I enrolled at TCU in 2009. That year, the team capped an undefeated season with a trip to the Fiesta Bowl and a loss to Boise State. Quarterback Andy Dalton’s confused look for the majority of those four quarters belied the seemingly easy confidence with which he had barreled through the season. The following year, Dalton was back in much better form in the Rose Bowl, where TCU beat Wisconsin to finish the season undefeated. As a student, I had free admission to games, and I got hooked.
People say now that the program didn’t get the respect it deserved. That’s not true of 2016 –– the mediocre 6-6 record reflected games that TCU should have won handily but didn’t (Texas Tech) and games in which a little additional effort might have produced a W (Arkansas). That’s the story of the season.
Sure, this was a rebuilding year after Heisman-nominated quarterback Trevone Boykin, receiver Josh Doctson, and kicker Jaden Oberkrom had graduated. This season brought two QBs: Kenny Hill Jr., a Texas A&M transfer who showed Boykin-like flashes of brilliance, and Foster Sawyer, a sitting duck in the pocket. Neither had any consistent vertical game, so when Hill couldn’t bust a move on his own, TCU had a lot of three-and-outs. Even TCU’s wins were marked by sloppy play, a passel of missed field goals, and lots of missed tackles.
In previous years, if the team was playing badly in the first half, Coach Gary Patterson would go into the locker room, change a shirt, yell, or do whatever he does with or to the players, and the next half of the game would be better. It didn’t work this year.
During TCU’s 12-1 2014 season, Boykin made the quarterback position fully his, and the team looked almost as good as the 2010 version. Last year, Boykin led the Frogs to a respectable 10-2 regular season that culminated with the Valero Alamo Bowl against the Oregon Ducks. Boykin, a sure bet for an early slot in the NFL draft, inexplicably imploded the night before the big game and got arrested during a bar fight. Give Coach P credit –– if you screw up publicly on his team, you’re on the bench, no matter how much that hurts. True to form, the coach benched Boykin for backup Bram Kohlhausen, who spent the first half whiffing passes. At halftime, that old Patterson mojo kicked in. Kohlhausen morphed into a demon, leading the Frogs to an insane 47-41 comeback in easily the most exciting bowl game that year.
Looking for someone to blame for the team’s current woes, I am purposefully ignoring Patterson, the winningest coach in school history. When your kicker’s missing routine field goals and your QB and receivers can’t connect on simple flare patterns, it’s probably not the coach.
Which brings us back to this mediocre year. TCU still got a bowl game bid –– the 14th in Patterson’s 16-year tenure. Despite some bright moments, including a long Hill pass that John Diarse magically grabbed the end zone, two field goal attempts and a PAT failed. TCU lost to the equally mediocre Georgia Bulldogs by eight. After the game, Coach P told it like it was.
“Bottom line,” he told ESPN, “it’s our fault.”