Johnny Fobbs couldn't believe his eyes.
Walking off the field at Floyd Casey Stadium, TCU's senior free safety glanced one last time at the scoreboard just to make sure his eyes hadn't deceived him.
They hadn't. The Horned Frogs' defense, famous for stuffing opponents for much of the last decade, allowed 50 points to Baylor.
"I never thought I'd see 50 points on the opposing side," Fobbs said. "Just to see that up there it hurt bad. From being a freshman all the way to now, I haven't seen that many points. Knowing we gave up that many points hurts so bad because it feels like we failed our past."
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He then added the key message emanating from the Frogs' locker room this week.
"But we have to let that go."
There is no time for the TCU defense to wallow in self-pity or look for sympathy, as coach Gary Patterson said some players did in the dumbfounded locker room Sept. 2 in Waco.
"We're not that kind of program anymore, we don't look for moral victories," Patterson said. "They hadn't had anything like that happen to them in a long time. They didn't handle that very well."
No. 25 TCU has been ranked in the two major polls every week since October 2008, when moral victories might have been more acceptable.
The Frogs (0-1) open their final season in the Mountain West Conference at 2:30 p.m. today against Air Force at Falcon Stadium hoping for a different fate. A loss today would knock them out of the polls and send their season in a shocking direction. TCU hasn't started 0-2 since 1999, in Dennis Franchione's second season as coach and Patterson's second year as the Frogs' defense coordinator. That team regrouped to finish 8-4 and won a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship.
"In a way, these last two years we've gotten kind of pampered being undefeated for the younger guys expecting wins because the older guys were able to take care of that," quarterback Casey Pachall said. "Coming in and [losing] kind of gives us the mentality that we have to fight every day and come back and prove we are one of the top teams in the nation."
In some respects, the loss might allow some of the younger players to relax, knowing that another undefeated regular season is no longer possible.
"It takes the pressure off of us trying to be perfect," said Fobbs, who has watched teammates lead the nation in defense the past three seasons. "Now we can go back to fighting and playing with a chip on our shoulder. Our main goal was to win a conference championship. You can't sit there and worry about what you could have done. You can't cry over spilled milk."
The Frogs showed some moxie when they came back to score 25 points in the fourth quarter against Baylor to briefly take the lead. They'll need that against a Falcons team many expect to contend for the MWC title.
"I thought we played with a lot of heart," Patterson said. "I really like how our team fought back, but the bottom line is a loss is a loss."
It's been awhile since the Frogs have dealt with one in the regular season. And Patterson has his players expecting the fight of their lives. It's a fight made harder after starting running back Ed Wesley and linebacker Tanner Brock aggravated injuries against Baylor and did not travel with the team.
Brock, who led the Frogs in tackles last season as a sophomore, has a foot injury that is still healing after an early summer surgery. Wesley, also a junior, injured his shoulder in August. Neither player practiced this week.
"We'll be like Custer going over the hill, so we better get ready," Patterson said.
The reference to the Battle of Little Bighorn might be hyperbole, but a loss today would no doubt leave TCU in unfamiliar territory.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760