By the end of the season, when TCU couldn’t score a touchdown against Kansas State, it was clear the Horned Frogs had taken a step back on offense.
Head coach Gary Patterson called for more toughness.
Co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham concurred Tuesday in a press conference at the Liberty Bowl.
“Yep, I agree,” he said. “We just need some mental toughness and some guys to step forward and be leaders. We need some guys to be tougher at practice and to endure things when they’re not going well, you know?”
TCU hamstrung itself with penalties, dropped passes and general inconsistency in a 6-6 season, Meacham said. But inexperience, injuries and a lack of leadership also played a role in the Frogs winding up fifth in the Big 12 and in Memphis for an 11 a.m. Friday kickoff against Georgia (7-5).
When things aren’t going well, are you a guy that kind of backs up into the crowd or are you a guy that steps up front and tries to lead his football team and takes it upon themselves to push the football down the field?
TCU co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham
“When things aren’t going well, are you a guy that kind of backs up into the crowd or are you a guy that steps up front and tries to lead his football team and takes it upon themselves to push the football down the field?” Meacham said. “So yeah, we need to do that.”
Running back Kyle Hicks sensed the same.
“Like Coach Meacham said, when times get tough, we do need more people on the team to step up,” he said. “We definitely need to do a better job of that.
There is no doubt times got tough for TCU in 2016, thanks to injuries alone. Receiver/returner KaVontate Turpin, center Austin Schlottmann, guard Patrick Morris and receiver Ty Slanina were among the starters who missed time. Hicks missed all but two drives of the Texas Tech game.
But the Frogs also hurt themselves with 86 penalties for 787 yards, an average of 65.6 per game. Each of those numbers were the second most in the Big 12.
TCU finished with 86 penalties, second most in the Big 12, but it could have been more. The Frogs had 36 penalties in the second half of the season, compared to 50 through the first six games.
“Offensively, we had a lot of drive-killers with penalties,” Hicks said. “We had some key injuries. But the injuries, that’s just part of the game. The things that we can control are the penalties. We have to try to find ways to eliminate that, to try to play more perfect football.”
TCU managed only six points in each of its last two home games, losses to Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Quarterback Kenny Hill threw a league-high 13 interceptions, and the offense averaged 31.7 points, eighth among Big 12 teams.
Meacham is eager to shake the memory of some of those performances.
“That’s part of this bowl prep for us, to start the growing up of these guys and preparing for the future and putting that behind us and getting ready for the next season,” Meacham said. “With some of the losses we had toward the end, you can’t get back on the field quick enough to re-evaluate yourself.”
Center Austin Schlottmann will be happy just to see basic plays executed. In his mind, the failure to do that was the root of the Frogs’ inconsistency.
“I think we just didn’t go out and make routine plays,” he said. “That’s really what it boils down to, making routine plays, gaining four to five yards on every run play. That’s what you have to do in this offense.”
475.0Yards per game for TCU in 2016, ranking seventh in the Big 12.
So the Frogs are eager to test themselves Friday and see how far they’ve gotten in three weeks since the loss to K-State had Patterson questioning their toughness.
“It’s an opportunity to put some of the things we did toward the end of the year behind us and pinpoint some of the things we feel like we need to improve on — effort, leadership, real simple things that we needed as a football team,” Meacham said. “Identifying guys for next season, improving on composure, improving on blocking and catching and running and just the schematics of all the things you do in football.”
Meacham said the players must have gotten the message.
“Our first couple of practices for bowl prep were unbelievable,” he said. “Guys were getting after it. Because I think they felt the same way. They don’t want this taste in their mouth.”
“I think once you look back and kind of reflect and absorb and digest what happened last season, I think it will motivate you, if you want to play this game of football,” Meacham said. “I know for us as coaches it does. It rejuvenates your mindset toward improving and just getting better in every aspect. It regenerates that.”
TCU vs. Georgia
11 a.m. Friday, ESPN
Liberty Bowl, Memphis