Several carrots dangling in front of Frogs
November, 17, 2011
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
This is becoming old hat, but it shouldn't become old news: A win Saturday against Colorado State would be the 45th over the last four seasons for this year's TCU Horned Frogs senior class, making them the winningest class in school history. It would mark the fourth consecutive season that the seniors have topped the one before it.
Now that's consistency.
The jury was certainly out on this class winning nine or more games, especially after the 3-2 start. TCU lost a number of key seniors last season, including four-year starting quarterback Andy Dalton and several defensive stalwarts. The Horned Frogs -- with 18 seniors (seven who start), compared to 26 last year -- returned one of its younger teams in years. Coach Gary Patterson has played six true freshmen this season, the most he's ever played in his 11 seasons at TCU. The 22 freshmen (six true, 16 redshirt) that have played is tied for 15th nationally. They battled back into the national polls and BCS rankings this week at No. 19 across the board.
For much of the season, this team has acted like a young one, often frustrating Patterson with a more relaxed approach than he would prefer, even on the eve of last week's big battle at Boise, which came on the heels of a slew of sloppy turnovers that nearly cost them the game at Wyoming.
"I walked in this [meeting] room and they weren’t ready to go play a ballgame in Boise. I walked in and just told them, 'I’d be lying, I’d be sending you somewhere that you don’t need to be sent to; you’re not ready to play,'" Patterson said. "I said, 'I’m not trying to be negative, I'm not trying to tell you anything different,' I said, 'but the bottom line is you’re not ready to play. I’ve watched you.'
"Physically, they got ready, but mentally they didn’t get ready."
Patterson said concentration and motivation shouldn't be an issue with the stakes high for the senior class as well as unexpectedly lofty for the team as a whole. Along with the senior wins record on the line, TCU can tie for no less than a tie for the Mountain West Conference championship. Two victories make it three consecutive MWC titles. But, wait, there's more.
"If I’ve got to get them motivated for this one then you don’t deserve to win a championship," Patterson said. "They’ve got a chance to be a part of three out of four years of championships. You’ve got to win one out of two to tie for it, but if you want to give yourself a chance to do anything else as far as BCS, you’ve got to win these ballgames."
Yes, a BCS berth, remarkably, is alive.
The Frogs will need Conference USA frontrunners, No. 11 Houston Cougars and No. 20 Southern Miss Golden Eagles, each to lose once, but the BCS is a mighty motivational carrot to dangle in front of a team that no one figured would follow in the BCS footsteps of the past two veteran-laden squads.
"I’ll be really surprised," Patterson said, "if they don’t come ready to play."