Gil LeBreton

Gary Patterson’s resolve to change lured Sonny Cumbie

Co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie headed to TCU after realizing coach Gary Patterson was willing to change.
Co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie headed to TCU after realizing coach Gary Patterson was willing to change. Star-Telegram

It’s all very Darth Vader, “come over to the dark side, Luke,” if you ask me.

Ten years ago, there was Sonny Cumbie, as Texas Tech quarterback, piling up 70 points — 70 points! — on Gary Patterson’s cherished TCU defense.

And now Cumbie works for Patterson.

(Insert the Vader heavy breathing here).

Sure, Cumbie told Patterson last year that he would consider leaving his roots in West Texas to join TCU in its cosmic quest for more Big 12 touchdowns.

But first he had to know. Was Patterson, a notoriously defense-obsessed head coach, serious? Was he willing to commit completely to a high-horsepower makeover of the Horned Frogs’ offense?

Patterson was, Cumbie related Monday, as TCU continued its preparations for Wednesday’s Peach Bowl.

“He’s the one that went out and did his own research, and he came to the conclusion,” Cumbie said.

If TCU was ever going to get over the Big 12 hump, Patterson realized, it was going to have to have a souped-up offense that could answer the Air Raid sirens that were going off around the league.

“It was a very difficult decision for him,” Cumbie said. “When he said, ‘Well, I know you’re going to have to practice this offense a certain way, and I’m going to let you guys do that,’ right then I knew that he really was serious about it.”

What Cumbie and Patterson knew was that no huddle in games means no huddles in practice.

“A lot of people like this offense,” Cumbie explained, “but if you don’t know how to practice it on a day-to-day basis, you’re not going to be successful. It’s all about how you practice it.”

The result, hastened by the exponential development of quarterback Trevone Boykin, has been what Cumbie called “a great marriage.”

The Frogs scored 71 touchdowns during the regular season. The 2013 team had 37. And Patterson, for the most part, still has been able to cultivate a Patterson-type defense.

Once on the job, alongside co-coordinator Doug Meacham, Cumbie burrowed into the 2013 game tapes and studied every snap, every pass, that Boykin had participated in as quarterback.

“I think the way we practice, the way we install and the way we rep things makes it quarterback-friendly,” Cumbie said. “But it’s not an offense for dummies.

“The biggest thing is Trevone took it seriously. I told him, ‘You don’t know what’s going on, and why is that?’ Because you’d watch and he would just duck his head and take off. So we tried to figure out why that was.

“He just buckled down and learned it. And he’s smart. From the moment that I first sat in front of that meeting room, he was the smartest quarterback we had.”

And as Cumbie and Meacham made clear to him, Boykin was only a quarterback this time around — not a part-time running back or wide receiver, as in the start of the past two seasons.

“I made it clear to him,” Cumbie said. “Let’s see what you can do.”

Boykin’s answer shaped the Frogs’ 11-1 season.

Had he remained on the Tech staff, Cumbie knew he wasn’t going to be calling any plays or running any offenses with ex-quarterback Kliff Kingsbury as head coach.

“But this is a great spot,” Cumbie said. “One of the things you know is that you’re going to have a great defense, so you’re going to have a chance to win every game.

“This offense is really good when it’s clicking, but to ask this offense to go 12-for-12 over 12 games, it’s really hard, as we saw in the West Virginia game and the Kansas game.

“You’ve got to have a quarterback that can do some things, you’ve got to be able to run the ball when you’re not having a good day throwing it like we were at West Virginia, and a defense that can win you the game. And we can do that here.”

Cumbie was at quarterback for Mike Leach-coached Texas Tech on the 2004 afternoon when the Red Raiders rolled over TCU — and Patterson’s defense — by a score of 70-35.

What goes around, this proves, sometimes gets hired around.

Seventy-one touchdowns later, the marriage is going great.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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