Posted: Monday December 27, 1999 08:35 PM
MOBILE, Alabama (Ticker) -- Suddenly, Texas Christian is a bowl juggernaut.
Division I-A rushing champion LaDainian Tomlinson ran for two touchdowns and the Horned Frogs held 19th-ranked East Carolina to minus-16 yards on the ground as they posted a 28-14 victory in the inaugural Mobile Alabama Bowl.
"I hope this win gives us some national respect and respectability," TCU coach Dennis Franchione said. "We beat a top-20 team and I think we beat them convincingly. If we don't mess it up a few times, offensively down in the red zone, it's going to be a 42-14 game."
After going 42 years between bowl victories, TCU is riding a two-game postseason winning streak. The Horned Frogs (8-4) defeated Southern California in last year's Sun Bowl for their first postseason triumph since topping Syracuse in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day in 1957.
"I think this is special for our kids that our team carved out a place in TCU history, back-to-back bowl victories," Franchione added. "We haven't had eight wins since 1984. It's pretty amazing what we've been able to do in two years. I don't think I ever could have envisioned this in December 1997."
East Carolina's rushing defense played one of its best games of the season, holding Tomlinson, who carried 36 times, to 124 yards, 44 below his average. But the junior from Waco, Texas ran for first-half scores of two and three yards as the Horned Frogs recorded their fifth straight win.
"I think I played pretty good," Tomlinson said. "I knew they were keying on me so I played hard. My offensive line, my fullbacks and receivers did a pretty good job blocking, allowing me to get those tough yards."
TCU's winning streak is its longest since a five-game run early in the 1990 season. The Horned Frogs will play their final season in the Western Athletic Conference next year before moving to Conference USA in 2001.
"Our defense played great," Franchione added. "It certainly is a good feeling to know that we are going to go into Conference USA on good footing."
The Pirates (9-3) had a golden opportunity to make the game closer midway through the fourth quarter after a 48-yard strike on a wide receiver option from freshman Richard Alston to LaMont Chappell to the TCU 13-yard line. Chappell totaled 116 yards on five receptions.
But East Carolina went backwards and David Garrard's pass over the middle on 4th-and-18 fell incomplete.
"TCU can play extremely well and we had a couple opportunities and couldn't take advantage of it," East Carolina coach Steve Logan said. "There were two good football teams out there ready to play. They are a good football team up front. We had our opportunities but let them slip away and that was the difference in the game."
Garrard, who completed 19-of-35 passes for 191 yards, played a part in the game's first score just 91 seconds into the contest when he dumped off a pass for Arnie Powell, who raced down the right sideline to complete the 58-yard score.
Tomlinson's two-yard scoring run tied it and TCU went on top midway through the second quarter when Casey Printers found Mike Scarborough alone in the left corner of the end zone for a 21-yard TD.
Printers was 13-of-19 for 134 yards and one interception.
Tomlinson also was TCU's leading receiver with 73 yards on four catches.
With 51 seconds left in the first half, Tomlinson's three-yard TD run gave the Horned Frogs a 21-7 lead.
East Carolina blew a chance to get closer when Kevin Miller missed a 42-yard field goal at the first-half gun, but it cut the deficit in half 10 1/2 minutes into the third quarter when Jamie Wilson burst up the middle for a 13-yard touchdown.
Miller was good on the extra point but aggravated a quadriceps injury on the play and was forced from the game.
Possibly taking advantage of the injury, Andrew Bayes perfectly executed an onside kick moments later that was recovered by Pirates defensive back Forrest Foster. But East Carolina could not capitalize and was forced to punt.
After the teams traded possessions, safety Russell Gary stepped in front of Garrard's pass over the middle intended for tight end Rashon Burns and raced 32 yards for a score, giving TCU a commanding two-touchdown lead.
"Their strong safety basically busted the coverage but recovered late," Logan said. "It was one of those screwed-up deals. I told Dave, that's a tough call right there but you did the right play right there."
The Pirates lost for only the second time in their last eight bowl appearances.
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