TCU subdues USC in Sun Bowl, wins 1st bowl in 41 years
Posted: Saturday January 09, 1999 09:03 PM
EL PASO, Texas (CNN/SI) -- Central Florida, Colorado State, Wyoming, Utah. These teams were all passed over by the Sun Bowl committee when choosing TCU for its bowl game against USC. The Horned Frogs, stumbling with a 6-5 record, weren't supposed to be in a bowl game.
At the end of the Sun Bowl, it was USC who looked like they didn't belong.
The Horned Frogs, under first-year coach Dennis Franchione, captured their first bowl victory in 41 years with a 28-19 victory over Southern Cal in the Sun Bowl.
Tailback Basil Mitchell ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns and the Horned Frogs held the Trojans (8-5) to a Sun Bowl-record minus-23 yards to produce another upset in the 1998 bowl lineup.
"It's a big day for us. You couldn't buy what happened for us today," said Franchione, who last December took over a TCU program that fired Pat Sullivan after a 1-10 season.
TCU's option offense and its defense buried the Trojans early, producing a 28-3 lead early in the third quarter. Forced to the air, USC struck back with 17 straight points before TCU's defense killed a Trojans drive and seized momentum.
"We had to get away from the running game because we got behind so quickly," USC coach Paul Hackett said. "TCU's speed and agility on defense really surprised us."
TCU, 6-5 during the regular season and no better than a .500 team in the Mountain Division of the Western Athletic Conference, scored on its first three possessions.
"It doesn't matter what conference you play in," said Mitchell, who ran for 1,100 yards during the season. "You have to come out here and play. I knew we could move the ball, but I didn't know we could do it that way."
The Sun Bowl victory climaxed the Horned Frogs' impressive turnaround under Franchione, who last year led New Mexico to its first bowl game in 36 years. He worked the same magic in Fort Worth and led the Horned Frogs to their first bowl victory since beating Syracuse 28-27 in the 1957 Cotton Bowl.
"We started the season with very little respect," Franchione said. "This has not been an unusual situation for us and we responded well. You only earn respect, it isn't given to you."
USC freshman quarterback Carson Palmer conceded the Trojans didn't think much of TCU before the game.
"We definitely took TCU for granted," Palmer said. "We thought we could do pretty much what we wanted, but they really shut us down. I was surprised when we couldn't run the football. I couldn't believe it when they scored their first touchdown. ... I was shocked when it was 21-0."
Palmer tried to rally the Trojans. He threw a 23-yard scoring pass to Billy Miller and set up a 1-yard TD by Petros Papadakis that made it 28-16 with 1:34 left in the third quarter. Papadakis' touchdown was set up by an 18-yard Palmer-to-Larry Parker pass to the TCU 4 on fourth-and-8.
The Trojans' defense, unable to solve the option in the first half, also started to dominate and on their next possession, the Trojans drove to the TCU 20. But the TCU defense regained control. Defensive ends Aaron Schobel and Loren Dunlap sacked Palmer on successive plays and the Trojans settled for a 46-yard field goal by Adam Abrams with 12:30 remaining.
TCU ate up the rest of the clock.
A 16-point underdog, TCU scored early on Mitchell's runs of 3 and 61 yards and quarterback Patrick Batteaux's 8-yard run for a 21-0 lead with 9:27 left in the first half.
While TCU was driving into USC territory and working down the clock -- the Horned Frogs had the ball for 20 minutes, 15 seconds in the first half -- the Trojans were living in third-and-long and failing to convert. By halftime, TCU had 200 of its 314 yards rushing and had held USC to four first downs.
The Horned Frogs had scoring drives of 79, 64 and 86 yards in the first half and just one punt, that with just 5:45 remaining in the second quarter.
USC's only big play of the first half, a 50-yard pass from Palmer to Parker, set up a 35-yard field goal by Abrams with 3:15 left in the second quarter.
TCU's front line also stopped USC All-American linebacker Chris Claiborne. Claiborne, who led the Trojans with six interceptions and 107 tackles during the season, failed to come up with a big play, and, like the rest of the USC defenders, had trouble all day slowing the option.
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