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September 1, 2007

No Blake, no problem for TCU vs. Baylor

FORT WORTH, Texas - Even without standout defensive end Tommy Blake on the field, TCU's dominating defense pitched a season-opening shutout.

The No. 22 Horned Frogs gave up some yards before halftime, but not any points in a 27-0 victory Saturday over Baylor - the first of three former instate Southwest Conference rivals TCU plays in the opening month of the season.

Andy Dalton threw for 205 yards and a touchdown in his first college start, and Justin Watts and Ryan Christian ran for scores as the Frogs won their ninth straight game. Chris Manfredini kicked two field goals after missing wide right on a 29-yard attempt the opening drive.

Blake was held out after two extended absences from the team. The two-time All-Mountain West Conference selection and top NFL prospect was away on a medical leave with an undisclosed illness last week before rejoining the Frogs for their walkthrough Friday. He has practiced only three times since leaving campus and going home for a week for personal reasons in mid-August.

Blake was seen in the first half watching from a patio outside coach Gary Patterson's office above the south end zone. His status for next Saturday's game at No. 4 Texas is uncertain.

But Blake, the MWC leader with seven sacks and 16 1/2 tackles for losses last season, is one of only nine starters back on the TCU defense that ranked top three nationally in total defense, rushing and scoring last season.

The Frogs had three of their four interceptions and held Baylor to only 78 yards after halftime. Baylor had 204 yards in the first half.

Chase Ortiz, TCU's other All-MWC defensive end, got to quarterback Blake Szymanski and knocked the ball loose on the first play after halftime. The play was initially called a fumble recovered by the Frogs. Even though the play was overturned and made an incomplete pass after being reviewed, the tone was set for the second half.

TCU's last shutout was a 52-0 win at home against San Diego State last November. Baylor was shut out for the first time since 2005, when it was blanked in consecutive games against Texas Tech (28-0) and Texas (62-0).

Linebacker Jason Phillips made a nifty pickoff early in the fourth quarter, reaching back to grab Szymanski's pass thrown behind the intended receiver. Phillips returned it 34 yard to the Baylor 20, setting up Dalton's 14-yard TD pass to Ervin Dickerson that made it 24-0.

Dalton was 18-for-30 passing. But he had an interception and a fumble, losing the ball at the Baylor 1 on a keeper later in the first quarter.

Szymanski won a four-quarterback battle this fall, a competition that included a 25-year-old senior transfer from Kent State and a junior college transfer. He was 23-of-47 passing for 216 yards with three of the interceptions.

Watts (1 yard) and Christian (12 yards) scored in the second quarter to give TCU a 14-0 lead.

Both teams had missed field goals on their first drives. Baylor's Shea Brewster also missed a 35-yard kick in the third quarter.

TCU has won its last five games against Big 12 teams, a streak that started with a season-opening victory at Oklahoma in 2005. But a week after that upset of the Sooners, the Frogs lost to SMU - the opponent when they play their next home game in three weeks.

While TCU is favored to win its second Mountain West title in three seasons, Baylor hasn't had a winning season since the SWC disbanded after the 1995 season.

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

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