For years, Gary Patterson could call for a field goal and it would be just about his least stressful moment in a game.
He sure would like that feeling again.
“We’ve been very fortunate we had a guy like Jaden the last couple of years,” the TCU coach said at Big 12 Media Days last week. “Look at the Alamo Bowl. He came in for like a 46-yarder, and I didn’t even think about it.”
Jaden Oberkrom left TCU two years ago as the school and Big 12 all-time leader in field goals made. He hit 79 of 100 in a four-year career with the Horned Frogs, including five tying, go-ahead or game-winners and a 57-yarder that matched the longest in TCU history.
His 46-yarder forced the third overtime in the Frogs’ epic comeback against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl in January 2016.
“Didn’t even think about it,” Patterson said. “How many people have a 46-yard field goal in your second overtime and don’t even think about it?”
Not many, and not every year, as the Frogs learned in 2016.
Their projected No. 1 kicker got hurt in fall camp and missed the season. Ryan Graf and Brandon Hatfield split the kicking duties and were a combined 18-for-25 — only three worse than Oberkrom’s 21-for-25 as a senior, but with huge consequences. Graf’s potential game-winner against Arkansas was blocked, and Hatfield missed three in what became a two-overtime loss to Texas Tech, and two in the Liberty Bowl loss to Georgia.
“We lost three games we could have won, but there’s a lot of other plays in a game that everybody else could have made,” Patterson said. “It’s real easy to blame the kicker. It’s real easy for there to be a scapegoat. We just need to work through it. If we don’t fix it, then we’re not going to win any more ballgames than we did last year. So we’ve got to fix it.”
Everybody will get a chance to fix it when fall practices begin Sunday.
Jonathan Song, expected to be the kicker a year ago, is recovered from the quadriceps injury that kept him out all year. Graf and Hatfield are in the mix again, as are Cole Bunce and Andrew David, who sat out last year after transferring from Michigan. All are sophomores except Hatfield, a senior.
“You have to believe all of those guys will be better because they’re older,” Patterson said. “Now I have to put them in some situations where we find out who that guy can be.”