“Do you relish the chance to play OU again,” TCU coach Gary Patterson was asked after his team earned that chance with a 45-22 victory against Baylor on Friday.
Patterson could have yelled out, “(Strong modifier) yeah!,” and it would not have been controversial.
Instead, he pulled a veteran move.
“I relish the chance to win a championship,” he said.
No bulletin-board material.
“That’s what you get in it to do,” he said.
And for TCU, after a jarringly unexpected loss at Iowa State in October and an unexpected beatdown at the hands of Oklahoma two weeks ago knocked them off the national radar, perfectly correct.
The Horned Frogs, in the first year of the resurrected Big 12 championship game, are going to play in it, which means that despite those two losses, they can still win a league championship.
In a season with six road games, including two in the state of Oklahoma, the Frogs have 10 victories and a chance to pick up a major goal second only to a national title.
“Of course, we’re excited,” linebacker Ty Summers said. “Big 12 championship’s back, and we’re a part of it, so it’s huge. But what we’re going to do is just get back to work this week, try to become the best team we can be in all three phases of the game to give ourselves the best chance against OU.”
The Frogs are 10-2 and get a bonus game against the No. 4 team in the College Football Playoff rankings on Dec. 2 in the Big 12 championship at AT&T Stadium.
They’re well within their rights to relish the chance.
Some observations from TCU 45, Baylor 22:
1. The play of the game might have been linebacker Ty Summers’ interception to start the second half. Baylor had momentum and confidence in what was only a two-point contest. But gifted field position, the Frogs cashed it in for a two-possession lead, and they weren’t threatened after that. “Ty got that pick, we went down the field and scored, it kind of set the tone,” quarterback Kenny Hill said. TCU won the turnover battled 3-0. Those plays make a difference, do they not?
2. Kenny Hill returned triumphant, the defense put together its trademark second half, and TCU qualified for the Big 12 title game under a gorgeous November sun. But Mat Boesen stole the show Friday at Amon G. Carter Stadium. The senior defensive end finished with a team-record 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble. They weren’t empty stats, either. Three sacks came on third down. One pushed Baylor out of makable field goal range. His forced fumble came with his team down 9-0 and the offense having just gone three-and-out. Now he’s got 11.5 sacks. That matches Jerry Hughes’ 2009 season. It was a show-stopper of a day.
3. For two weeks, Gary Patterson had been real-life “subtweeting” — you know, referring to someone without using their name — running back Sewo Olonilua. He talked about how a certain backup had gotten his chance with Darius Anderson out but not taken advantage of it. Finally, on Friday, after running for 71 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and catching three passes for 40 yards, Olonilua earned direct mention at the postgame podium. “Sewo ran the ball better today,” Patterson said. “It was the first game he ran the ball the way a big back is supposed to run the ball. He keeps doing that, he’ll keep getting better.”
4. Another game without linebacker Travin Howard and safety Niko Small left TCU to play short-handed on defense for a second week. Yet again, the Frogs managed. Linebacker Sammy Douglas, who led TCU in tackles last week in replacement duty, and safety Markell Simmons combined for eight tackles. Douglas had a quarterback hit, and Simmons had an interception. Backups have to be on the field and make plays this time of year, and TCU is getting that.
5. Junior receiver Jarrison Stewart had one catch before Friday. By the time the sun set, he had seven. How to explain his six catches for 72 yards against Baylor, including a clutch grab at the post on third down to put TCU ahead for the first time? Who knows. Performances like that sometimes pop up. The former South Grand Prairie star is, of course, perfectly capable of more outings like that. But whether it was one game or the start of a trend, it helped the Frogs on Friday. They’ll take it.
No. 12 TCU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
11:30 a.m. Saturday, KDFW/Ch. 4