The first Mobile Alabama Bowl was supposed to be a chance for either Texas Christian running back LaDainian Tomlinson or East Carolina quarterback David Garrard to grab the national spotlight. Instead, TCU's defense stole the show.
The Horned Frogs held East Carolina to minus-16 rushing yards and sacked Garrard five times Wednesday night on the way to a 28-14 victory in front of 34,200 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
"I hope we get some national respect out of this," said Horned Frogs defensive end Aaron Schobel, who had three sacks. "They knew we had a great running back. Now they know we have a great defense."
TCU's defense has made a habit of playing spectacularly in bowl games. In last year's Sun Bowl, TCU held Southern California to minus-23 rushing yards in a 28-19 win. But anyone who was surprised by TCU's defensive performance hasn't been paying attention. The Frogs (8-4) came into the game ranked No. 5 nationally in total defense.
Against No. 20 East Carolina (9-3), TCU allowed 223 total yards. The Pirates scored on their second offensive play, a 58-yard touchdown pass, when TCU safety Russell Gary slipped. East Carolina also gained 48 yards on a pass play set up by a reverse.
Tomlinson was the leading rusher in Division I this season with 1,850 yards, but he didn't really get going against an East Carolina defense totally committed to stopping him. Tomlinson scored twice and produced a workmanlike 124 yards on 36 carries.
"That's the toughest 100-yard game I've ever had in my career," said Tomlinson.
CAPTION: TCU's LaDainian Tomlinson, Division I rushing leader, gains 124 yards on 36 carries in win over East Carolina.