A year ago, they were coming off a 4-8 season and had a new offense despite no certain No. 1 quarterback, and doubting Thomases were predicting another uncomfortable season in the Big 12 for TCU.
Atop the pyramid chart of team goals in the Horned Frogs’ football meeting room, the message last year rang with resolve.
“Prove Them Wrong,” it read.
And did they ever.
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“I had a feeling last year we were going to be better on defense than people were giving us credit for because of the way we had seen them play in scrimmages,” coach Gary Patterson reflected at his Tuesday media luncheon.
“But on offense, I didn’t know what to expect. I was kind of like a fan.”
At his season-opening luncheon a year ago, Patterson was relishing what had finally been a quiet off-season. “Less agendas,” the coach had said.
The key remaining issue — or so some of us thought — was whether the No. 1 quarterback job would go to Matt Joeckel, a senior transfer from Texas A&M, or to junior Trevone Boykin, who had struggled when thrown into the fire of the 2013 season.
“We saw glimpses,” Patterson said of Boykin, who would seize the opportunity in spectacular near-Heisman fashion.
Twelve months later, Patterson can’t help praising his starting quarterback for his maturity and leadership. He told a story Tuesday of a poster-signing session on Meet the Frogs day. The autograph session was supposed to be for two hours, but Boykin stayed for four, until there was no one remaining in line.
“No matter how this whole thing goes this year, TCU has been better off because Trevone Boykin was here,” Patterson said.
Boykin, of all the Frogs, proved “them” wrong.
The offense, which had been a sputtering liability at times during TCU’s first seasons in the Big 12, suddenly blossomed under Boykin and new co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie. The Frogs’ offensive yardage jumped from 344 yards per game to 533. Scoring exploded from 25 points to 46.5.
The encore awaits, beginning Thursday night at Minnesota. And this time, the doubting Thomases are hard to find.
TCU is a consensus No. 2 in the preseason polls. National writer Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times picked the Frogs as his No. 1.
The new motto atop the meeting room’s pyramid:
Prove Them Right.
Patterson thinks his team — still explosive on offense, but young on defense — can handle the hype.
“Our biggest thing is not to think about style points,” Patterson said.
“The worst thing is to go out there thinking that we have to play like a No. 2 team in the country. We only have to worry about that at the end of the season.”
Despite having six starters to replace, including all of his regular linebackers, Patterson seems confident that he will again have a solid defense.
“If we stay healthy, I think we’re going to keep getting better and better,” he said. “We’re young, but we’re faster than we were.
“We’ve pushed them to grow up. We’ll see Thursday what we have.”
If the Frogs lay an egg, Patterson suggested Tuesday that it won’t be because they’ve been wallowing in all their preseason press clippings. He talked about the hot afternoons in August practices where the Frogs chose not to move into the air-conditioned Sammy Baugh facility and instead finished the workout in the Texas heat.
A year ago, they proved the predictions wrong. This time, the message is just as clear.