SAN DIEGO (AP) – Penned in by a bunch of tough Horned Frogs, Garrett Wolfe had nowhere to run.

The national rushing leader was held to 28 yards, a whopping 130 below his average, and No. 25 TCU won a Poinsettia Bowl mismatch against Northern Illinois 37-7 on Tuesday night.

While Wolfe was repeatedly stuffed by one of the nation’s best defenses, led by end Tommy Blake, Horned Frogs quarterback Jeff Ballard ran for three touchdowns and threw for another.

Ballard looked more like a running back as he scored on runs of 10, 1 and 6 yards. He threw a 6-yard TD pass to tight end Brent Hecht and finished with 258 passing yards.

TCU’s Lonta Hobbs rushed for 114 yards and one TD.

TCU (11-2) won 11 games for the third time in four years, all under coach Gary Patterson. NIU finished 7-6.

Wolfe, a senior from Chicago, came in leading the nation with an average of 158.3 yards rushing and 178.9 all-purpose yards.

The Horned Frogs, though, were fourth nationally in run defense after allowing only 67.6 yards per game. TCU kept alive its string of not allowing a 100-yard rusher, one of only four teams to do so this year.

Wolfe, who carried 20 times, came dangerously close to his career-low of 24 yards set in his first game, the 2004 season opener. The Huskies had only five first downs and 60 yards of total offense, compared to 23 first downs and 456 yards for TCU.

Wolfe was thrown for losses on four of his 10 carries in the first half, when accounted he for just 8 yards.

The Huskies had minus-13 yards and went three-and-out six straight times before Dan Nicholson completed a 62-yard pass to Matt Simon on third-and-12 from the Huskies’ 11-yard line in the second quarter. All that did was set up a missed 51-yard field goal by Chris Nendick.

NIU got to the TCU 18-yard line late in the third quarter before turning the ball over on downs. The Huskies gained 52 yards on that drive; up until then, they’d gained only 45.

NIU’s only score came when John Tranchitella returned a blocked punt 32 yards with 14:14 left. Jarret Carter blocked Brian Cortney’s punt and the ball bounced back toward Cortney’s hands, but Tranchitella swooped in and grabbed it.

NIU blocked two punts and a PAT.

Hobbs scored on a 4-yard run on TCU’s first drive.

Early in the second quarter, Ballard dropped back to pass on third-and-9 from the NIU 10. He scrambled left, cut inside and then dove into the end zone.

Chris Manfredini kicked a 25-yard field goal as the clock expired for a 16-0 halftime lead.

Ballard scored twice in just less than 3 minutes in the third quarter for a 30-0 lead. He ran a 1-yard keeper, then added a 6-yard run when he rolled left, couldn’t find a receiver and tumbled into the end zone.

Ballard was 19-of-29 passing. Nicholson was 6-of-18 for 80 yards, with one interception.

The game drew only 29,709 on a cold night at 70,000-seat Qualcomm Stadium.

Among the fans were San Diego Chargers running backs LaDainian Tomlinson, who went to TCU, and Michael Turner, who played for NIU.

With TCU winning, Turner will have to wear Tomlinson’s No. 5 Horned Frogs jersey around Chargers headquarters.

The Poinsettia Bowl is sponsored by the San Diego County Credit Union.

AP-ES-12-19-06 2335EST

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