SALT LAKE CITY — As a smattering of TCU fans chanted his name, quarterback Andy Dalton ran into the visitors locker room satisfied that the Horned Frogs had made a statement.
“We showed we can play with anybody,” he said.
Dalton passed for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns, and the fourth-ranked Horned Frogs turned the biggest game in Mountain West Conference history into a 47-7 demolition of No. 6 Utah on Saturday.
From the opening drive, TCU looked every bit like a team worthy of busting into the BCS championship game.
Dalton passed for two first-quarter TDs and receiver Jeremy Kerley, a QB in high school, also threw a TD pass as TCU (10-0, 6-0) jumped out to an early 20-0 lead, quieting a sellout crowd clad almost entirely in black for the “blackout” showdown.
By halftime, the Horned Frogs had outgained Utah, 328-72, en route to a 23-0 lead.
They finished with an advantage in every statistical category: first downs (23-11), rushing yards ( 177-51), passing yards (381-148), and third-down conversions (66.7 percent to 23 percent) .
“They smoked us. It’s disheartening. We got killed,” Utah defensive end Christian Cox said.
The loss snapped Utah’s 21-game home winning streak and dashed any hopes the Utes (8-1, 5-1) had at being a BCS buster for the third time.
Dalton, whose 39 career victories are the most in the nation by an active quarterback, made it look easy.
He found Josh Boyce for a 26-yard TD pass on the opening drive, then came back to Boyce eight minutes later with a 93-yard scoring strike as the receiver spun away from a defender near midfield and sprinted free for the score.
“He was actually going to run a comeback route on that play, but he beat his defender,” Dalton said. “I just threw it up there. He broke a tackle and took it all the way.”
Luckyâ¢ Perhaps. But TCU coach Gary Patterson said if this wasn’t Dalton’s best game, “it was awfully close.”
Utah’s Jordan Wynn, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going against the TCU’s No. 1-ranked defense. He started 5 of 12 for 42 yards, with a sack and a fumble, then opened the second half with an underthrown pass that Tanner Brock intercepted and returned 57 yards to the Utah 4, setting up another TCU touchdown.
Wynn, who also sputtered in last year’s 55-28 loss to TCU, threw behind receivers, and overshot receivers, but also had a couple of balls dropped. He finished 16 of 35 for 148 yards, with two interceptions and a fumble.
“I had three turnovers and that can’t happen against such a good team,” said Wynn. “We had no answers.”
The battle of unbeatens had been hyped all week, with ESPN GameDay even broadcasting its show from the parking lot of Rice-Eccles Stadium, and some fans camping out 30 hours before kickoff. But there were a smattering of boos in the crowd of 46,522 — second-most in school history — as Utah mustered just five first downs in the first half and 11 total.
By the start of the fourth quarter, with Utah trailing, 40-0, many fans — some of who had paid upwards of $200 for standing-room-only tickets — were headed for the gates.
“It hurts a lot,” Utah center Zane Taylor said of the boos. “It makes us want to play harder.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham apologized to the fans for the awful showing.
He said the score was indicative of how lopsided this game was. “All the credit goes to (TCU),” he said.