In the wake of last week’s soul-crushing defeat, they cried.
Not all of the Horned Frogs, a few eyewitnesses said, but enough of them that it reminded the head coach of another gut-wrenching night, the 2008 loss in Utah that probably cost TCU a Sugar Bowl trip.
“This group cares,” coach Gary Patterson said Saturday, trying to explain how a team gives up 61 points one week and then holds the No. 15 team in the land out of the end zone the next.
It was Hangover Saturday in the Big 12, and Oklahoma State was the Frogs’ aspirin.
“I was proud of the way they bounced back,” Patterson said after TCU’s one-sided 42-9 triumph over the Cowboys.
A half-world away in the mountains of West Virginia, the other team in last week’s 61-58 melodrama apparently didn’t handle Hangover Saturday quite as well. Baylor’s 41-27 loss to the Mountaineers will resonate throughout the rankings and conference standings.
Stop looking at the scoreboard, though, Patterson cautioned. The Big 12 is too balanced, its schedule too lined with ambushes.
“My advice to anybody would be to just try to win the game you’re playing, and not worry about someone else,” Patterson said.
The first order of business for TCU last week, therefore, was to cease worrying about the game before. And Patterson said he saw signs of that as early as last Sunday.
“They practiced better on Sunday after the Baylor game than they did after the Oklahoma win,” the head coach noted.
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After Saturday’s victory over the Cowboys, Patterson tried to shoulder all of the blame for the loss in Waco and the seven touchdowns and 782 yards that the Frogs allowed.
“I put too much defense in,” said the staff’s defensive savant. “I confused them.
“I told them I wouldn’t do that to them again.”
It was noble of Patterson to fall on the sword, but a lot of defenses get discombobulated when playing the Baylor Bears’ offense. Whether it was simpler coverages, however, or a sharper focus, the Frogs responded in dominating fashion.
And as the coach also pointed out, nothing makes a defensive coach breathe more easily than seeing his team’s offense score three early touchdowns.
Maybe, it was suggested, the previously 5-1 Cowboys were unworthy of their No. 15 national ranking.
Maybe. But 42-9 is what good teams are supposed to do to over-ranked opponents.
The Frogs went above and beyond. On Hangover Saturday, not only did they hold Oklahoma State to three field goals, but they also ran for 261 yards, passed for 415 and generally played as crisp a football game as they’ve ever played in the Big 12.
A week after the coach underlined the running game as a festering trouble spot, TCU tailback B.J. Catalon rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Josh Doctson added seven pass receptions for 225 yards, second-most in school history.
The day’s most dynamic and decisive performance, however, came from quarterback Trevone Boykin, part of last week’s eye of the storm. Boykin threw for three touchdowns and had seven completions of 20 or more yards.
With the defense focused on keeping Oklahoma State out of the end zone, Boykin’s contributions — with his left wrist in a soft cast — were more than enough.
“One of the things we emphasized last week was just playing four full quarters,” Catalon said. “At practice, we said, ‘Finish the game, finish the practice.’ ”
Patterson said he promised his team, as late as Saturday morning, that he wouldn’t burden them with over-preparation again.
“To see what happened a week ago,” he said, “it’s a tribute to those guys for fighting back.”
This group cares, Patterson said. He saw it a week ago in Waco in their tear-stained eyes.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “But when you’ve got a group that cares and plays together, you’ve got a chance to win football games.”
Like that 2008 TCU team. It lost that crushing night in Utah, but many of those same Frogs came back the next year to win 12 games, and 27 of their next 28 games over two seasons, including the Rose Bowl.
But you can draw your own comparisons. Patterson said he just wants to get this team bowl-eligible first.
On Hangover Saturday, his team seemed to be feeling just fine.