Fiesta Bowl Heartbreaker: TCU Falls to Boise State

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TCU's sweetheart season ended with a frustrating loss to Boise State at the Fiesta Bowl.

    The Broncos reached into their bag of tricks again to stun the Horned Frogs in the duel of unbeaten BCS busters.

    After the Broncos pulled off a gutsy fake punt at their own 33-yard line, Doug Martin scored the decisive touchdown to give No. 6 Boise State a 17-10 victory over third-ranked TCU on Monday night.

    "I just know that these kids have the most unbelievable heart," Broncos coach Chris Petersen said.

    A 10-10 stalemate came alive when Broncos punter Kyle Brotzman hit wide-open Kyle Efaw with a 30-yard strike with about 9 minutes to play.

    Four plays later, Martin dove over a tackler from 2 yards out as the Broncos become the second school ever to go 14-0, joining Ohio State, which did so in 2002. Until the end of the Fiesta Bowl, TCU was also undefeated.

    TCU Fans Show Their Spirit

    [DFW] TCU Fans Show Their Spirit
    Thousands of TCU fans made the trip to Glendale, Arizona to cheer on the Horned Frogs in the Fiesta Bowl.

    "The fake punt was a great call," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "They outcoached us on that play."

    The trickery evoked memories of Boise State's BCS debut three years ago, when it pulled out a passel of gadget plays to defeat Oklahoma on the same field. Unlike that thriller, this game offered little drama until Petersen made another surprising call.

    "For us to run a fake like that is gutsy," Brotzman said. "That's Boise State football. For him to call something like that and have faith in me to run and execute is awesome."

    The Broncos caught the Horned Frogs napping on the fake punt. Kellen Moore then completed three straight passes to advance to the 2, and Martin scored to put Boise State up 17-10 with 7:21 to go.

    "We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game," Petersen said. "A play here, a play there can turn the tide. Our hat's off to TCU. This game could have gone either way. We were fortunate to pull it out."

    TCU took over at its own 1 with 1:06 remaining and marched to the Boise State 30 before cornerback Brandyn Thompson disrupted a pass by Andy Dalton, and Winston Venable picked it off to end the threat.

    Moore passed for 211 yards. Dalton finished with 272 yards and a score through the air, but was intercepted three times.

    Brotzman also made a 40-yard field goal midway through the second to make it 10-0, putting the Horned Frogs in the biggest hole they had faced all season.

    Boise State is known for its offense. But its defense did most of the work in this one.

    Thompson set up the winning drive with its second interception of the game. He returned his first pick 51 yards for the game's first score.

    "We stressed all week just swarming to the ball, collectively as a defense," Thompson said.

    Western Athletic Conference champion Boise State earned its second BCS victory -- as many as Michigan, Penn State and Alabama have combined.

    The Broncos are one of only three remaining unbeatens, along with Texas and Alabama, which will play for the national title on Thursday night.

    Some wondered whether the Broncos deserved a shot at the national title. On this night, they were just barely good enough to edge Mountain West champion TCU (12-1), snapping the Horned Frogs' 14-game win streak.

    It was the first time two schools from conferences without automatic BCS bids have met in one of college football's biggest bowls. But for long stretches TCU and Boise State played as if they belonged in the Poinsettia Bowl, site of TCU's 17-16 victory over Boise State in December 2008.

    This was TCU's first BCS game, and the Horned Frogs seemed a little jittery, with six first-half penalties and some early struggles by Dalton, who also fumbled a snap to go along with his three interceptions.

    TCU's 10-0 deficit in the second quarter was its biggest since it fell behind the Broncos 13-0 in the Poinsettia Bowl.

    Boise State entered as the nation's highest-scoring team (44.2 points per game), and the Horned Frogs were fourth (40.7). But their expected offensive duel turned into a tedious series of punts.

    Neither team could muster an offensive touchdown until the final minute of the first half, when Dalton hit Curtis Clay for a 30-yard score to make it 10-7 at halftime.

    The Horned Frogs capitalized on Boise State's first turnover to pull even midway through the third. The Broncos had moved into Horned Frogs territory when All-American defensive end Jerry Hughes stripped Martin and recovered the ball at TCU's 43-yard line.

    Eight plays later, Ross Evans kicked a 29-yard field goal to tie it at 10.

    The Broncos struck first on the return by Thompson, who cut in front of Antoine Hicks, picked off the pass and raced untouched into the end zone in the first quarter.

    Dalton, who was intercepted three times, had thrown only five interceptions in 279 pass attempts during the regular season, when he earned first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors. But the Broncos put pressure on Dalton from the start; late in the first quarter, unblocked cornerback Kyle Wilson blitzed and flattened Dalton, who came out for one play.

    One interception was returned 51 yards for a touchdown, one set the stage for Boise State's game-winning drive, and the third ended any TCU hopes with 18 seconds to play.

    Monday night's game was the lowest-scoring game of the season for the Frogs, who had scored no fewer than 42 points in their previous seven contests.