Gary Patterson wanted to be mad at his team last week — the defense had let the ball over its head, the offense had turned the ball over four times, mistakes had been made all over the place in the 49-29 loss at Oklahoma State.
But he couldn’t.
The TCU coach had seen his Horned Frogs rally too often, sidestep too much adversity, avoid so many pitfalls already in a season with 18 injuries, two suspensions and an unexpected departure that turned the roster sideways.
If they missed enough assignments here and there that it finally cost a game, maybe it was just time.
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They’ve done an unbelievable job fighting through everything that they’ve fought through, to be where we are right now.
TCU coach Gary Patterson on the Horned Frogs
“Sometimes we’re just knuckleheads,” Patterson told reporters after the game in Stillwater. “I want to get mad, gentlemen. What do you do? We’ve won 16 and lost one and won three or four before then. Now you’ve lost two in about 20 ballgames. It’s like I told them in there — we’ll find out what kind of football team we are by how we handle this going forward.”
Patterson’s mind has spun ahead to what the lessons of this year mean for next year, when as many as five starters will come back on medical redshirts and the 30 freshmen who have played this year can count on that experience.
Of course, there are games left this year, most immediately Saturday’s 11 a.m. home game against Kansas, and goals still within reach.
But much that happens this year affects the Frogs for next year. After all, today’s freshmen will one day be back in Stillwater.
TCU is 29-11 in the regular season in games after a loss under coach Gary Patterson.
“Learn from it,” quarterback Trevone Boykin said, asked his advice for future TCU teams. “They will probably have to come here twice, just like I did. So it’s really just prepare during the week, be as focused as possible, just come in, try to do your assignments and try to win every play.”
It’s tougher for Patterson to get a read on this team than others he’s had at TCU because this one is so different than the one he expected.
“You have 30 freshmen and redshirt freshmen playing. They haven’t been here long enough to be completely bought in,” he said. “I think we’ll find out how they play this week.”
Junior tight end Buck Jones likes what he has seen from the youngest players.
“They have a goal. They’re very motivated. They know not to be distracted by anything like this,” he said of the Oklahoma State loss. “The goal is to win. I think they know that. They understand what they need to do to do that. My class, when I came in, almost all of us played our freshman year, so we’re very familiar with that situation.”
Pregame on Saturday, TCU will salute its seniors, who before Saturday had won 20 of their previous 21 games, including a school-record 16 straight. But they also had a 4-8 season in the Frogs’ rocky introduction to the Big 12.
They remain the backbone of the 2015 team that has dealt with a bunch of curveballs.
“The one thing I will say about our group: they’ve done an unbelievable job fighting through everything that they’ve fought through, to be where we are right now,” Patterson said. “It would not be fair of me to really criticize them at all, because they’ve done an unbelievable job of getting to this point. We need to find a way to beat Kansas, then we’ll move on to Oklahoma and then Baylor.”
Boykin’s plan is to win those games. But also to soak up the last chances remaining for him and rest of the 2015 team, from seniors to freshman.
“It’s really up to all the older guys, just try to push these young guys along,” he said. “Just try to finish these last three games strong. After the bowl game, TCU will be a totally different team next year. We just try to enjoy these moments that we have together.”
TCU vs. Kansas
11 a.m. Saturday, FS1
Head to head
Kansas (0-9, 0-6)
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