Try as he might, TCU coach Gary Patterson couldn’t get all that mad at his team after its Liberty Bowl loss.
The Horned Frogs had just fallen 31-23 to Georgia by giving up two fourth-quarter scoring drives, missing a field-goal attempt in between.
“Three or four years ago, I really got after a team because we didn’t win,” Patterson said in his postgame remarks Friday in Memphis. “I didn’t do it with this one because bottom line to it is, they got ready. They got prepared, and they’re good people. If they weren’t good people, you’d have something to say about it.”
The loss left TCU with only its third losing season in 16 years under Patterson. The Frogs finished 6-7 after playing in their 17th bowl game in 19 years.
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“We only had seven seniors. We got to this point,” he said.
TCU has only three losing seasons in 16 years under head coach Gary Patterson. The previous two were followed by 11- and 12-win seasons.
But the 2-5 record over the final seven games left Patterson with questions about what’s next. How do the Frogs get bigger, better, stronger?
“We need to grow up, and we need to be able to rotate more with our players and do things,” Patterson said. “That means our backups got to get better, and you go from there. But if you know anything about our program, we don’t make excuses. We’ve never made excuses, and we won’t make excuses now.”
Instead, what Patterson vows to do is recruit more of the players needed for the Big 12. The Frogs had playmakers in 2016, like they did the previous two years in a 23-3 stretch. But they need more of the big-body types that Georgia used to dominate the fourth quarter in Memphis and that West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Kansas State used to wear down TCU in the regular season.
The Frogs gave up more than 330 yards rushing in their last two home games.
“Tipa Galeai is a really good player, but he’s 230 pounds,” Patterson said of a backup defensive end from Euless Trinity who had a strip sack in the Liberty Bowl. “He needs to be 250 pounds. For us, he’s an example of what we need to grow into and what we need to become. We’ve never had to be bigger. You got to be able to handle the Big 12 and do the things you need to do.”
This group will have to decide what they want to be like in the spring, how they want to grow up, what they want to become.
TCU coach Gary Patterson
Patterson also wants an attitude that reminds him of TCU’s best teams. He remembered the 2009 team that lost its only game in the Fiesta Bowl.
“As soon as they lost it, as soon as they got back, they said that’s not going to happen again, and they went and won a Rose Bowl,” Patterson said. “So this group will have to decide what they want to be like in the spring, how they want to grow up, what they want to become.”
In the week leading up to the Liberty Bowl, Patterson acknowledged disappointment in 2016.
“You have down years, but fortunately for us, even in the down years you’re still at a bowl game,” he said.
TCU has a habit of bouncing back from down years under Patterson. After a 6-6 season in 2001, the Frogs went 10-2 the next year. After 5-6 in 2004, they went 11-1. And after 4-8 in 2013, they went 12-1.
That’s a track record Patterson can lean on.
“I’m excited about the future,” he said. “We got a lot of kids coming back, and they’re good people, not just good players.”