A day after its historic comeback, the TCU football team probably hasn’t had enough time to fully digest its 2015 season.
If it’s even possible.
“How do you explain it?” coach Gary Patterson said, chatting with reporters asking him to do just that after his team’s 47-41 victory in triple overtime against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl on Saturday night. “How do you explain it?”
From spring practice until the next-to-last game of the regular season, the Horned Frogs lost 26 players either for the year, a game or part of a game.
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Their ace punt returner transferred two weeks before the season. A starting linebacker left the team on his own after one game. The best pass rusher on the team stepped on a sprinkler head and broke his toe before even playing in a game. A concussion sidelined the top defensive tackle for the first three games. Another receiver sat out the season recovering from knee surgery.
When the season started, two other players served three-game suspensions because of assault and robbery arrests stemming from an altercation at a campus party, then were reinstated when the charges were dismissed.
A linebacker, cornerback and safety — all starters — each injured a knee.
That was just September.
There was a point in time in this season when it seemed like nothing was going our way.
TCU running back Aaron Green
In the Big 12 opener, a trusted possession receiver broke a collarbone.
Safety Derrick Kindred played the season with a broken collarbone.
“Every week it was something different that we had to tweak,” co-defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow said. “But they’re going to have adversity in their lives, and if this has taught them something for the rest of their lives that will allow them to be successful, it will have been a great learning experience for them.”
TCU set a school bowl records with 94 plays and 545 yards in the Alamo Bowl. The previous records were 87 plays in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl and 494 yards in the 2003 Fort Worth Bowl.
Somehow, TCU kept itself in the national title picture until Trevone Boykin played his worst game, throwing four interceptions at Oklahoma State — which became a double whammy with the loss of the country’s leading receiver, Josh Doctson, to a wrist injury in the second quarter.
Then Boykin got hurt on the second snap of the next game, and center Joey Hunt got hurt in practice days later, leaving the Frogs to go to Oklahoma without Boykin and Doctson — their two best players — and their starting center. And yet, if not for a failed two-point pass in the final minute, they could have won that game, too.
Then a starting offensive guard and a deep snapper were lost to injury.
By now, TCU had used 15 true freshmen and 15 redshirt freshmen.
Finally, at season’s end, Boykin hobbled around at 75 percent to pull TCU past Baylor in a double-overtime victory, sending them to San Antonio and the Alamo Bowl, where the drama continued with Boykin’s arrest in a bar fight two days before the game.
Stunned, the Frogs suspended Boykin and turned to senior backup Bram Kohlhausen, who made his first start and did what no one expected or will forget — set TCU bowl records for completions, attempts and yards in engineering a comeback from a 31-0 deficit, the largest in school history and tied for the biggest in bowl history.
11 Eleven-win seasons in TCU history. Nine have come in the past 15 seasons. Eight have come in the past 11.
How do you explain it, indeed?
“Relentless, man,” running back Aaron Green said. “There was a point in time in this season when it seemed like nothing was going our way. I’ve never been on a team where we had so many injuries.”
Patterson could only shake his head. He didn’t have the words to explain. He only had images.
“I was watching our highlight film at the luncheon,” Patterson said, remembering Friday’s kickoff gala to cap the bowl-week activities. “That gave me chills because basically, it was storyline after storyline after storyline of catching the ball at the end of the game at Texas Tech, Kansas State, the stop on fourth down against Baylor — you keep going. You go down the list of plays that guys made at the end of the ballgame to give yourself a chance to win.”
Last year, TCU set the Peach Bowl record for margin of victory. This year, TCU set the Alamo Bowl record for largest comeback.
Saturday’s victory capped an 11-win season, TCU’s eighth in the past 11 seasons. But surely none of those eight compares to this one.
“It’s just a pleasure to be a part of this defense, this team in general,” linebacker Ty Summers said Saturday night. “All our guys just encouraging one another throughout all the obstacles we faced this season, this game. We just found a way to rally back. Like I say, it’s been a pleasure to be a part of it.”
Sounds like as good an explanation as any.