On a dank and rainy afternoon, with a winning record on the line, TCU’s regular season came to an appropriately gloomy conclusion Saturday.
Quarterback Foster Sawyer’s final pass was intercepted at the Kansas State 2-yard line, denying what would have been TCU’s only touchdown of the day.
The visiting Wildcats, masterfully coached by the Big 12’s reigning elder, Bill Snyder, smothered the Frogs 30-6 in what was expected to be a close and competitive game.
It wasn’t – not even close, especially after the intermission.
Kansas State, instead, took the Frogs to the proverbial woodshed, overwhelming linemen on both sides of the ball. The TCU offense had to struggle for every inch, using both Sawyer and Kenny Hill at quarterback.
Accurately calculating the difference between his team and Snyder’s, TCU coach Gary Patterson wryly noted, “We’re a 6-6 football team, pretty simple. They’re an 8-4 football team.
“We have to grow up.”
He would use the line often during his 20-minute postgame news conference. It was a more polite euphemism, I suppose, than challenging his players’ pride.
“We have to grow up on offense,” Patterson said. “People turn the heat up, hit you in the mouth, and we don’t respond. That’s what I told them – you’ve got to respond. It’s simple.
“Until they do that, we won’t win many games against good people.”
The Frogs’ six victories this regular season came against South Dakota State, Iowa State, SMU, Kansas, Baylor and Texas – teams with a combined record of 25-46. None of the six had a plus-.500 record.
Against the Oklahomas and Kansas States on its schedule, meanwhile, TCU was overmatched. Blowout defeats against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and K-State relegated the Frogs to what they were – a fifth-place football team, with a slumping, sputtering offense that couldn’t keep its defense off the field.
On offense, the Frogs have some major introspection to do before next season. Patterson offered a proposed remedy.
“We’ve got to get better up front,” he said. “Really, across the board. We got thrown around by everybody. The wide receivers – we dropped balls and we didn’t block anybody on the perimeter.
“We’re going to have to grow up. Or go recruit. That’s what I told them after the game.
“Tomorrow I’m going recruiting. Gotta grow up.”
Patterson chose not to dwell on the excuse during the season, but losing six members of his 2015 starting offense to the NFL left a gaping void that went largely unfilled.
As the quality of the opponent escalated during the season, the absence of quarterback Trevone Boykin was noticed more and more. Boykin’s skills, his leadership and his patience were not adequately replaced.
Patterson was asked if his recruiting would include not just high school prospects, but also transfers.
“Yes,” he answered, before my question was even finished.
He said he planned to sit down with co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie and discuss the concerns on offense.
No one’s starting job was taken away Saturday, but for the second game in a row the Frogs did utilize two quarterbacks.
Hill’s season, in particular, seemed to level off in the final weeks. It’s likely that the No. 1 job is still his to lose, but his inconsistent play also has likely made it an issue as the team prepares for next season.
DeSoto star quarterback Shawn Robinson is expected to enroll at TCU for the spring semester. He could well become a candidate – as a true freshman – for the starting role.
That’s how much in disarray the Horned Frogs limped away from their 2016 regular season Saturday.
Still looking for answers, still looking for somebody who won’t flinch when, as their coach said, they’re “hit in the mouth.”
They’ve got to grow up. Their record says so.