GREENVILLE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Nick Browne's 40-yard field goal attempt in the final minute went wide left, allowing East Carolina to upset 22nd-ranked TCU, 31-28, in an important Conference USA contest.
TCU (8-2, 5-2 Conference USA) had won eight straight games and could have clinched a share of the conference title with a victory.
The Horned Frogs fell into a tie with Louisville atop the conference, and each team has one game remaining. East Carolina (4-6, 4-2) has two games to play.
"I am not going to dwell on this game - we had a chance to win the conference outright and we didn't," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "I told them the same thing after (losing to Cincinnati in the season opener). We have to move on. I hope there is a big crowd for a chance at a share of the conference title and a 9-2 season."
Pirates safety Travis Heath stripped tailback Ricky Madison at the East Carolina 19 and ran 81 yards for the go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Paul Troth then completed a two-point conversion pass to Art Brown to make it 31-28.
"Travis is a big-play type of guy," East Carolina coach Steve Logan said. "Those things are just intrinsic with some players. It was a highlight film play when he just stripped the ball out of the guy's hands and took off running the other way. It was really something - I don't know if I've ever seen anything like it."
TCU led, 28-17, afer Sean Stilley completed a three-yard pass to Lonta Hobbs with 7:21 to play in the third quarter.
East Carolina kicker Kevin Miller countered with a 32-yard field goal with 1:51 to play in the quarter, and Miller added a 44-yarder 3:54 into the fourth quarter to make it 28-23.
Down the stretch, TCU drove from its own 11 to East Carolina's 23, but Browne hooked his 40-yard field goal attempt, allowing the Pirates to record just its second victory in five games.
TCU also lost three fumbles in the setback.
"I told our guys not to be upset, it is over," Patterson said. "We had our chance to clinch and didn't. As bad as we played and with seven turnovers, we still had a chance to kick a field goal to tie."
"That was the difference, our defense was taking the ball away," Logan said. "That really attests to how good (the Horned Frogs) are, that they turned the ball over seven times and the game was that close. They're a really good football team. They've got better players on the field than we do right now, as far as talent and experience. We've got talent, but we're just inexperienced in a lot of places."
Troth completed just 10-of-31 passes for 158 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. Stilley was 16-of-35 for 177 yards, one TD and was picked off four times.
Richard Alston caught four passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns - both career highs - for East Carolina, while Hobbs rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns and received another score for TCU.
The Horned Frogs outgained the Pirates, 445-236, including 268-75 on the ground.
East Carolina last played a top-25 team in 1999, when it upset Miami in Raleigh in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd.
"That was a heartbeat victory right there," Logan said. "That came from way down deep. I told the kids before the game that we had beaten a ranked team three times in school history. I gave them a script how those games all went the same way. They way they go is you come out and get hit in the head by a good football team, but all you do is hang on and hang on and make the game last a long time, and that's what we did."