MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Texas Christian showed No. 21 Colorado State why it ranks second in the nation in total defense.
Keeping the high-powered Rams out of the end zone, the Horned Frogs posted a 17-3 victory in the Liberty Bowl to record the 500th win in school history.
TCU reached 10 wins for only the sixth time and improved to 500-493-57 all-time. Since going 1-10 in 1997, the Horned Frogs are 41-19 over the last five years.
After the teams battled to a scoreless tie for more than 28 minutes, TCU (10-2) took the lead on Sean Stilley's 15-yard touchdown pass to Latarence Dunbar with 1:21 left before halftime.
"We were fortunate in the first half to survive playing on our end of the field," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "Colorado State had a couple of turnovers and we were able to keep them out of the end zone."
The Horned Frogs put away the contest on Ricky Madison's three-yard run with 3:15 left in the fourth quarter. Madison rushed for 111 yards on 19 carries, gaining all but four of his yards in the second half.
TCU, which came in yielding fewer than 63 yards per game on the ground, allowed only seven total yards after halftime as conditions worsened.
Texas Christian's defense and a chilly rain at Liberty Bowl Stadium made it a long afternoon for Colorado State's Bradlee Van Pelt, who completed just 4-of-19 passes for 24 yards after accounting for nearly 3,000 yards of total offense during the regular season.
Backup Justin Holland fared no better, going 2-of-8 for 26 yards. Overall, Colorado managed just 139 total yards.
"I'm really proud of this defensive group," Patterson said. "They played like that all year. I'm hoping the total number of yards gives us the opportunity to be the No. 1 defense in the nation."
The Rams (10-4) got their only points on Jeff Babcock's 46-yard field goal 3:38 into the third quarter.
Colorado State's Cecil Sapp tied a school record with his ninth 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 106 on 19 carries, although a large chuck of his total came on two runs of 57 and 29 yards early in the first quarter.
"We made the mistake of missing tackles and that's how Sapp got the big runs," TCU cornerback Jason Gross said. "After the first quarter we wrapped up and made sure the other guys came in and made tackles. They passed more than we expected, basically because I felt like we stopped the run."
The Rams, who were averaging 31 points per game, finished with just 89 yards on the ground.
"They're really athletic over there," said Sapp, who ended the year with 1,601 rushing yards, extending his school record. "You've got to respect what they've done. They were putting 10 people in the box."
Stilley completed 16-of-28 passes for 141 yards for the Horned Frogs, who gained 338 total yards.
Colorado State had some success moving the ball in the first quarter, gaining 95 yards. But its offense was non-existent thereafter.
"TCU is a tough team to get anything going against," Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick said. "They closed very rapidly and knocked balls away from us."
The teams combined for three fumbles, two interceptions and a missed field goal in the opening 30 minutes, resulting in the second-lowest scoring first half in Liberty Bowl history.
Colorado State's failed to convert a faked field goal on its opening possession.
"In hindsight now, it would have nice to get three points," Lubick said. "From that point on, we couldn't sustain anything."
In the fourth quarter, TCU had an apprarent four-yard TD run by Madison nullified by a penalty for blocking in the back and had to settle for Nick Browne's 25-yard field goal with 6:57 left.
But Colorado State started inside the 10 on its next possession and a short punt gave the TCU the ball at the Rams' 38.
The Horned Frogs took nearly three minutes off the clock and cemented the victory on Madison's touchdown. Madison accounted for 69 yards on the ground on TCU's last two scoring drives.
Texas Christian, which shared the Conference USA title with Cincinnati, snapped a two-game bowl losing streak and improved to 7-11-1 in the postseason.
Colorado State, the champion of the Mountain West Conference, had a two-game bowl winning streak snapped and dropped to 4-5 all-time in bowl play.