ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- New Mexico was in the red zone and
TCU's defense on its heels. Safety Brian Bonner kept telling his
teammates someone had to make a play.
It turned out to be him.
Bonner's interception with 22 seconds left and defensive end
Tommy Blake's first quarter 20-yard fumble return for a score were
the big plays that helped TCU hold off New Mexico in a 27-21 win
Bonner's interception of a Chris Nelson pass sealed the win
after TCU had nearly squandered a 24-0 halftime lead.
"We knew time was ticking down and somebody had to make a play
or get a turnover," Bonner said. "That's what we were out there
talking about. Somebody had to step up. The ball went through a
couple of defenders' hands and landed up in my hands."
The Horned Frogs (7-2, 3-2 MWC), won their fourth straight and
snapped New Mexico's (5-5, 3-3) three-game winning streak. TCU won
despite getting just 192 total yards, including 25 yards passing
from quarterback Jeff Ballard, who completed 6 of 16 passes.
New Mexico, which had rallied from double-digit deficits for
wins over UNLV, Utah and Colorado State in its previous three
games, got within 24-21 on a pair of third quarter touchdown runs
by Rodney Ferguson and an 8-yard pass from backup quarterback Chris
Nelson to Marcus Smith with 13:45 left in the game.
Ferguson scored on a 45-yard run with less than two minutes gone
in the third quarter and added a 2-yard TD run with 52 seconds left
in the quarter.
Chris Manfredini kicked a 37-yard field goal with 2:59 left to
give the Frogs a 27-21 lead. New Mexico came right back and drove
to the TCU 20 on a drive in which Nelson hit Smith with
back-to-back passes for 22 and 38 yards. Two holding penalties
pushed the Lobos back and on third-and-18, Nelson overthrew a Lobo
receiver and Bonner picked it off.
"We knew they were going to be a second half team," said TCU
coach Gary Patterson, a former assistant at New Mexico. "We turned
the ball over on the kickoff and we started out drives four or five
times inside the 15-yard line. They made great adjustments and on
defense just started coming after us."
Patterson said Manfredini's field goal was huge.
"If we don't have that last field goal, they can drive and kick
a field goal to tie the game," Patterson said. "Don't look
prosperity in the face."
New Mexico coach Rocky Long agreed.
"Their field goal late in the game forced us to score a
touchdown," Long said. "We probably could have scored a field
goal after the second play by Marcus Smith, but we were in a
position where we had to score a touchdown."
TCU, as it did last year in a 49-28 win over the Lobos in Fort
Worth, took advantage of early New Mexico mistakes to build its
New Mexico starting quarterback Donovan Porterie fumbled the
snap on the second play from scrimmage and Blake picked up the ball
and took it in untouched.
"I saw the ball fumbled and it kept on rolling. I picked it up
and ran. It was exciting to start out that way," said Blake. Blake
said it was his first touchdown since his high school days as a
running back in Arannas Pass, Texas.
The Frogs scored again after Bonner returned a punt 27 yards to
the New Mexico 38. Five plays and a couple of personal foul calls
on the Lobos later, Lonta Hobbs scored from the 2.
New Mexico had a chance to get back in it on its next possession
with a drive that reached the TCU 16. But Porterie fumbled while
trying to scramble and Rafael Priest beat a couple of Lobos to the
ball near the sidelines.
Bonner set up the Frogs' third touchdown of the first half with
a 22-yard punt return to the New Mexico 45. Hobbs gained 21 yards
on first down and Aaron Brown then beat New Mexico's secondary to
the outside to score from 24 yards out.
Peter LoCoco added a 44-yard field goal with 53 seconds left in
the second quarter.
New Mexico was coming off a bye week and under Long was 9-0
after an off week. But this time the Lobos came out sluggish.
"My worse concerns were realized in the first half," Long
said. "When you have a really young football team and they have a
bye week and then you play a team that is as fast and as good as
TCU is, they aren't ready for the speed of the game."
In TCU's win last year, the Frogs ran up a 28-0 first quarter
lead by intercepting two passes and recovering a Lobo fumble.
Porterie, who was sacked 5 times, sprained his left ankle in the
third quarter and was replaced by Nelson.
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