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November 12, 2011
Boise State, TCU meet with league title at stake
BOISE, Idaho (AP) TCU hasn't forgotten that this is a game that should be played in Texas.
A year ago, shortly after the Mountain West Conference welcomed Boise State, schedule makers agreed to make the conference showdown between these perennial BCS busters a home game for the Horned Frogs.
But when TCU moved to change conferences next season, reprisal followed. Irked at losing one of its marquee teams, Mountain West officials punished TCU by moving Saturday's game to Boise.
"Obviously it's still about what have you done for me lately," TCU coach Gary Patterson said about the venue change.
Come game time, Patterson insists he and his players will be focused more on football and less on location. There is too much at stake for both teams in their first-ever meeting outside the postseason.
For Boise State (8-0, 3-0), it's another year of being a BCS outsider, and a convincing win against a surging team like the Horned Frogs could help end weeks of holding ground in the national rankings.
Both teams have winning streaks on the line. TCU (7-2, 4-0) has won 21 straight conference games and has matched the MWC record with 11 straight road wins during that stretch. Boise State has won 35 straight games on its blue turf, but TCU poses the biggest home test since then-No. 24 Oregon State rolled into town in September 2010.
The teams have split their last two meetings; TCU beat Boise State 17-16 in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl, while the Broncos scored late with the help of a fake punt to win the 2010 Fiesta Bowl 17-10.
To top it off, coaches, players and fans recognize the conference title is on the line Saturday.
"This is truly for the Mountain West title," Boise State defensive tackle Chase Baker said. "I don't think (the venue change) will bother them. They're going to bring that extra edge. They're going to want to leave this conference with that title."
The Horned Frogs are playing with a little extra edge lately, thanks in part to a resurgent running game and a defense that has toughened with each game.
During TCU's current four-game winning streak, the defense has allowed an average of 15 points and 99 yards rushing per game, down significantly from the 50 points allowed in a season-opening overtime loss to Baylor and the 48 given up in an Oct. 1 loss to SMU.
The secondary has also gotten better defending the pass. In the last four games, TCU has allowed just 172 yards and five touchdowns through the air. While those victories have come against weaker conference foes like Wyoming and New Mexico, the improvement is evidence enough that yards won't come easy for Kellen Moore and the rest of the Boise State offense.
Moore, who ranks fourth all-time with 128 TD passes, has yet to hit a receiver for a score in two games against the Horned Frogs' defense.
"We just haven't been able to get any explosive plays against them," said Moore, whose 46 career victories make him tops all-time among FBS quarterbacks. "A lot of the credit for that goes to them. They make no silly mistakes. There are no blown coverages. Everyone knows what they're doing."
Patterson, who doubles as TCU's defensive coordinator, joked that he's probably only caught Moore off balance once with a coverage scheme in more than 120 plays calls. This year, Moore is averaging 295 yards passing per game and has 29 TDs and just five interceptions.
"He just doesn't get fooled," Patterson said. "He's a complete football player on and off the field. It's fun to watch him. I'm an admirer of Kellen Moore."
With the health of the Broncos' leading rusher in question, coaches may put more of the burden on Moore's smarts and accurate left arm to score points.
Boise State might be without leading rusher Doug Martin, who injured his leg in the first half of last week's blowout at UNLV. Earlier this week, Petersen said Martin, who is averaging 94.5 yards per game, would be evaluated day to day.
The Broncos may also have some key defensive players out or playing at less than 100 percent. Starting defensive tackle Billy Winn and cornerback Jamar Taylor will both be game-time decisions.
The Boise State defense has been stout most of the season and ranks in the top 15 in the nation in points allowed (16.75) and total yards allowed per game (302). But TCU and its trio of tailbacks pose the kind of offensive threat only rivaled this season by Georgia and Air Force, which gouged the Broncos defense for 264 yards rushing a month ago.
Waymon James leads the Horned Frogs with 652 yards rushing and he averages 8.5 per carry. Two other tailbacks - Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker - each have rushed for more than 500 yards on the season. All three have combined for 16 touchdowns.
"Everybody talks about the TCU defense, but I'm also impressed with that offense," Petersen said.
Petersen also made clear his respect for the work Patterson has done to elevate TCU's profile in the last few years, much in the same way Petersen is credited by his peers for Boise State's rise from a media darling to a program being courted by Big East executives.
"I just like his mindset," Petersen said of Patterson, whom he coached with at UC Davis for one season in 1986. "I don't think he worries about all the outside stuff, all the noise, and just about building the best program you can.
"There are a few guys who show up on your schedule and you say to yourself you know you're going to have to play your best. And here we go again," Petersen said.