TCU learned something about its football team last week.
Or maybe confirmed is a better word.
Whatever term is best, the No. 19 Horned Frogs demonstrated that they are still a good football team, able to put themselves in a position to win without their best players — quarterback Trevone Boykin and receiver Josh Doctson.
They were a batted 2-point conversion pass away from winning at No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday — in front of the Sooners’ third-largest crowd ever, with a pair of backup quarterbacks and a defensive lineup put together on the fly.
“It gives everyone a great confidence boost that we were able to go out there without our two best players, losing by one,” defensive end Josh Carraway said. “Even though it was a loss, it was a huge confidence boost for the whole team.”
In the 30-29 loss at Oklahoma, the Frogs also played without senior center Joey Hunt, who will again sit out Friday against Baylor.
132.7 Yards receiving per game for TCU’s Josh Doctson, which leads the nation.
They played with backup guard Matt Pryor, who played in Brady Foltz’s spot because Foltz moved over to the other guard spot to replace the injured Jamelle Naff.
And they played the second half without linebacker Ty Summers, who was ejected for targeting. To help make up for the loss, freshman linebacker Alec Dunham played in the regular defense.
Against that backdrop, TCU almost engineered a comeback from 30-13.
“It just gives you hope,” Carraway said, asked about the experience the backups and new faces gained. “They know what this feels like. They know what this loss feels like. They know what it feels like to play in a big game.
“You saw Alec going in there and getting to play against Oklahoma — no freshman is expecting to go in and play in front of 85,000 coming straight out of high school. Now that he knows what it feels like to play in front of 85,000, you know next time we put him in a situation like that, he won’t react the same. He’ll be able to play faster, and it’ll just be easier like that to him.”
I think we’re still a really good football team, and I think we showed that last week; we had the ability to play with a lot of people.
TCU coach Gary Patterson
Patterson can sense the same thing. There are still games to win this year, but he can also think about the down-the-line effects of the Oklahoma game.
“Our future center, Austin Schlottman, did a great job of calling everything out,” he said. “Defensively, I think we kept growing. I think we learned as a young football team that going forward, it was a positive for us.
“If we can still play well against Baylor, win or lose, then I think as we go into bowl season we’ll get stronger because we’ll get guys back and back in the weight room and we’ll play a great bowl game — which I think will also help slingshot us into the next season.”
Next season, the Frogs hope to once again be part of the College Football Playoff conversation.
Or maybe expect is a better word.
With better health and better luck, who knows?
“I told some people last week, probably with all our injuries, we’re probably not one of the top four,” Patterson said. “Just because of injuries, you can’t say we are. I think we’re still a really good football team, and I think we showed that last week; we had the ability to play with a lot of people.”
But next year, there will be no Boykin at quarterback and no Doctson at receiver. Then again, there was no Boykin at quarterback or Doctson at receiver Saturday night.
“I think our kids found out when we’re done, when Trevone graduates, that we were able to move the football against a really good football team,” Patterson said. “Some of the guys we expect to be our future guys that make plays stepped up — Emanuel Porter, KaVontae Turpin, our quarterbacks.”
Friday night, TCU might learn some more.
TCU vs. Baylor
6:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN