By JORDAN GODWIN
HOUSTON (AP) — TCU quarterback Chandler Morris threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns as the Horned Frogs spoiled Houston’s Big 12 Conference debut with a 36-13 victory on Saturday night.
TCU (2-1, 1-0) won its second straight game after a season-opening loss to Colorado.
TCU’s offense had a fast-paced opening drive that ended with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Morris to Warren Thompson, just 1:31 into the game. Morris completed 24 of 37 passes, threw one interception and added 53 yards on 12 carries.
“We’re so close,” Morris said. “If we can get some things cleaned up, we’ve got a chance to be really good. Our defense stepped up huge tonight. They played their butts off and I’m proud of them.”
Houston (1-2, 0-1) moved up from the American Athletic Conference this season but suffered a rude welcoming to its new conference.
The Cougars’ only touchdown came late in the first half on a 98-yard kickoff return by Matthew Golden, cutting TCU’s lead to 13-10. TCU immediately answered with a 16-yard touchdown run by Emani Bailey, and the Horned Frogs led 20-13 at halftime.
Bailey ran for 126 yards on 23 carries.
“We’ve just got to execute better,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes said. “We’ve been a little unsettled. We took a step in the right direction in getting more settled, but we’re still making a lot of mistakes.”
TCU’s defense held the Cougars in check. Quarterback Donovan Smith completed 18 of 35 passes for 245 yards, while the Cougars totaled 35 yards on 26 carries.
Houston was trying to bounce back from a double-overtime loss to cross-town rival Rice.
“It’s unacceptable,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I thought we had a good plan coming in. We’re just not executing the plan or making plays. We can sit around and talk about how bad the offense is all night — that’s on me. I thought the defense played their tail off.”
Houston receiver Samuel Brown entered the game leading the Big 12 with 15 receptions and 244 yards receiving through his first two games. Brown had another active game against TCU, making five catches for 99 yards.
Griffin Kell made three of five field goal attempts for TCU, including a 53-yarder.
TCU: After entering Saturday’s game ranking 126th in the nation in allowing 343.5 passing yards per game, TCU’s secondary showed much improvement against Houston, aided in part by a much more aggressive pass rush up front. TCU had six sacks and eight tackles for loss.
Houston: The Cougars have one more non-conference game against Sam Houston before finishing out the season with eight Big 12 games. Finding an offensive rhythm and getting more from the running game could be key.
HE SAID IT
“Our team was ready to play. The energy in the stadium was awesome. It’s opening night for the Big 12 — everything you want it to be. Let’s not forget this team played in the national championship game last year. They’re a good team.” — Houston coach Dana Holgorsen
TCU: The Horned Frogs return home to host SMU (2-1) on Saturday.
Houston: The Cougars host Conference USA newcomer Sam Houston (0-2) on Saturday night.