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September 3, 2006

No. 22 TCU avoids upset, gets by Baylor

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WACO, Texas - Freshman Marcus Jackson threw two touchdown passes in the second half after replacing TCU's undefeated and woozy starter, and the No. 22 Horned Frogs avoided being on the wrong side of a season-opening upset with a 17-7 victory at Baylor on Sunday.

TCU, unranked when it beat No. 7 Oklahoma 17-10 in last year's season opener, stretched its winning streak to 11 games - the second-longest in Division I-A behind the 21 in a row of defending national champion Texas.

Jackson replaced Jeff Ballard after halftime, and finally put the Horned Frogs ahead with an 84-yard TD pass to tailback Aaron Brown after another Baylor turnover in the third quarter. He threw a 4-yard score to Quinton Cunigan in the fourth quarter.

Baylor, playing only its third opener at home since 1997, was hoping for a big upset in its first game since switching to a pass-oriented offense with returning senior quarterback Shawn Bell.

Instead, the Bears dropped to 2-31 against ranked teams since moving to the Big 12 in 1996 - the year after the SWC disbanded and they last played TCU.

Ballard improved to 9-0 as TCU's starter, but never returned after completing 7-of-14 passes for 85 yards and an interception in the first half. Coach Gary Patterson said after the game that Ballard took a couple of hard hits but should be ready to play next week.

It wasn't clear how or when Ballard got hurt, but team medical personnel were seen testing his reflexes on the sideline.

With Ballard out and senior running backs Lonta Hobbs (foot) and Robert Merrill (back) not playing at all, Jackson (11-of-13 for 148 yards) and Brown (15 rushes for 49 yards and four catches for 107 yards) led the comeback offensively.

Bell completed 31 of 47 passes for 286 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, All-Mountain West Conference defensive ends last season, both caused turnovers deep in TCU territory and helped limit Baylor to 333 total yards - 70 on the final drive that ran out the clock.

When Baylor had fourth-and-1 near midfield with seven minutes left, Paul Mosley was stuffed for no gain. TCU then burned five minutes off the clock before punting.

Baylor drove to the TCU 19 late in the third quarter before Ortiz intercepted a pass deflected by defensive tackle Jarrarcea Williams. On third-and-15, Jackson hit Brown out of the backfield for the game-turning play.

Brown caught the ball on the run at the 35 and outran cornerback C.J. Wilson down the left sideline to the end zone to make it 10-7.

On its first possession after halftime, Baylor made it to the 16 before Blake stripped Mosley and recovered the fumble. The play was reviewed, and though it appeared Mosley's knee may have been down before the ball came loose, the turnover was upheld.

Wilson's interception and 46-yard return in the second quarter set up Baylor's only touchdown. All that prevented Wilson from scoring was being tripped up by Ballard at the 20.

Four plays later, Bell rolled right and hit Mikail Baker in the front corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Donald Massey returned the second-half kickoff 69 yards to the Baylor 27, but the Frogs had to settle for Chris Manfredini's 27-yard field goal.

For more coverage of the TCU Horned Frogs, check out PurpleMenace.com and for more coverage of the Baylor Bears, check out SicEmSports.com.

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