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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Blake Nowell returned a blocked punt 24 yards for a touchdown, Chandler Morris threw for 263 yards with two TDs while running for another score, and TCU beat lower-division Nicholls 41-6 on Saturday night.

Morris was 26-of-30 passing with a 14-yard TD to Jaylon Robinson and a 4-yarder to Alabama transfer JoJo Earle after throwing two interceptions near or at the goal line the previous week in their loss to Colorado.

“Definitely protecting the football,” Morris said when asked what the emphasis was over the past week. “I had two costly turnovers last week that I mean, I couldn’t even turn on Animal Planet during the week and watch some shows without seeing it on TV. So that was definitely a big emphasis for me, and then using my feet more.”

He ran six times for 63 yards, including a 32-yard scoring run on a third-and-12 play at the end of the first quarter.

A week after the Horned Frogs (1-1) opened at home by losing to Colorado as a three-touchdown favorite, they never trailed after Trent Battle blocked the punt to end Nicholls' opening possession of the game. Nowell picked it up and ran it in for TCU's first blocked-punt return for a TD since 2011.

“I would say (our energy) was better. ... It’s still far from what we need, but it was better. I thought we played with some excitement,” coach Sonny Dykes said.

Gavin Lasseigne kicked field goals of 40 and 47 yards for Nicholls (0-2) of the Football Championship Subdivision.

TCU was the national runner-up last season and began this one as the No. 17 team in the AP poll, but dropped out after the 45-42 loss to future Big 12 foe Colorado in Buffaloes coach Deion Sanders’ debut. The 22nd-ranked Buffaloes did back that up with a 36-14 win over Nebraska in their home opener Saturday.

TCU took a 24-3 lead into halftime on Griffin Kell’s school-record-tying 57-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter.

With the Frogs up 21-0 in the second quarter and poised to score again after Morris converted fourth-and-4 with an 8-yard run to the Nicholls 4, the quarterback had to leave the field for a play after his helmet came off. The ensuing shotgun snap to redshirt freshman Josh Hoover was bobbled and lost in the backfield.

"We could have called a timeout. But, you know, we wanted Josh to have some experience anyway, so felt like that was a chance to get him and get him a play,” Dykes said. “So we put him in the game to hand off as opposed to using a timeout.”

Hoover threw a 34-yard TD pass to Jordyn Bailey in the game’s final minute.

THE TAKEAWAY

Nicholls: Left-handed quarterback Pat McQuaide completed 17 of 36 passes for 177 yards. Colonels running back Collin Guggenheim, who had five consecutive 100-yard rushing games at the end of 2021, and ran for 543 yards as the No. 2 back last year, was held to 38 yards on 14 carries.

TCU: While there is still plenty to work on, the Horned Frogs did what they were supposed to do against an overmatched opponent. They had 442 total yards. Twelve different receivers had catches. TCU also held the Colonels to 263 yards after Colorado piled up 565 against them.

UP NEXT

Nicholls has a bye week before playing the second of three consecutive road games Sept. 23 at No. 24 Tulane (1-1).

TCU plays its Big 12 opener at conference newcomer Houston (1-1) next Saturday.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll

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