Sept. 1, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports

FORT WORTH, Texas -- The competition to be Texas Christian's starting quarterback came down to a Tye.

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Coach Gary Patterson had to choose from one of his two quarterbacks that have a combined 15-2 record as starters. Junior Tye Gunn will start Thursday night's season opener against Northwestern.

"He is the starter because we can't play 12 guys," Patterson said. "We had to make a decision, and we felt like Tye was the guy right now."

It would have been hard for Patterson to make a bad choice.

The Horned Frogs have won all eight games started by Gunn, four each in his first two injury-plagued seasons. When Gunn was out for a separated right shoulder and then a groin injury last year, TCU was 7-2 and averaged 32 points a game with Brandon Hassell, who threw for 2,039 yards and 10 touchdowns.

And Hassell, a senior, won't be stuck on the sideline just because Gunn got the starting nod.

"We plan to play both quarterbacks each game, every three or four series," Patterson said. "Now, if one of them leads us to three touchdowns in the first three series, then the other guy may not come in until the offense is stopped. But, we'll still use both of them."

Besides the winning quarterbacks, TCU returns two 1,000-yard rushers. The Frogs were one of just six Division I-A teams that averaged more than 200 yards passing and rushing per game last season.

After starting last season as a third-teamer, Robert Merrill set a TCU freshman record with 1,107 yards rushing. That broke Lonta Hobbs' record 1,029 yards set in 2002 before he was hampered by a nagging ankle injury most of last season, when he still ran for 659 yards.

Northwestern will be missing defensive end Loren Howard, who had 29 tackles for losses in starting all 25 games of his career. He injured his left ankle in practice over the weekend and will miss most -- and maybe all -- of the season after surgery.

"Unfortunately, he has some instability with his ankles. As he said, it's his Achilles' heel," Northwestern coach Randy Walker said. "Loren's a very good player, but I'd be disappointed in our football team or our defense if somehow this diminishes what kind of season we can have. The guys, while disappointed, will certainly rally and play well."

Howard, just one of the nine returning defensive starters, had offseason surgery on his right ankle that he hurt in Northwestern's loss in the Motor City Bowl. Like the left ankle, it was a non-contact injury when he rolled the ankle while making a cut on the field.

The Wildcats also have eight starters back on offense. That includes third-year quarterback Brett Basanez, who has started 16 straight games since coming back from a broken leg as a freshman.

Northwestern shared the Big Ten title in 2000, the only other time it traveled to TCU -- and lost 41-14. The Frogs, opening the season at home for the first time since 1999, won 48-24 in Evanston two years ago.

While TCU climbed as high as sixth in the Bowl Championship Series rankings last year, it ended the season with a loss to Boise State in the Fort Worth Bowl. That snapped the Frogs' record 13-game home winning streak that dated to a loss to East Carolina on Oct. 30, 2001.


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