Dalton exorcises Utah demons

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Andy Dalton didn’t go back and watch last year’s game against Utah.

He’d seen it enough times and the images of last year’s devastating loss often played in his head.

Instead, Dalton, TCU’s junior quarterback, focused on the positive and the possibilities. He thought about what a win against Utah would do for his team and the program and the record crowd of 50,307 fans who came to Amon G. Carter Stadium to cheer the Horned Frogs on.

“I didn’t go back and watch the game from last year because I didn’t want to have that same feeling going in,” Dalton said. “I felt like if we just came out and played that we could really control what we needed to do. I think just everything going into the game was motivation itself.”

Dalton led the Horned Frogs to a 55-28 win. He helped keep them undefeated and in the hunt for both a Mountain West title and a BCS bowl.

But just as important, Dalton exorcised the demons of past Utah games.

During the past two years, Dalton has accounted for no touchdowns and six interceptions against Utah. His games against the Utes were memorable only because they were some of the worst in his career.

But on Saturday, all of that disappeared. Dalton started slowly, but found a rhythm late in the first quarter when he found Ryan Christian, who tight roped the sideline 16 yards to give Dalton his first passing touchdown against the Utes.

“I hadn’t thrown a touchdown pass against them and thrown quite a few interceptions,” Dalton said. “My job is to get our guys the ball and he made a great play. I was glad that he scored.”

Dalton finished the game with 207 passing yards, 48 yards on the ground, a touchdown and an interception, but he helped the offense score just five fewer points than it had against the Utes during the last four seasons combined.

The 55 points was as many points as the Utes had given up in their past four games combined and the most since 1990. Saturday’s game was one of the most lopsided and decisive outcomes the Horned Frogs had ever achieved in a game of that magnitude.

“They were who we thought they were. Tonight, that was a good football team,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “I have been a head coach for five years and that is the best team that I’ve faced. They are a solid team from top to bottom and we knew we were going to have to play our best to compete tonight. That did not happen.”

Dalton said the team could now see the light at the end of the tunnel. With two games remaining against Wyoming and New Mexico, the Horned Frogs are one win away from clinching at least a share of the Mountain West title and two wins away from owning the conference title outright, a BCS bowl berth and a possible national championship berth should some teams suffer losses.

TCU was in a similar position heading into the Utah game a year ago, and Dalton said avoiding the pain of a missed opportunity is what pulled the Horned Frogs through on Saturday.

“That was a big game for us to lose and just the feeling afterward was just really what I’ll remember from it,” Dalton said. “I think this whole team knew that we didn’t want to have that same feeling going into this year.

“I think we made a big statement. To play a great team like Utah. For us to come out and have a big win like this just shows what this program is about.”