DALLAS — John Diarse was on his hands and knees in the end zone, trying to catch his breath after the TCU receiver took a hard hit that led to a targeting ejection for SMU safety Darrion Millines.
The junior transfer from LSU was just telling himself to breathe. Once he took care of that, Diarse hooked up with quarterback Kenny Hill on the play that triggered a runaway for the Horned Frogs.
Hill threw for 452 yards and two second-half touchdowns, including a 75-yarder to Diarse on the first play after halftime, and TCU pulled away from the Mustangs 33-3 on Friday night.
Diarse’s catch-and-run score on a quick slant came after Millines delivered the second-quarter hit in the end zone after Anthony Rhone’s interception in front of him.
Athletic trainers and coach Gary Patterson came out to check on him, but Diarse said he just had the wind knocked out of him.
“We always talk about if you get hit, it’s about how you get back up and how you finish,” Diarse said. “That was my whole mindset for the rest of the game, finish, finish, finish, make up for it.”
Diarse came back later in the second quarter to catch a 23-yard pass on the drive to a field goal that put TCU ahead for good in a fifth straight victory over the Mustangs and the 15th win in the past 17 meetings between the crosstown rivals.
It was the second straight week for a career high in yards receiving for the 6-foot-1, 209-pound Diarse, who had 139 yards on six catches.
“A lot of guys would have taken that hit in the end zone, they’d have been out for the ballgame,” Patterson said. “The thing about John is he gives you a big body. He’s a wide receiver, but he’s kind of like a tight end body.”
SMU (2-2) played a touchdown-free first half against a high-scoring Big 12 team for the second time this season, trailing 6-3 at the half following a 6-6 halftime tie against No. 16 Baylor in Waco two weeks ago. The Bears went on to a 40-13 win.
“It was very disappointing the way that we responded in the second half, especially after playing as hard and as well as we did in the first half,” second-year SMU coach Chad Morris said.
The Horned Frogs (3-1) scored touchdowns on their first two possessions after halftime, the second on Hill’s perfect fade pass to Jaelan Austin from the 2 for a 20-3 lead. The second score came on a 12-play drive after the quick strike to Diarse.
“Immediately it energizes everybody,” Hill, who was 31 of 45 passing, said of the long touchdown. “On the sideline, it was kind of dead. Everybody was in it, but it was kinda dead and we hit that play and everybody just sparked up.”
TCU kicked four field goals, two each from Brandon Hatfield and Ryan Graf, who just cleared the crossbar on a career-long 46-yarder.
TCU: The Horned Frogs, who opened the season at No. 13, were less than impressive in all three nonconference games. After leading by just four points early in the fourth quarter of a 59-41 victory against lower-division South Dakota State in the opener, TCU trailed by 13 points in the fourth quarter of a double-overtime loss to Arkansas. Even with a 21-point home win over Iowa State in the Big 12 opener, the Frogs look vulnerable with tougher league foes awaiting.
SMU: The Mustangs don’t have much to show for another strong first-half performance against a Big 12 team, instead seeing their losing streak against that conference reach 23 games dating to a victory over Kansas in the 2000 opener. But SMU figures to be much more competitive in the American Athletic Conference a year after going 1-7 in league play and giving up 51 points per game in the losses.
TCU: The Horned Frogs return to Big 12 play against No. 25 Oklahoma at home next Saturday. TCU entered the weekend as the only 1-0 team in conference play.
SMU: The Mustangs open American Athletic Conference play at Temple next Saturday, the first of consecutive league games on the road.