SAN DIEGO -- After getting a pregame pep talk from LaDainian Tomlinson, the TCU Horned Frogs went out and promptly fell behind Boise State 10-0 midway through the first quarter.
No big deal. L.T. had told them to do what Frogs do, and in this case TCU kept it close before wrecking Boise State's shot at an undefeated season.
Joseph Turner scored on a 17-yard run midway through the fourth quarter to give the No. 11 Horned Frogs their first lead of the night, which they preserved for a 17-16 victory over No. 9 Boise State in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
"We just wore them down. They can't last forever," Turner said.
Boise State (12-1) was trying to finish 13-0 for the second time in three seasons.
"It's OK -- you're not going to win every time," BSU coach Chris Petersen said. "As long as you learn from it and become better for it down the road, we can live with that."
It was the second time in five years BSU lost a chance at a perfect season by losing its bowl game. In 2004, it lost to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl to finish 11-1.
The Broncos took a 10-0 lead on Ian Johnson's 20-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter, but their high-scoring offense bogged down against TCU's fast, aggressive defense.
TCU (11-2) piled up yards if not points until finally wearing down the Broncos' defense in the fourth quarter. The Horned Frogs moved 80 yards in 10 plays on the winning drive, with Turner finishing it off by shedding a tackle inside the 5-yard line and diving into the end zone for a 17-13 lead.
Tomlinson, the former TCU standout who's in his eighth season with the San Diego Chargers, jumped in celebration and pumped his fist near the TCU bench.
It was a good night to be a Horned Frog, current and past.
"Two top defenses, two top offenses in the nation, we just wanted it more," TCU running back Aaron Brown said.
There wouldn't be a crazy, victorious finish for Johnson and the Broncos as there was two years ago in their memorable, highly entertaining overtime win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
"They had better athletes than we've ever seen," Johnson said. "They played with so much heart. You didn't look over there one time and say, 'We broke them.' They knew they were going to come back and they believed in themselves the whole time."
After Turner's TD, Boise State got to the TCU 14 before having to settle for Kyle Brotzman's 33-yard field goal to make it 17-16.
The Broncos got the ball back with 6 seconds left on their 33, but Jeremy Childs' lateral after a catch flip was grabbed by TCU's Matt Panfil.
"The game plan going in was to stop the run and watch all the trick plays," said TCU safety Stephen Hodge, who had 10 tackles and an interception. "They know the trick plays."
Said Johnson: "You could see they were a little ready for what we had planned."
TCU outgained Boise State 472 yards to 250. BSU had only 28 yards rushing.
BSU came in averaging 39 points and 456 yards, one of the benefits of dominating the Western Athletic Conference.
Johnson scored on a 20-yard run midway through the first quarter. It was his 58th career rushing TD, breaking former San Diego State star Marshall Faulk's WAC record and giving the Broncos a 10-0 lead.
Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore faked a sweep handoff to Childs, then handed to Johnson, who broke outside and found an open field. Officials brought to the ball to the sideline for Johnson to keep.
The Broncos needed the cushion, because TCU's fast, aggressive defense finally clamped down.
Johnson is best known as scoring the winning 2-point conversion against Oklahoma on a "Statue of Liberty" play, then proposing to his cheerleader girlfriend moments later.
Johnson's wife, Chrissy, spoke with Tomlinson on the sideline after doing a TV interview during the first quarter.
Boise State defensive end Bryon Hout intercepted Andy Dalton midway through the second quarter, and his 62-yard return included a nice spin move to get away from one TCU player and a stiff arm against another Horned Frog. Hout was a running back in high school.
Hout returned the ball to the TCU 11, but the Broncos had to settle for Brotzman's 24-yard field goal and a 13-0 lead.
"We've had that happen to us before," TCU quarterback Andy Dalton said. "But it was early on in the game and we knew we had a lot of time."
TCU finally scored on Brown's 16-yard run just before halftime.
"That gave us big momentum. We needed that," Dalton said."
Brown had 102 yards on 14 carries while Turner had 83 yards on 16 rushes.
"What did they have, three, four field goals and a touchdown?" TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "I think that was the key -- not letting them have their plays they needed to do."
BSU had to settle for field goals by Brotzman three times after getting inside the 20. Brotzman also missed a 38-yard attempt.
"I knew a couple of those field goals were going to come back to haunt us," Petersen said. "We were trying too many field goals. One of them had to be a touchdown."