Louisiana-Monroe coach Todd Berry knew at halftime that No. 23 TCU was getting quite a tongue-lashing from its coach.
Berry told his guys to be ready.
Less than 5 minutes into the second half, though, the Horned Frogs had seized control with a 94-yard kickoff return and eventually won 38-17, their 21st consecutive victory at home and coach Gary Patterson's 100th overall.
"I gave our guys a pretty good lecture, too. ... I knew (Patterson) was going to get on them," Berry said. "I felt good about it, our team's focus and then all of a sudden you have the kickoff returned for a touchdown. That's not the way you want to open the second half."
TCU (2-1) led 21-17 before Greg McCoy took the second-half kickoff at the 6, then took one step toward the middle of the field before cutting back and sprinting along the right sideline in front of the ULM bench. He ran nearly untouched to the end zone, his path completely clear once the kicker was knocked down near midfield.
Three plays later, the Warhawks (1-2) gave the ball back. Jyruss Edwards fumbled after taking a crushing blow from Stansly Maponga and D.J. Yendrey recovered at the 28. That set up Matthew Tucker's second TD run, a 1-yarder for a 35-17 lead with 10:42 left in the third quarter.
"You take those 14 points away from the game and now you're back to looking like it was at halftime, and it might be a different game," Berry said.
Louisiana-Monroe piled up 189 total yards in the first quarter, when it scored all its points to take a 17-14 lead. Two weeks ago in 34-0 season-opening loss at fifth-ranked Florida State, the Warhawks had only 191 total yards the entire game.
"This game proved that we can come and play with some of the top-tier teams. We just have to put it together for a full game," receiver Brent Leonard said. "A loss is a loss; it really does hurt."
Louisiana-Monroe, now 0-22 against Top 25 teams, led 17-14 on Tavarese Maye's 37-yard touchdown catch with 19 seconds left in the first quarter. Maye lunged forward in the middle of the end zone for the grab after cornerback Kevin White stumbled and fell against the receiver's legs.
Leonard had a 22-yard TD catch before that, and finished with 13 receptions for 92 yards.
The Warhawks gained only 125 more yards after the first quarter.
ULM got the ball at the Frogs 32 with 10 seconds left in the first half when R.J. Young reached out and stripped the ball from quarterback Casey Pachall's hand and recovered it. The Warhawks got 6 yards on a quick pass, but Justin Manton's 43-yard field goal attempt on the final play was wide right.
Then came the game-changing spurt after halftime.
"This team is hurting now. Believe me, we have total respect for TCU," Berry said. "But we're at a point now where we need to believe in ourselves, and we should. We'll win some games this year if we continue to play hard, play a little bit smarter than we did today and stay healthy. This is a decent football team. ... We're not old ULM anymore, we're a legitimate team."
Patterson, promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach after the 2000 regular season, is 100-29. The only TCU coach to win more games is Dutch Meyer, with 109 from 1934-52. That included the Frogs' only AP national championship in 1938, their only other undefeated season until last year.
TCU finally went ahead to stay only after getting a lucky break. Offsetting penalties wiped away Skye Dawson's fumbled punt return that the Warhawks had recovered at the 15.
Brandon Carter fielded the do-over kick and had an 18-yard return, setting up a 12-play, 73-yard drive that ended with Antoine Hicks' 2-yard TD run that made it 21-17 with 5:16 left in the half.
ULM got a 23-yard field goal by Manton on the opening drive, though TCU quickly responded when Pachall hit Josh Boyce in stride at the 30 behind a defender for what turned into a 68-yard TD.
Backup quarterback Cody Wells played the second series for ULM and was 5-of-5 passing for 38 yards with a 22-yard TD to Leonard for a 10-7 lead. TCU went right back down the field and got a 5-yard touchdown run by Tucker.
TCU hasn't lost at home since 2007 against Utah.