Following the lead of their head coach, the TCU Horned Frogs chose not to pout after their College Football Playoff slight.
They didn’t berate the conference commissioner. They didn’t try to rewrite the Big 12 rule book.
The Frogs neither bristled nor sulked. Instead, as coach Gary Patterson had said in setting the example, they lamented that they had not been perfect.
And when the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl rolled out its red carpet for them this past week, Patterson and the Frogs embraced it.
Well, CFP committee, what did you think?
TCU, the team you unjustly snubbed based upon its “body of work,” seized its Peach Bowl stage Wednesday and overwhelmed and humiliated Ole Miss, the team that beat Alabama, the team that you have ranked No. 1.
Feel foolish? You should.
TCU, co-champion of the Big 12, the lone Power Five conference that the committee elected to exclude from the four-team playoff field, unleashed a 42-3 beating on a Ole Miss team that had proudly waved the banner of the mighty Southeastern Conference.
The Frogs had been roundly disparaged in the media for defeating “only” Minnesota outside of the Big 12.
But on TCU’s second snap of the game, the Frogs scored on a masterfully executed trick pass play from Kolby Listenbee to Aaron Green. On their next possession, quarterback Trevone Boykin, named the game’s offensive MVP, marched the Frogs 78 yards to a touchdown in 15 plays.
During the regular season, no team in the country allowed fewer points than Ole Miss.
Yet, by the end of Wednesday’s first half, TCU had scored 28 and Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace was under a withering siege.
“The first half,” said Rebels tight end Evan Engram, “was a straight punch in the mouth.”
Ole Miss never recovered. Boykin and the TCU offense pushed the Rebels beyond their comfort zone by setting an exhausting, no-huddle tempo.
“By the end of the half, they were gassed,” Boykin said. “You could see it in a few ways, especially in the pass rush.”
Boykin said the plan was to take Ole Miss down a hurry-up path that few SEC teams regularly go. The effects of that pace unraveled the Rebels to the core.
“If we played to our tempo,” Boykin said, “we figured we could be successful running those big guys sideline to sideline.”
Only a late field goal kept Ole Miss from staking a solitary claim on absorbing the most lopsided bowl defeat in SEC history. The Rebels now share the mark with the 1969 Georgia team that lost to Nebraska.
“They won their one-on-ones,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said, trying to find an easy explanation. “They cause problems with their constant moving. And they’re quicker than they feel like when you’re watching the film.”
Freeze isn’t the first opposing coach to make that assessment. Prime among the one-on-one battles that Ole Miss lost, however, was the chess match with Patterson.
Give Patterson four weeks to prepare for a team, and he’ll usually have his defense knowing an opponent like its shadow. Nowhere was that more evident Wednesday than the beleaguered, bewildered play of Rebels quarterback Wallace, who was sacked five times and forced from the pocket on at least a dozen more pass attempts.
“I take responsibility for that,” Freeze said. “I didn’t have our kids prepared to play at the level they deserved to play.”
It sounded good, but Ole Miss was not only outscored Wednesday, but also outclassed.
Outclassed, even though the Rebels had beaten Alabama, Mississippi State and Boise State — all three in New Year’s Six bowls this week — during the regular season.
When he was given the floor, however, to shout his team’s case one more time to the playoff committee, Patterson again chose to take the high road, the same one he’s taken since the CFP slap in the face four weeks ago.
His team, in turn, responded Wednesday with an amazing confidence and grace.
They made their statement. And they did it the right way.
So, CFP committee, what did you think?
In scratching the Big Ten’s back on Dec. 7, the committee members wronged TCU, shamefully turning excuses into “explanations.”
No conference championship game? A weak body of work?
Following their coach’s lead, the TCU Horned Frogs vividly showed Wednesday that they belonged.
Only a fool would say otherwise.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697