FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -TCU has had more than two weeks off since being the first team to play its 11th game, a chance for some needed rest and extra time to prepare for a seldom-seen offense.
Still, not everything about the extended break was good for the No. 15 Horned Frogs.
There was the lingering sting from that last game, a loss Nov. 6 at Utah that eliminated their chances of breaking into the Bowl Championship Series - or even the possibility of winning the Mountain West Conference outright.
And within hours after getting home in the middle of the night from Utah, players and fans became aware of an Internet report and rumors circulating that coach Gary Patterson had already taken another job.
``It was hard enough that their dreams were shattered because they didn't get a chance to go to a BCS game,'' Patterson said this week. ``Then have to wake up and listen to that. I don't think it was fair.''
, quickly extinguished the talk that he was set to replace the fired Ron Prince at Kansas State, the school where Patterson was a walk-on player and later got his first coaching experience as a graduate assistant.
But with TCU (9-2, 6-1 MWC) and Kansas State both preparing to play their regular season finales Saturday, and the Wildcats still without a replacement for Prince, the drama probably isn't over yet.
``Right now, I'm not even thinking about it,'' Patterson said. ``There's only one thing that's important to me right now. That is Air Force.''
The Horned Frogs can still clinch a share of the MWC title if they beat Air Force (8-3, 5-2) in a matchup of one of the nation's top rushing offenses against TCU's top-ranked defense, and No. 16 BYU defeats eighth-ranked Utah.
With its triple-option offense, Air Force is rushing for 280 yards per game, fourth among FBS teams. But the Frogs have allowed only 39.5 rushing yards per game.
``They are just superb,'' Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said. ``I thought last week watching BYU take the field, just size-wise, literally, it was like watching a Sunday game. Then when you flip the tape on and watch TCU, it's like watching an NFL game also.''
Eight of TCU's opponents have been held to 56 rushing yards or less. Two teams have finished with negative yardage, and only two have even exceeded 100 yards, the highest being 113.
haven't faced a running threat like Air Force.
``Their running game is a test to see if everybody will be able to do their individual job,'' said defensive end Jerry Hughes, the national leader with an MWC-record 14 sacks.
``The most humiliating thing, you can't let them throw the ball over year head because you're playing the option all the time,'' Patterson said. ``This is about eyes and feet.''
Hughes said the 16-day break, after playing every week since the last weekend of August, allowed TCU to intently study the Falcons' formations. But there was the downside of the extra time.
``After a loss like that, you want to get back out there and play with the bad taste in your mouth,'' Hughes said.
The regular-season finale will be Patterson's 99th game as head coach, with the Frogs going for their fifth 10-win season in seven years. The senior group has won 39 games, one shy of matching the 1932-35 TCU squads for the most in a four-year period, with a bowl game also to play.
Still, would Patterson leave TCU? If not Kansas State, near family and friends, there could be other opportunities since several prominent jobs are open and there will be the likely shuffling created as openings are filled.
r Alabama. ``Like I tell recruits, I've got a better chance to go to a BCS game (at TCU) than 90 percent of the teams that are out there.''
Not this year, though, after that agonizing 13-10 loss at Utah.
Patterson, whose contract goes through at least 2012, is expected to meet with athletic director Danny Morrison next week to review the season and discuss the future.
``Usually at the end of the year, I'm patting him on the back telling him what a great job that he's done at TCU, and he continues to do a great job,'' Morrison said.
While refusing to speculate about what other schools might come calling to try to get Patterson, Morrison said ``it would be a surprise to me if he's not on somebody's list because he's done an outstanding job here.''
TCU had only five 10-win seasons before Patterson became head coach. That included the 2000 season when he was still the defensive coordinator.
The other four 10-win seasons came in a seven-year span in the 1930s, a stretch that ended with a national championship in 1938. That was the same season Frogs quarterback Davey O'Brien won the Heisman Trophy.

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