Nobody in a TCU uniform fought harder to get to Saturday than Casey Pachall. Nobody.
Nobody traveled farther. Nobody went through more sweat and tears.
The midday sun scorched Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday. The Horned Frogs sputtered early against an earnest Southeastern Louisiana Lions team before finally saving face at 38-17.
But the shadow over the afternoon was impossible to ignore. Pachall, finally getting his day in the sun at quarterback again — literally and figuratively — after his 12 months of personal hell, suffered a fractured arm while being tackled near the sideline late in Saturday’s second quarter.
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Pachall was taken to the locker room immediately for X-rays, and the Star-Telegram was able to confirm later that the senior quarterback had broken his left arm. It’s not the one that Pachall throws with, but a fracture of the ulna typically takes eight to 12 weeks to heal.
As he did a year ago when Pachall was suspended for the season after four games, sophomore Trevone Boykin took over at quarterback and directed the Frogs on their next four scoring drives.
It was Pachall, however, who quarterbacked the Frogs to 11 victories two seasons ago. It was Pachall who threw for 473 yards and five touchdowns that season in a memorable upset at Boise State. It was Pachall whom the media selected as the quarterback this season on its preseason All-Big 12 team.
Boykin, for now, remains a promising work in progress. But Pachall, we thought, was on his way to an inspiring season of redemption, probably ending with his name being called in the NFL Draft.
Until Saturday, about two minutes before halftime, when a cruel cloud stormed in.
Coach Gary Patterson had no medical update on Pachall to give the media during his postgame news conference.
When asked about his No. 1 quarterback’s status, Patterson answered, “Not good. He won’t play next week. I’ll promise you that.”
As a rule, Patterson does not elaborate on his players’ injuries, but he granted, “I really feel bad for him if it is [serious], considering everything he’s gone through to get to this point.”
The macho code of the locker room says that injuries happen in football. The next guy on the depth chart must step up and take over.
Boykin feels he is up to the task.
When asked to compare his sudden debut last season to this season, the West Mesquite product said, “I was young. Now I’m mentally prepared more than last year. Stuff that I’m doing this year I didn’t do last year.”
Running back B.J. Catalon acknowledged the difference in the two quarterbacks and said, “Tre, he can make plays with his feet and throwing the ball.
“Right now, though, we’re going to pray for Casey and hope everything’s all right with him. And we’re going to go with Tre as long as we need to.”
Just like last season, Patterson and the Frogs have little choice. The Frogs were a trendy, if not consensus, choice to win the Big 12 in preseason polls. But those votes assumed Pachall would be the TCU quarterback.
Patterson himself likely won’t dwell publicly on the loss of Pachall because he doesn’t want his players thinking about it. But the turn of events would make any coach’s heart ache, especially a coach who has tried to support Pachall through each mile of his recovery process.
“If he can’t play, it’s his senior year …,” Boykin said, shaking his head while leaving the thought unfinished. “After everything he’s been through, for that to happen, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”
As they talked about the day’s victory, Patterson and the Frogs reaffirmed their confidence in Boykin. But the plan all along, the head coach reminded, was to use both quarterbacks this season — the senior and the sophomore, Pachall’s big arm and Boykin’s elusive feet.
Now they’re praying for Casey Pachall again.
For such a sunny day, it truly seemed dark.