TCU 28 – East Carolina 14

LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns to lead TCU to a 28-14 victory over No. 20 East Carolina in the inaugural Mobile Alabama Bowl. The Horned Frogs confused East Carolina with a two-quarterback option attack and completely shut down the Pirates’ running game, holding them to minus-16 yards.

East Carolina went into the game focusing on stopping Tomlinson, whose 1,850 yards edged Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne for the NCAA Division I rushing title. TCU, which alternated between quarterbacks Casey Printers and Patrick Batteaux, made it impossible for the Pirates to adjust.

Early in the first quarter, Printers gained seven yards on an option run to move TCU to the 2. Batteaux, a senior who runs the option better than Printers, came in on the next play and pitched the ball to Tomlinson, who ran in for the touchdown. That tied the game at 7-7 and TCU slowly pulled away from there.

The trio set up another touchdown the same way in the second quarter. Printers threw a 9-yard pass to Tomlinson and Batteaux came in on the next play and gained 35 yards on an option keeper that put TCU at the 19. Tomlinson carried on four plays, finally scoring from three yards with 51 seconds left in the half. It gave the Horned Frogs a 21-7 halftime lead.

East Carolina, which couldn’t run the ball at all against TCU, had to go to the air in the second half. It initially worked, as David Garrard moved the Pirates down the field, setting up Jaimie Wilson’s 13-yard touchdown run that made it 21-14 with 4:30 to play in the third quarter. The Pirates’ Forrest Foster then recovered an on-side kick, but TCU’s defense held.

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On the first play of East Carolina’s next possession, Russell Gary intercepted Garrard’s pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. That gave TCU a 28-14 lead with 14:04 to play. Printers, a freshman who started nine games after Batteaux went down with an injury, threw a 21-yard second-quarter touchdown pass to Mike Scarborough. He finished 13-of-19 for 174 yards and ran for 24. Batteaux ran six times for 37 yards. East Carolina, which came into the game averaging 170 yards on the ground and 406 overall, was held to 223 total yards.