The mood at TCU on Saturday fit the weather.
Gray. Dank. Uncomfortable.
And there was Trevone Boykin on the Horned Frogs’ sideline, coaching instead of playing quarterback.
Oddsmakers had installed the Frogs as 45-point favorites to defeat the Kansas Jayhawks.
Instead, as the clock ticked down, TCU coach Gary Patterson said he was too distracted to be thinking about his Heisman candidate quarterback’s wounded ankle, or the 45-point point spread, or the seismic quivering that seemed to be going on beneath his laboring team’s feet.
“I’ll be honest — I was too busy,” Patterson said, after the Frogs had escaped with a 23-17 victory. “Until that last play, I was just trying to stop them.”
Boykin injured his ankle on TCU’s second snap of the game, and Senior Day’s festive, hug-your-mom atmosphere seemed to go downhill from there. When Boykin did return to the sideline, he was helmet-less and noticeably limping, and he spent the rest of the game helping co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham nurse backups Bram Kohlhausen and Foster Sawyer to the finish.
In all, five more Horned Frogs were injured Saturday, running the season total to a sadly ridiculous 23.
“When your long snapper gets hurt and is out for the season … ” Patterson said, shaking his head.
“It’s been an interesting year, for sure.”
Patterson brightened the dark afternoon by immediately revealing that he expected Boykin to play Saturday at Oklahoma.
“We didn’t want to take the chance [Saturday] with the ankle,” he said. “But he’s got to get himself healthy.”
So does certain All-America receiver Josh Doctson, whose injured left wrist confined him to a brief cameo performance and one reception.
The Frogs have lost so many starters to injury this season, truth be told, Patterson is getting a little loopy. Ever furtive, he no longer frowns when a media member asks him about a player injury.
“Sometimes you just don’t have any answers,” Patterson said, “except this is what it is.”
Kohlhausen, a senior who has played capably in brief mop-up appearances this season, struggled to move the offense and was replaced after throwing an interception at the start of the second half.
Sawyer, a redshirt freshman, provided an immediate surge in energy and made his lone pass completion count — a 42-yard touchdown play to Shaun Nixon. It was the TCU offense’s only touchdown of the day.
“To be honest,” Patterson said, “we just didn’t play very well on offense.”
TCU players who came to the postgame interview room shrugged away the suggestion that they had suffered a letdown following last weekend’s loss to Oklahoma State.
But as Patterson said, “I think they learned a valuable lesson today that I can come back and use later on.
“You’ve got to get ready for everybody. You’ve just got to get ready to play.”
Without Boykin, however, most of the game plan had to be tossed out. Instead of calling plays for a Heisman candidate, Meacham and co-coordinator Sonny Cumbie suddenly had to provide a script for a kid whose last big game came in high school.
His star quarterback, Patterson knows, deserves better than what’s happened to Boykin these past two weeks.
“But you’re not going to bother Trevone Boykin,” he said. “I’ll tell you how he is. We had a little boy visit us before the game — a kid with cancer. And there’s Trevone down on his knee, talking to the kid and asking him how his day was going. He knows that kid has it a whole lot worse than he has.”
A sprained ankle, Patterson was suggesting, isn’t about to stop Boykin in this challenging season. He and the rest of the TCU seniors, the coach said, “have been through the gamut. They’ve been through all of it.”
Bowl games. Playoff polls. A rough Big 12 initiation. Lineup-crippling injuries. This group of TCU seniors will be departing with a colorful valise.
“I don’t know how the next two weeks will go — we’re pretty banged up — but this group will play hard,” Patterson promised.
The Frogs are 9-1. Their fate will be determined in their remaining two games against Oklahoma and Baylor.
Yep. This is what it is.