Maybe it was just the frustration of another three-point defeat that sent TCU coach Gary Patterson over the postgame edge Saturday.
Or maybe it was just Patterson at his passionate best — or, some might say, his worst — after the Horned Frogs dropped a bitter 41-38 decision to Art Briles and the No. 9-ranked Baylor Bears.
“The bottom line,” Patterson said, “is he’s picking on the wrong guy.”
It was one of a steamy series of Patterson-issued “bottom lines” Saturday. His voice shook with anger, even though Patterson claimed he wasn’t mad.
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He professed, more than once, that he had “respect for him” and “respect for his program,” even as he questioned the Bears’ class.
At the root of it, Patterson tried to explain, was Baylor senior safety Ahmad Dixon’s targeting penalty on Frogs receiver Trevone Boykin and what Briles did or didn’t do in the wake of it.
“Here’s the bottom line to it,” Patterson said, “No. 6 [Dixon] beats a guy up at the beginning of the season and he didn’t get suspended. He takes a shot today, and I want him kicked out.
“And the head coach comes across the field at me.”
Patterson contended that while officials were discussing the penalty, Briles came onto the field and yelled something at him.
Their postgame handshake later, Patterson reported, was brief, but went right to the sore spot at hand.
“I didn’t say anything,” the TCU coach said. “He said, ‘Leave it on the field.’
“I said not. You come across the field at me and later you want me to leave it on the field? No.”
Dixon was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge in a September incident. He was not suspended from the team, leading Patterson to say Saturday, “They didn’t correct the problem a long time ago.”
Instead of Briles admonishing Dixon for Saturday’s illegal third-quarter hit, Patterson became further agitated that TV cameras spotted the ejected player still sitting on the Baylor bench.
“I’ve got coaches up in the box saying he’s laughing on TV underneath his towel,” Patterson said. “Well, I didn’t think it was that funny.”
Patterson continued, “The bottom line is, we’re not going to do that. Gary Patterson lives in Fort Worth. If he’s got a problem with me, here’s where I live.”
Following the game, which featured four costly TCU turnovers that swung the final score in 10-1 Baylor’s favor, Briles seemed to defuse any mention of a controversy.
“No, I just told him his kids did a great job and good luck during the rest of the year and then in recruiting,” Briles said.
But Patterson took the brief interchange more personally.
“He comes across the field at me?” Patterson said. “Nuh-uh.
“I didn’t build this program to back down to anybody, and I’m not going to do it to him. Not in recruiting or in anything we do.”
TCU and Baylor have been visceral rivals, of sorts, since they were private-school competitors in the old Southwest Conference. With campuses only 100 miles apart, they compete for many of the same players in recruiting, among them Bears defensive lineman Andrew Billings and running back Shock Linwood, who both were once commits to TCU.
“I’ve been in this state for 16 years, 13 as a head coach,” Patterson went on. “I’ve watched things go on and I’ve let them be OK.
“Well, in my last seven, eight or nine years here, I’m not going to allow things to be OK.”
He didn’t elaborate. He had already said plenty.
At the end of a bowl-barren season laced with bitter three-point defeats, Patterson had seen his team rise to his challenge to “make this your bowl game.”
After railing against Briles and the Bears for a full six minutes, Patterson expressed regret Saturday that some reporters wouldn’t write about a 41-38 game in which “two teams fought their tails off.”
“I’m just making sure you’re clarified,” he said. “We’re not taking a backseat to anybody. Period.”
The real bottom line: The TCU-Baylor rivalry just hit a deeper nerve.