TCU coach Gary Patterson didn't bother making any bold claims that his team deserves to be ranked among the nation's top 10 teams Saturday evening.
He doesn't believe he should have to make a case after TCU's latest performance.
Behind the leg of a once-demoted kicker, the No. 14 Horned Frogs put the finishing touches on their most successful season in nearly seven decades with a rousing 27-24 victory over Iowa State in the EV1.net Houston Bowl.
TCU kicker Peter LoCoco, who lost his starting job after missing three field goals in a devastating loss against SMU on September 10, split the uprights on a 44-yard field-goal attempt with 5:25 remaining to help the Horned Frogs eke out their first bowl win since 2002. TCU (11-1) finished with its best record since 11-0 in 1938.
The win extended TCU's winning streak to 10 games, the third-longest in the nation behind No. 1 USC (34) and No. 2 Texas (19).
The Horned Frogs (11-1) arrived in Houston hoping that another impressive performance in front of a national television audience would boost the program's claim to being a top 10 program. The last time TCU cracked the top 10 was in 1959 when it finished No. 7
After watching his team knock off a Big 12 opponent for the second time this season, Patterson believes his team has made a good argument.
"I'm not sure what this win means for our program," Patterson said. "But our goal coming in was to be ranked in the top 10 in the final poll. Hopefully, we showed that we are that kind of a program."
The Horned Frogs can thank their backup kicker and stingy defense for their proof.
Despite losing his job to Chris Manfredini following the second week of the season, LoCoco was sent in to try the go-ahead field goal. The Horned Frogs turned to LoCoco because the coaching staff believed he had a stronger leg than Manfredini.
LoCoco didn't disappoint.
"It was the biggest I've ever made in my career," LoCoco said. "I have had a pretty up-and-down season. I had no idea that the coaching staff was going to send me in, but it felt good to come through for them."
The Horned Frogs' defense took care of the rest.
Despite spending most of the second half backed up deep in their own territory and struggling against the pass, the Horned Frogs forced Iowa State to punt five times, cough up two turnovers and give the ball up once on downs in the second half.
The Horned Frogs' defense forced three total turnovers and held Iowa State to 34 total rushing yards.
"We've always played our best when our backs are against the wall," defensive end Tommy Blake said. "We needed to give the guys on offense a chance and we just did everything we could to keep Iowa State out of the end zone."
It was more than enough for the offense.
After seeing two top-10 programs fall before New Year's Eve, the Horned Frogs have a realistic chance of being ranked among the nation's top 10 teams for the first time since 1959.
In building a resume that now includes victories over Oklahoma and Iowa State, the Horned Frogs have already convinced one voter.
"TCU won 11 games and beat a pretty good Big 12 team tonight," Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said. "Anyone that wins 11 games and does it with the class that their program shows should be in the top 10 in my opinion. I will give them strong consideration for my vote."
In other bowl game results on Saturday: Tulsa 31, Fresno State 24; North Carolina State 14, South Florida 0.