FORT WORTH, Texas — The combination of Casey Pachall and a suffocating defense proved more than Virginia could handle, as No. 17 TCU rolled to a 27-7 victory Saturday afternoon at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Pachall, the nation's leader in pass efficiency coming into the game, tossed three touchdowns and nearly had a fourth. The senior quarterback completed 21 of 32 passes for 304 yards.
As has been the case with most Horned Frogs' wins during the Gary Patterson Era, the defense stood out. TCU (3-0) forced four turnovers, with linebacker Kenny Cain coming up with three, to offset an uneven offensive performance.
“We found a way to get to 3-0,” Patterson said. “It wasn't a pretty game and this time it was mostly the offense's fault.”
The Cavaliers (2-2) didn't cross midfield until midway through the second quarter. Virginia converted only three of 16 third downs and drove into the red zone just twice.
“You can't give the ball away four times in a situation like that and particularly against a good team,” Virginia coach Mike London said.
The Cavaliers did score late in the fourth quarter on E.J Scott's short touchdown catch from backup quarterback Phillip Sims. That's the first touchdown allowed TCU this season.
“They were a good defense, they were fast and physical,” said Virginia starting quarterback Michael Rocco, who was 13 of 28 for 126 yards and two interceptions. “We still moved the ball, but they were a great defense and they forced turnovers. I still believe in our offense.”
TCU began its first drive of the day on its 6 after forcing a Virginia punt. The Horned Frogs went the 94 yards in just six plays, the last 68 covered by receiver Brandon Carter. Facing a third-and-10, Carter hauled in a Pachall pass with one hand over the middle and was off the races with his fourth touchdown in three games.
TCU's offense was back in business early in the second quarter thanks to its defense. Cavaliers running back Perry Jones was separated from the ball by Frogs safety Elisha Olabode. Cain recovered on the Virginia 42.
Pachall connected with Josh Boyce on a 6-yard pass for a 14-0 lead. With the score, Boyce set a new school record with 18 career touchdown receptions. Pachall also had a 17-yard run on the scoring drive.
The Cavaliers were driving in the second quarter, only to get bit by Cain again. Rocco's third-down pass was deflected into Cain's waiting arms. The senior picked off another pass in the third quarter, making him the first TCU linebacker with two interceptions in a game since 1999.
“We gave up one touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but that comes along with finishing the game,” Cain said. “The defense has been playing great, and we have to keep that up and force teams to kick field goals.”
TCU managed two field goals in the second half and Pachall's third touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. Pachall could have had another TD pass on his ledger, but receiver Skye Dawson fumbled away a sure score early in the fourth quarter just before crossing the goal line.
Pachall wasn't as sharp as his first two games when he completed 33 of 39 passes for 536 yards and five touchdowns. His 11 incompletions Saturday nearly doubled his total through those opening two wins and he threw his first interception of the season.
The Frogs had two turnovers and managed only 133 yards rushing.
“There's always room for improvement, whether we blow them out 80-0 every game or we win by two points,” Pachall said. “There's always going to be room for improvement with everything because we haven't been perfect yet and we've had a lot of flaws that we needed to get fixed and we're still improving, still working on the kinks.”
TCU is at cross-town rival SMU next week, while Virginia plays host to Louisiana Tech. Both are nonconference games.
Notes: The Horned Frogs played their first game without Waymon James, who led the team in rushing last season. James was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury last week at Kansas. … TCU has the nation's longest active winning streak at 11. … Virginia played in Texas for the first time since 1995 and just the third time in program history. … Virginia became the first team to rush for more than 100 yards against TCU this season with 164. … Casey Pachall is the first TCU quarterback with consecutive 300-yard passing games since Tye Gunn in 2001. … TCU leads the all-time series with Virginia 2-1.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun