So Yeah... Maybe We Couldn't Replace Him After All.
Whether we were aware of it or not, our sports year was unofficially over when Caleb Merck went under the knife and became unavailable for this season, setting in motion a tragi-comical series of pitching staff injuries that continually derailed our baseball season. But for those of us who couldn't tell that the light at the end of the tunnel we saw as the season wore down was really a more unfriendly version of the Polar Express, that grand slam from ORU's Josh Elder put a pretty fine point on the 2010-2011 TCU sports season. Worse yet, unless you enjoy mid-season, 110 degree MLB games, superstar/David Stern/Nike co-sponsored, bandwagon NBA Championships, or the NFL lockout, you're pretty much out of luck until August when Fall Football practices strike up again.
So, barring a time machine or the ability to alter your body's physiological makeup to that of a bear, eat a bunch of Fuzzy's queso and go into hibernation, it's going to be a LONG summer.
But, before you get Bill and Ted on the phone, let's take a moment to reflect back on what may have been the most monumental sports year in TCU history. As a refresher, last year's sports calendar year ended with the last out sponsored by UCLA Bruins asshat Trevor Bauer, so anything following the CWS is fair game.
Perhaps as a way of the universe saying, "Hey now, TCU fans... slow your roll a bit," following an undefeated football regular season and an even more incredible baseball run, the bulk of the summer was a mostly the intended segue it always is with very little going on until mid August. Of course, outside of our program there were numerous things going on in the college football in regards to Conference Expansion and the BCS, but that was not going to directly effect us until a little bit later. As for August, after months of speculation and anticipation, plans for the newly renovated Amon G Carter stadium were unveiled on August 16th. Clearly I won't bore you with the specifics here as we're all very familiar with what's going on, but needless to say we'll be heading into the Big East with arguably the most state of the art stadium in the conference as a complement to the inarguably strongest team in said Conference.
Then, of course, August also brought what may have been THE biggest TCU related event of the entire calendar year - the Inaugural Spitblood Scramble! Just in time for football season as well as the hottest days of the year, I'd have to say that in year one we had a pretty impressive showing with 49 golfers coming out to support the Purple People Seaters Foundation. Or as it is also known, "thefinch's bank account." I kid, I kid. Despite our best (read: dishonest) efforts, my team was unable to win the coveted Purple Blazers, but we also didn't qualify for the Dead Ass Last Trophies, so I suppose that is a win in and of itself. The Tourney is a little earlier this year so put your teams together ASAP!
So you'd think that coming under 3 weeks before the start of the season, there wouldn't be any bumps in the road between the end of the golf tourney and the kick at Jerryworld, right? WRONG! With kissin' cousin Utah having already left the MWC for cleaner waters, BYU decided that they just couldn't be left out of the Conference shuffle. You see, BYU fancies itself the true state University of the State of Utah, so when Utah was asked to join the Pac 10 over themselves, they simply could not let that transgression go untended. The only problem? No one wanted BYU, so they set out on their own. Believe it or not, this solicited the normal grounded and even handed well wishes from this here website. Of course, Craig Thompson immediately went on an epic, Conference saving tear by putting out feelers and eventually inviting Nevada and Fresno State to join fellow WAC jumper Boise State in the warm confines of the MWC, a move which we all applauded at the time. But, in hindsight, in light of another big announcement that would come later, we have to admit that our unbridled enthusiasm at the addition of those 3 school was extremely foolish optimism and would not have ended well.
So after all of that rigamarole football season was finally underway - and what a phenomenal treat it was. I won't bore you with specific recaps of specific games as I already subjected you to that during the season, but here are the season highlights with links to the recaps in case you want to relive Robert Griffin's mental midgetry (and you should.)
- Kicking off the season in Jerrah World against Oregon State on ESPN. It wasn't always pretty, but we pulled out the win and, most importantly, I escaped the Death Star without pummeling/being pummeled by a middle aged OSU fan. Barely.
- Ro-Bert-Gri-Ffin. clap clap clapclapclap. It'd be easy to forget all that happened that week considering the beat down that inevitably occurred, but Week 3 brought a mediocre blog war, the first Ask-a-Frog post of the season, and lots and lots of hate and bitching. As a matchup with Baylor always should.
- SMU Hate Week 2010 brought a full week of Hate Posts as well and satirical discussions of drug abuse and its effects on America's youth. Oh yeah, also a pretty epic second half take over. Thanks, Kerley!
- Conference play started immediately following the SMU game, but until BYU rolled into town, I'm not sure everyone was fully ready. But there's nothing like the - then - last ever BYU hate week to bring out the worst in all of us. Or the best, depending on how you look at it. Please watch this video again, just as a reminder. It was definitely one of our uglier wins on the season, but after halftime we woke up and realized that these Cougars were a joke ON The field as well, and that was pretty much that.
- Following BYU, the Air Force Falcons came to town in what many believed would be our hardest game of the season to date. A 31-point victory later, the doubters were silenced, but in a cruel twist Kelly Griffin was lost for the year on one of those Government sanctioned chop blocks the service academies specialize in. This was a devastating blow at the time and we all viewed the rest of the season with anxiety minus the anchor of our D line. Let's hope it works out... CLIFFHANGER!!
- In the same week that Spitblood hit our own milestone with our 500,00th visitor, the Frogs had a milestone of their own - a second consecutive MWC Championship Game Matchup with the Utah Utes. Of course, the odds were heavily stacked against us here, although we all had our own version of how and why the Frogs would wind up on top. Utah was undefeated coming into the matchup and was absolutely PUNISHING teams. Sure, they had snuck past Air Force - a team we crushed - the previous week while we tied one hand behind our backs and still smoked UNLV, but that was chalked up to the whole "looking ahead" factor and was not viewed as a flaw. Regardless, not too many folks were on our side when the game kicked off and our run at a second consecutive undefeated regular season coming to an end was all but a foregone conclusion. Too bad for Utah, Josh Boyce didn't get the memo. In the much ballyhooed Dalton/Jordan Wynn battle, Dalton CRUSHED his counterpart as the Frogs rang up a quick 40-0 lead en route to a 47-7 final. I got drunk that day. Oh yeah, and the game also brought this kid into the nation's collective consciousness.
- So after the Utah game we were all riding pretty high and feeling invincible, viewing 12-0 as a foregone conclusion. Then the San Diego State game happened, easily the lowest point of our season. Coach Eddie Williamson even had a heart attack on the sidelines, a terrible omen considering our history with such things. Sure, we scraped a clawed and got the W, but based on our tiny margin for error, this was surely going to be the kiss of death in our hopes of out gunning Boise for the BCS auto bid. Something CATASTROPHIC was going to have to happen if we hoped to make the Rose Bowl. CLIFFHANGER!!!
- The final week of the season brought a slap fight against the New Mexico Lobos, but more importantly the Iron Bowl, the whatever-Oregon-Oregon-State-is-called Bowl and Nevada/Boise State. If any of these games went in our favor, WORST case scenario was the Rose Bowl. And as fate would have it, this games matched up perfectly back-to-back, perfect for post Turkey Day viewing. And my god were they intense. First, Auburn made what would turn out to be only the second most unlikely comeback on the day when they rallied past Alabama by one point in Tuscaloosa. Then Oregon took out the Beavers by a comfortable margin. Down to our last hope in the Nevada Wolfpack, things did not look good as the Broncos took a 24-7 lead into half time, at which point, being on the East Coast at the time, I went to bed with terrible visions of the Las Vegas Bowl dancing in my head. Let's just say I had a pretty nice wake up call that next morning.
- With the Rose Bowl becoming a reality thanks to the leg of Kyle Brotzman, Frog fans had a LONG layover to sit and think about the magnitude of the matchup. Seriously, TCU? In the Rose Bowl? The holiest and most non-inclusive of all the Bowl Games? Some will say we "back doored" our way in. I say enjoy living in East Lansing, Michigan and never seeing the West Coast. Much like the Utah game, TCU was never supposed to win this one. Wisconsin was too big, too tested, too good - some thought they should've been in the title game had Auburn or Oregon stumbled. After we unveiled the greatest Bowl helmets of all time, that should've swayed any dissenters, but we let our play on the field back it up. Again, no reason to rehash exactly what went down because we're all very familiar and have the DVDs to prove it. But my god, if anyone has a better sports memory from their entire existence, I'll be the first to call them a liar. I got drunk again that day. If you were there, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you weren't, seriously lie to your kids and say you were.
So with 13-0 and a second place finish for the Frogs in the record books, it was time to grudgingly move on to the off season, but this time we had even more to look forward to than normal. The rumblings began all the way back in September and continued throughout the season, verging on becoming a distraction to the team in the process. However, what seemed like a pretty standard sign and initial type deal drug on for weeks with negotiations from both sides. And then finally on November 29th, almost 2 months to the day that the rumor mill started churning, and with CDC putting his foot down on how this was going to work, it was official: TCU was casting off its non-BCS chains and joining forces with the Big East. This was seen as a win win for both sides, although I think its 60/40 us. The Big East would get the entrenched and successful college football program it craves as well as access to the fertile recruiting ground the State of Texas offers, and TCU would not only get BCS status but access to the strongest Basketball Conference in the nation. You'd think that everyone would be pretty happy for us and understanding the reasoning from both sides... but clearly you aren't taking aggy into account.
With football season officially in the books, it then became the time we all fear - TCU Basketball season. However, just like every single other year, THIS was the year things were going to be DIFFERENT. THIS was the year we were going to BREAK THROUGH. THIS was the year Christian was going to fit everything into place. And then, the inevitable happened. After opening the year with a 7-3 record, including wins over USC and Tech, the wheels flew off with record speed. Following a locker room dustup after a loss at Nebraska, Sammy Yeager was booted from the team for being an asshole. You may not remember, but Yeager was a pretty integral part of the team's early season "success" so losing him was a MAJOR blow. After dropping a few games heading into Conference play, the Frogs started off 1-1 after they demolished Wyoming in Fort Worth. They Frogs would then take out the Pokes again... only this time it would come 13 games later in the Conference tournament, in the span of which the Frogs did not win a single game. Not ONE. Of course, Ronnie Moss was booted a few games into the streak for some behavioral problems of his own, but the seeds were sewn well before that, likely when we ran off Billy Tubbs, the only successful coach this program has had in recent memory. The Conference Tournament win was a positive for this team to end on, sure, as was a valiant effort in the following loss to BYU, but that last one is a sad sign-o-the-times for this squad where close losses are viewed as moral victories.
Before we completely leave basketball and football though, we have to take into account what turned out to be two successful mid-off season treats with Signing Day, and massively successful where Football is concerned. Armed with two undefeated regular seasons, a new stadium, a Rose Bowl win and one of the most impressive coaching records of the past decade, Patterson locked down the Nation's 26th ranked Recruiting class, headlined by LaDarius Brown, Chuck Hunter, Brandon Carter - who we stole from OU, you'll surely recall - and Deryck Gildon, who is currently doing his best to take someone's spot in the defensive rotation. However, the most memorable of these recruits at present is arguably Houston's Kolby Griffin whose journal entries on Menace are a must read for any Frog fan who likes their players well behaved, well spoken, and well... good.
As for basketball, it was more of a "quality over quantity thing" with the Frogs adding power forwards Aldrick McKinney, Ryan Rhoomes, Connell Crossland and PG Kyan Anderson. Per usual, Crossland and McKinney are JUCO transfers hoping to make an immediate impact, but Rhoomes and Anderson are both studs and will be the faces of this team heading into Big East play.
Not to be outdone by their incoming replacements, the 2011 TCU Draft class made strides as well, none more so than Andy Dalton. Dalton's meteoric rise from unrecognized recruit to unrecognized star to Rose Bowl MVP, Senior Bowl invitee and second round draft pick should still be fresh on our minds. Still, how unlikely was it? I'd say the odds of it were more unlikely than those the Mavs currently have of taking out the Heat. That being the case, let's just say I haven't thrown in the towel on those guys just yet. Also in most numerous draft class in the state of Texas were Jeremy Kerley, Malcolm Williams, Colin Jones and, in one of the more uplifting stories of the entire draft, Marcus Cannon, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in the week leading up to the Draft. Bill Bellichik bought himself a little bit of slack from me with that classy move, although it's pretty much a no brainer to draft first round talent that late in the game. With the NFL lockout showing no signs of being resolved, it may be a while before we see any of these guys on the field, but it's safe to say that Patterson and Co have built themselves a nice little NFL pipline in Fort Worth, yet another recruiting tool to add to an already embarrassing repertoire.
Completely ignoring the fact that the TCU sports season involves anything other than Football, Men's Basketball and Baseball, we move on the Act III of our recap. It's hard to think that any TCU team could have had higher expectations than Football without having even played a game, but after last year's CWS run, I'd argue that baseball was just that team. Returning your entire weekend rotation and a #1 overall pre season ranking will do that. An opening weekend series win over Kansas and a midweek win over Baylor set the tone, but still something just didn't seem right. After a weekend series loss to Fullerton and a midweeker to Dallas Baptist, we had to tape the brakes a little bit, but still, nothing was completely lost. And then, much like he did against Job, God decided we were no longer his favorite baseball team and decided he'd had enough of our success. His first lightning bolt came in the form of Houston Baptist. Then Stephen F Austin. Then the injury bug started biting, and biting hard. Matt Purke, Stephen Maxwell and newly minted Ace Kyle Winker all spent time on the bench which left the coaching staff in a bind as far as cementing a regular rotation. It seems like every time they may have gotten it fixed, another domino would fall. It also didn't help that Jason Coats started the season on the coldest of cold streaks and typically golden glove caliber SS Taylor Featherston lost his mojo. The momentum train would fire up again late in the season as it looked like the Frogs were hitting their stride, but then another setback occurred in the MWC Tournament with two losses and an elimination against lowly New Mexico. But coming on the crest of that letdown was new life as the Frogs, due to surrounding losses, were granted a third consecutive hosting of a regional. Of course, once it was announced that our opponents would not only be three teams we faced this year, but two of them were teams that looked to have our number, the momentum was once again tempered. But after an opening round destruction against Oral Roberts, followed by a quick OU 2 and out, it looked like the Frogs had the break they needed to ride the momentum into week 2. But, as you all well know, the reins were yanked for the final time as DBU squeaked out a Saturday night win and Winkler was lost early in the ORU elimination game. The final twist of the knife was Baylor winning the Houston regional, thus setting up what would've been Fort Worth's first ever hosting of a Super Regional which will surely leave a sour taste in the mouths of every Frog fan in existence.
And with that, the Sports year is doneski, but please don't take that as a sign that Spitblood is closing up shop. In fact, we're far from it as we'll have plenty of bountiful material to keep you giggling in your cubicles well into August, by which time it'll be Football season once again. Stay tuned...