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Houston Texans

TCU holds off UH 20-13 to win Texas Bowl


TCU players celebrate with the 2007 Texas Bowl trophy after they edged Houston 20-13 at Reliant Stadium.

The TCU Horned Frogs edged the Houston Cougars 20-13 to win the 2007 Texas Bowl, holding off a furious Houston rally in the closing minutes.

TCU redshirt freshman quarterback Andy Dalton, a former Katy High School star, won Texas Bowl MVP honors after going 21-of-30 for 249 yards and an interception. He also added a three-yard rushing touchdown and finished with 11 carries for 16 yards.

"It's exciting," Dalton said. "Playing in my hometown, playing in front of family and friends, it's just a great opportunity for me and it's exciting to get this award."

Houston pulled to within a touchdown with T.J. Lawrence's 32-yard field goal with 1:57 remaining. The Cougars attempted an onside kick, but TCU safety Brian Bonner recovered for the Horned Frogs. The Houston defense held, and, using its three timeouts, forced TCU to punt with just over a minute and a half left in the game.

Pinned on his on two-yard line thanks to TCU punter Derek Wash's kick, Houston quarterback Case Keenum led a masterful two-minute drill, connecting with senior wide receiver Donnie Avery four times for 60 yards as the Cougars moved 79 yards to the TCU 19 yard-line in only eight plays.

But Houston could not convert on its three heaves to the end zone. Keenum's first pass sailed just beyond the outstretched hands of senior wide receiver James Harvey, and the second was batted down in the end zone. That left only one second on the clock with Houston 19 yards from the tying score.

On the next play, TCU defensive end Chase Ortiz hit Keenum as he threw, forcing a wobbly incomplete pass that ended the game.

TCU entered the season ranked as high as 19 by some preseason polls and with hopes of making a BCS bowl. Although its 8-5 finish didn't live up to expectations, the team now has won three straight bowl games for the first time in school history.

"For us, it is very big when we talk about recruiting and the momentum we get going into spring," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. "The character that has been shown by the senior group this season, with all the preseason hype about the BCS hype – we were going to have to stay healthy for it to happen and we didn't. They could have quit, but they didn't."

The game started as a defensive battle, with the teams deadlocked at 0-0 through much of the first quarter. Houston took a 7-0 lead when Keenum found redshirt freshman running back Andre Kohn wide open for a 67-yard touchdown pass with :08 remaining in the opening period.

TCU answered that score with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive of its own. Dalton scrambled 14 yards to give TCU first-and-10 from the Houston 27. After two third-down conversions set up first-and-goal at the three, Dalton ran untouched into the end zone to even the score at 7-7.

After Dalton's score, the Cougars' Lawrence capped a six-and-a-half minute clock-chewing drive with a 39-yard field goal to give Houston the lead at halftime.

Keenum was at his best on the 13-play, 68-yard drive, going six-of-seven for 81 yards, including a 21-yard pass to Harvey on fourth-and-six from the TCU 36 yard-line. He finished the first half 11-of-15 for 177 yards and a touchdown.

TCU kicker Chris Manfredini opened the second half's scoring with a game-tying 29-yard field goal at the 6:30 mark of the third quarter. Two possessions later, Dalton hit a leaping Jimmy Young for a 15-yard reception on a third-and-12 from the Houston 38 yard-line. Officials initially ruled that Young was out of bounds, but upon review the play was overturned, giving TCU a huge first down.

A few plays later, junior tailback Justin Watts rumbled into the end zone on first-and-goal from the seven yard-line to put the Horned Frogs up 17-10 early in the fourth quarter.

Dalton led the Horned Frogs to the Houston two on their next drive, but a holding penalty and loss of yards on third down forced TCU to settle for a 36-yard Manfredini field goal that made it 20-10 with 7:28 to play.

Keenum put the Cougars in range for Lawrence's 32-yard field goal with a brilliant play in TCU territory where he broke four tackles, reversed the field and took a punishing hit while throwing a 30-yard completion down the right sideline to wide receiver Perry McDaniel that put the ball at the TCU 14 yard-line.

Ortiz, who also deflected Keenum's fourth-down attempt on Houston's first drive of the game, sacked Keenum for a five-yard loss to force Lawrence's field goal.

Avery had 10 receptions for 120 yards in the losing effort. Keenum finished the game with 335 passing yards but was sacked five times by the swarming TCU defense. The Horned Frogs also held Houston's star running back Anthony Alridge to only 39 yards on 15 carries.

It was the eighth consecutive bowl loss for Houston (8-5), playing under interim head coach Chris Thurmond in place of departed Art Briles.

"Not seeing your own head coach on the sidline was probably more intmidating than anything else," Alridge said. "You're used to seeing a face that calls all the plays, but it was something different this time.

"(TCU) did a good job going to the ball and got responsibility, and they did a great job. My hat's off to them. They deserved to win the game. They're the better team."

A Reliant Stadium college bowl-record crowd of 62,097 watched the showdown between the Conference USA and Mountain West Conference schools.

TCU starting tailback and leading rusher Joseph Turner suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return.

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