PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Brigham Young's defense bent just enough to let TCU make it interesting, then smothered the Horned Frogs before they could complete the comeback.
David Nixon and Bryan Kehl sacked Andy Dalton in an 11-second span to clinch BYU's 27-22 win over TCU on Thursday night, keeping the Cougars unbeaten in the Mountain West Conference for a second straight year.
"We're in the driver's seat. Three more steps on our road," said Kehl, who pounced on Dalton as the Frogs were trying to convert on fourth-and-8 with 1:58 left.
Dalton slipped and would have been called down anyway, but Kehl made certain of it and was credited with the sack that allowed the Cougars (7-2, 5-0) to run out the clock.
BYU has won 13 straight conference games and can clinch a second straight unbeaten MWC season with three more. This one, however, was a close one.
"The thing I liked about our team tonight, more so than any other game this year, was the hart and the will that they showed throughout the entire game," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "When it is backed up by key plays -- that is when a team starts to come together."
The Horned Frogs (5-5, 2-4) made BYU fans sweat a little during the crisp fall night with a 94-yard scoring drive that cut the lead to 27-22 with 3:49 remaining. The Frogs kicked off and the defense held, forcing BYU to punt after a tipped pass was overturned on review and had the ball at its own 32 with 2:39 left in the game.
Nixon sacked Dalton on second down, then 11 seconds later, Kehl blitzed from the right side and Dalton had no chance.
"That was awesome. Inside I just felt like they were going to make a big stop," said Max Hall, who passed for 305 yards and a touchdown.
Hall completed 26 of 44 passes, including four to Austin Collie for 109 yards.
"The bottom line is they're the best passing team in the conference," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
Chris Manfredini kicked three field goals for TCU and Dalton was 18-of-30 for 165 yards and a touchdown and one crucial interception, which set up an easy touchdown for BYU early in the third quarter. He was pulled in the third quarter, then put back in for the fourth and nearly led the Frogs to a victory.
Dalton's 7-yard touchdown pass to Bart Johnson with 3:49 remaining got the Frogs within a touchdown and gave TCU a chance to win it after the defense stopped the Cougars.
BYU stopped TCU three times on fourth downs in the second half and the defense also set up a score on TCU's only turnover of the game.
On the first series of the second half, Dalton threw a pass right to BYU linebacker Kelly Poppinga, who returned it 22 yards to the 3. Harvey Unga scored on the next play to put BYU up 24-9 with 13:58 left in the third quarter. It was the second touchdown of the game for Unga.
TCU brought in Marcus Jackson for Dalton in the next series and Jackson led the Frogs up the field. On third down at the 19, Jackson kept it on a run up the middle and lost the ball when he was tackled at the 5. BYU recovered in the end zone, but the call was reversed because Jackson was down when he fumbled.
Marcus Brock scored on a 1-yard run that cut the lead to 24-15 after the 2-point conversion failed.
BYU's defense came up with another key stop when TCU went for it on fourth-and-1 at the BYU 32 and Aaron Brown got knocked back a yard. The Cougars got the ball back and drove to the 11 for Mitch Payne's 29-yard field goal, which put BYU ahead 27-15 with 13:06 left.
"I voted for them in the Top 25 and I'll vote for them again," Patterson said.