FORT WORTH, Texas -- TCU didn't get its third consecutive shutout, but the Horned Frogs defense was about as dominant as it's ever been.
The Horned Frogs broke open a tight game with two touchdowns just before the half and held BYU to 147 total yards to win 31-3 Saturday in front of 40,416 at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The Frogs' top-ranked defense, which was working on 10 consecutive scoreless quarters, finally permitted a 27-yard field goal with 1 minute, 14 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
By then TCU had built a 17-0 lead. The offense, which has made a habit of running through, around and over opponents this season, found itself in a brawl with the Cougars through much of the first half. BYU consistently stuffed the run, so Andy Dalton and the offense took to the air.
After the defense stopped BYU deep in its own territory, Dalton took advantage of great field position at the Cougars' 46. He connected with Josh Boyce for two passes, the second a 35-yard touchdown over the middle to give the Frogs a 10-0 lead with 1:30 left in the half.
Two plays later on BYU's next possession, Tank Carder intercepted a Jake Heaps pass at the BYU 38, giving TCU's offense a chance to add to the lead. Dalton hit Bart Johnson for a 23-yard gain before tossing a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Young for a 17-0 lead with 0:26 left in the half.
"It was big," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "You get some points on the board. (BYU) was playing it close to the vest, keeping it close. To be able to get those two scores, I thought, was really big for us."
TCU (7-0, 3-0 in the Mountain West) rushed for a season-low 108 yards on 38 carries, but Dalton made up for it with a season-high 273 yards passing and four touchdowns.
"They had some bigger guys up front, and for whatever reason we couldn't get some movement," Dalton said of the Frogs' rushing struggles. "We just relied on the passing game a little bit more and took what they gave us."
After going scoreless in the third quarter, Dalton led the Frogs on two touchdown drives to start the fourth. Boyce took a pass on the sideline and ran in for a 20-yard touchdown to cap an eight-play, 64-yard drive to make it 24-3. On their next possession the Frogs were looking at a fourth-and-3 at the BYU 21 with 4:30 remaining. TCU went for it, and when Dalton's safe option didn't materialize, he found Jeremy Kerley in the corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown.
"We were just trying to get a first down and run the clock," said Dalton, who completed 24 of 36 passes. "They covered it and Kerley got open and he made a good catch."
BYU (2-5, 1-2), trying to turn around its season, came out early and stifled the Frogs' rushing attack, which had averaged nearly 280 yards per game this season. A muffed snap on the Frogs' first possession led to the first of six TCU punts.
"Finally we got going and we got rolling a little bit," Dalton said. "We had the big interception by Tank and that gave us a little momentum and we went down and scored again."
The Frogs defense, which entered the game ranked No. 1 in the nation after two consecutive shutouts, was more than up to the task. TCU held BYU to 13 yards and one first down in the first half. BYU's 147 total yards represent the Cougars' lowest offensive output since Utah held them to 156 in 2003. It's also the lowest total by a TCU opponent since San Diego State was held to 87 yards on Oct. 4, 2008.
Safety Tejay Johnson, who intercepted Heaps in the third quarter, says the defense has improved from each game to the next.
"It's exciting to see our defense progressing and really starting to play together," said Johnson, who has six career interceptions. "We really started seeing it click today. I feel like we've grown and improved since the beginning of the year.
"There's always room to get better."
Asked whether he's ?ever coached a defense playing such a dominant streak of football, Patterson demurred.
"Not that I remember, but we've played some awfully good defense here before," he said. "The last three weeks we've played young quarterbacks. I'm not ready to vote them the next Pittsburgh Steelers (Steel Curtain) yet."