(15) TCU 62

(8-0, 4-0 away)

Houston 55

(5-3, 2-2 home)

Coverage: ESPN Plus

8:00 PM ET, October 25, 2003

Robertson Stadium, Houston, TX

1 2 3 4 T
#15TCU 21 7 17 1762
HOU 3 21 16 1555

TCU wins, but gives up 684 yards

HOUSTON (AP) -- TCU stayed perfect without looking it.

Brandon Hassell threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns as the No. 15 Horned Frogs (8-0, 5-0 Conference USA) remained one of Division I-A's three undefeated teams despite allowing 684 yards, committing 12 penalties and letting a freshman quarterback run roughshod over them.

"A lot of people probably think I'm going to be down because we didn't play well defensively," coach Gary Patterson said. "But I'm really excited about our offense. I've been saying all along if we could get everybody healthy our offense would be OK."

Not quite everyone was healthy. Quarterback Tye Gunn missed the game with a strained groin, but backup Hassell replaced him in style. Along with Robert Merrill, who rushed for 204 yards and a touchdown, Hassell led TCU to a school-record 782 yards against the Cougars (5-3, 2-2).

Hassell, who has started before, said he didn't feel much pressure to perform.

"I didn't figure we'd have to score 62, but I figured we had to put points on the board because everybody had talked about Houston's offense," he said.

Indeed, TCU's victory overshadowed the effort by Houston's Kevin Kolb, who went 17-of-36 for 434 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 144 yards and another score. He became at least the fourth player in Division I-A history to throw for 400 yards and run for 100 in a game.

His favorite target, Brandon Middleton, had six catches for 232 yards and two TDs.

"We think we can hang with anybody as long as we play like we did tonight," Kolb said. "We play as a team and I think we're still coming together as a team."

The Horned Frogs joined top-ranked Oklahoma and No. 2 Miami as the only Division I-A teams to emerge from the weekend unbeaten. They also kept alive their slim chances for a major bowl bid out of a minor conference -- unlike No. 12 Northern Illinois, whose record got its first blemish earlier in the day with a 34-18 loss to No. 23 Bowling Green.

The TCU fans in attendance began chanting "BCS! BCS!" at game's end, referring to the Bowl Championship Series that determines participation in the major postseason games.

"All I know is we're 8-0," Patterson said. "I'll let everybody else tell you about that stuff."

Each side alternated scoring on the first seven possessions of the second half, with TCU taking a 52-40 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run by Kenny Hayter.

The Frogs finally got some breathing room when Kolb fumbled to start a drive and Bo Schobel recovered for TCU. Hassell made the Cougars pay on the next play, finding Quentily Harmon for a 20-yard scoring pass and a 59-40 lead.

The Cougars made a late push when Vincent Marshall ran a lateral 36 yards down the right sideline and Jackie Battle punched in the 2-point conversion with 1:22 left. TCU bobbled the ensuing onside kick but recovered at the bottom of a pile on the wet field, and the offense ran out the clock.

"In the six years I've been here, this is probably the worst defensive effort I've had," Patterson said. "But I blame it on me. I didn't get them ready."

TCU's onslaught surpassed the previous team record of 736 yards the Frogs put up at the Astrodome in 1990 during a 56-35 loss to Houston. That also had been the most yardage Houston had given up until Saturday.

Lonta Hobbs ran for 102 yards and a score for TCU and Cory Rodgers caught six passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns and added a 1-yard TD run. Hassell, who was 17-for-27, also ran for 66 yards.

Marshall had five receptions for 106 yards and a score for Houston.

The Frogs shot to a 21-3 first-quarter lead, highlighted by Hassell-to-Rodgers scoring connections of 48 and 60 yards and a juggling catch by Reggie Harrell in the end zone.

But Kolb, a freshman whose numbers all were career highs, kept Houston alive and his 48-yard scoring pass play to an uncovered Middleton down the left side late in the second quarter cut TCU's lead to 28-24 at halftime.