A word popped up to describe the mood at TCU on Tuesday, two days before the latest biggest game of the season for the Horned Frogs.
“I feel we’re a pretty chill team when it comes to not getting stressed out,” center Joey Hunt said.
What does that mean?
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“We’re relaxed, don’t let the moment get to you,” safety Sam Carter said. “Just go with the flow. Just do what you’ve been doing all year.”
What the Frogs have been doing all year is winning. They’ve won nine out of 10, which is why they go into Thursday night’s game at Texas with a chance at the Big 12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
All they have to do is win. What pressure?
“We’re an intense team, but we don’t get stressed out from other stuff like that,” Hunt said.
It’s what coach Gary Patterson noticed early in the year about this team. He has talked since August about the maturity of the players, and he has seen it in games like the comeback at West Virginia, the workmanlike blowout of Kansas State and the determined rally in the freezing cold at Kansas.
Except he wouldn’t have thought to call it “chill.”
“Probably wouldn’t come out of my mouth,” he said.
But after Tuesday, the veteran coach probably has a good idea of what it means and was pleased with the definition. It’s pretty much what he’s been trying to do himself since the Kansas State victory — relax, do what’s required to win and let the season play out without worrying about how the playoff selection committee sees things.
“As a head coach, you’ve got to fight for your team and you’ve got to fight for your university, period,” Patterson said. “But just like you do at home, you’ve got to know which battle to fight because you can fight a battle and lose a war.
“To me, sometimes, it’s best not to say things. I don’t think we have anything to talk about unless we can win the next two ballgames. Everybody across America wanted me to talk after the Kansas State game, and I knew it didn’t make any difference; you still had three games to go, and I thought every week was going to be like a month. And pretty much, that has held true.”
The fifth-ranked Frogs will be up for judgment again Thursday night. They are trying to move past at least one of the top four teams and also hold off Ohio State and Baylor.
They have their “chill” attitude to fall back on, not to mention an offense that has provided the dimension they were missing their first two seasons in the Big 12. Really, it’s the source of their “chill.”
“I feel like it’s more a swagger that the whole team has,” Hunt said. “Last year, the offense didn’t quite have it as much, but now I feel like the whole team has a swagger and confidence where it’s like the stress thing — you don’t really have to worry about that, things will take care of themselves, and we’re confident that if we just play football and win, we’ll be all right.”
Patterson will be happy to win by one point, but he acknowledges the big picture.
“If we want to be able to do the things we need to do, then we have to be convincing about it, I think,” he said. “You’re playing against a pretty good football team that got after Oklahoma State the week before. To me, you’ve just got to finish out.”
But by consistently taking away the requirement to win by more than one point, Patterson has probably helped his team relax.
The Frogs have been able to focus on just winning more than winning big. They have looked like a loose bunch all year.
“A lot of people are making this bigger than all the other weeks because they’re Texas and we’re TCU,” Carter said. “But we just have to go out there and win. Because those guys are good, also.”
Patterson actually looks “chill” to the players, and he gives them a “chill” message about the CFP.
Said Carter: “He’s energetic at practice, but he also says, ‘Just play. Go out there and do what you do. Those guys on Tuesday nights are going to do what they want to do. That’s not your job.’ That’s off the field. During practice, he’s not chill.”
The Frogs have gotten the message all year. Patterson has kept it simple: get ready to play, win the games, let the playoffs shake themselves out.
“Like I told my team, ‘Let’s take care of what we can take care of and let somebody else make that decision. Let’s not make that decision for them,’ ” he said. “Win the next two, go to 11-1, and then they’ve got to make the decision.
“We’re trying to play well enough to where we can win by one point and get to where we need to go.”