls dropped. He finished 16 of 35 for 148 yards, with one TD and two interceptions.
The battle of unbeatens had been hyped all week, with ESPN GameDay even broadcasting its show from the parking lot of Rice-Eccles Stadium, and some fans camping out 30 hours before kickoff. But there were a smattering of boos in the crowd of 46,522 – second-most in school history – as Utah mustered just five first downs in the first half and 11 in the game.
By the start of the fourth quarter, with Utah trailing 40-0, many fans – some of who had paid upwards of $200 for standing-room-only tickets – were headed for the gates.
Utah finally got on the board with 11:12 left in the game when Matt Asiata hauled in a 19-yard pass from Wynn – avoiding the first shutout at home since Oct. 14, 1967. It was still Utah’s worst home loss since Boise State beat the Utes, 36-3, on Sept. 3, 2006.
So much for Utah’s new black and camouflage uniforms, which were designed to inspire and intimidate. Instead the Utes looked virtually invisible in them, with Dalton picking apart the defense with 4- and 5-wide receiver sets. He finished 21 of 26.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham also had hoped to open up the playbook. But it was TCU coach Gary Patterson who showed a little trickery.
He inserted Kerley at quarterback following a Wynn fumble at the Utah 26, and Kerley found Bart Johnson wide open in the end zone to bump TCU’s lead to 20-0.
Dalton tossed his third TD pass of the game, an 11-yarder to Jimmy Young with 5:33 left in the third quarter for a 37-0 TCU lead. Ross Evans added two field goals, and Waymon James scored on 25-yard fourth-quarter run.
Entering the game, Utah and TCU were two of five remaining unbeaten teams (top-ranked Oregon, Boise State and Auburn the others). Many saw the top-25 battle as the biggest sporting event in Utah since the Olympics were in town 8 1/2 years ago.
TCU entered the game ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings. The Frogs still need Oregon or Auburn to falter to have a shot at playing in the national title game, but just staying unbeaten could get them in the Rose Bowl, which is obligated to take the highest-ranked non-automatic qualifier over the second-place Pac-10 team or any other at-large possibilities as the Big Ten champion’s opponent.
If Oregon finishes the season unbeaten, it likely will be headed to the BCS title game in Glendale, Ariz.
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