Typically in this space I would take the time to break down the game of the weekend just a bit as well as offer up a few thoughts about things going forward. However, in light of last night's events, I want to do things a little differently this morning. All you need to know about the game is this: The team did exactly what they needed to do. They destroyed a team they were far better than by 47 points, giving the voters enough evidence to make a fair assessment of how to rank them. And, they seemed to play even better once the USM demolition of Houston was announced on the stadium PA - nice touch, TCU announcer - which helped ease the minds of those who thought they might get caught scoreboard watching. The defense played VERY well and did their part long enough for the offense to get rolling - Kris Gardner scored a TD, they held the Rebels to ZERO of 15 on third down and only gave up 164 total yards, including 48 through the air. Greg McCoy had a nice Senior Day, returning his second TD on a kickoff and allowing no completions to his side of the field and was among the 19 to finish as the most successful TCU class ever. Casey Pachall didn't have a huge game, but he didn't have to. Neither did Matthew Tucker, Waymon James or Ed Wesley. When you can put up 56 points against anyone without your QB passing for 200 yards or having a back even sniff 100, you've made it look pretty easy, which is exactly what needed to be done.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough.
I'm just as confused as many of you. Not because I really thought it would happen; with Baylor and Clemson destroying their competition and Michigan State only losing by three, the writing was on the wall and I never truly got my hopes up Sunday afternoon. A lot of you probably have qualms with Georgia and Oklahoma staying ahead of us despite their lackluster performances Saturday, but the Dawgs three losses have come against teams in the Top 9 and OU apparently had high enough computer rankings to make their odds of falling beneath us slim at best. All along I knew we had two things going against us - losing to a bad SMU team at home and the unprecedentedness of being a two loss automatic bid candidate from a non-AQ Conference. There had never even been a ONE loss non-AQ BCS participant. This, above all else, always gave me the biggest fits. Think about it - the BCS is the most elitist institution in sports with the most fickle voters. When it comes to putting pen to paper, did you ever really think they would completely forget how the system was designed to keep teams like TCU out in the first place? I'm not suggesting a conspiracy - the Coaches' DID rank us 15th, after all - but that was always a major sticking point with me and something I pictured being our downfall.
I completely understand the frustration. The 50 of us in Section V who braved the elements to watch the game live and in person Saturday were downright giddy each time someone got a hint of a cell phone signal long enough to update us on the offensively slow times at Cougar High. And when our game ended Texas was still teasing us by being competitive in Waco, thus furthering the elation. I even had a not-completely-tongue in cheek conversation along the lines of, "Hell, why are we joining a BCS Conference, let's just keep getting bids this way!!" as things were winding down. Like I said, the Clemson and Michigan State outcomes weren't heartening at all, but I think most everyone had at least talked themselves into Houston getting drop kicked out of the top 15, Georgia slipping more than two spots and OU sliding right past us, which SHOULD have been enough to get us in. As fate would have it, nothing happened, we remained at 18th in a week where we dominated our opponent after gaining two spots during our bye week, and we have to move on.
Let's take off our spoiled, "If we're not in the BCS, I'm not paying attention" colored glasses for a minute and put this thing in perspective. We all woke up the morning of September 3rd with a sour taste in our mouths. The Frogs had just lost a nail biter to our oldest, bitterest rival the Baylor Bears, which was even more painful when you consider the Bears ran their mouths all off-season and then backed it up. Our once inpenetrable defense had been shredded, our leading tackler from the year before was lost for the season, Tank Carder was playing like he was on sleepy time drugs and Ed Wesley was on the sidelines. All that we knew for sure was that our brand spanking new offensive line was going to be fine and that we had ourselves a pretty good QB of the future, although he was going to need some time to hit his stride, perhaps even an entire season. But still, I'd have to imagine quite a few among our ranks chalked up the Air Force game the following week as a loss, probably felt bad about BYU and most certainly gave us no chance in hell at Boise. I'm certainly guilty of this attitude. Of course, the Frogs followed up the Baylor loss with a nice win at Air Force, followed by a closer than it should've been game against ULM and a beatdown of Portland State, but you're lying if you said you felt any better about the rest of the season than you did on September 3rd. Turns out we were right. You all know what happened on September 30th, which puts us in the position we're in now.
Then three things happened. One, Patterson had a VERY un-typical postgame meltdown, blaming the refs and lashing out at SMU Coach June Jones for fuzzy reasons, turning the media and quite a bit of the college football world against him. Almost immediately afterwards, TCU received that coveted invite to the Big 12 they'd longed for since the SWC disbanded which gave the team new life, but led certain factions to call the Frogs "disloyal" and "opportunistic," ironic considering how the CFB landscape had been trending before and after that moment. Those two incidents led to the third thing, which is that TCU began playing with new life and finally got that chip back on their shoulder, the same one that had led to the successes of the preview two seasons. At San Diego State, they overcame turnovers and a late comeback attempt by the Aztecs to move to 2-0 in Conference play, absolutely ate New Mexico's soul, held off a better than expected BYU team and avoided a trap game in Laramie, setting up the Conference Championship in Boise the MWC had anticipated, although without the hype. Against all odds, including some of the ballsiest play calling ever by Patterson, as well as the most egregiously pro-home team officiating ever seen, the Frogs pulled out the win and have now coasted to 7 straight wins, including 24 straight Conference victories. We're Conference champs for the third consecutive year and leave the Mountain West on the highest note possible within that framework. When you go to bed tonight, frustrated about the Poinsettia Bowl, just think about how Craig Thompson feels and it will make it better, I promise.
It's here that I'm going to state an opinion that may not sit well with everyone, but one that I firmly believe: Without the SMU loss, we don't beat Boise, finish second in the Conference and wind up in San Diego anyway. I understand it sounds foolish to suggest that one game can directly lead to the outcome of another, but think about it. The mindset of the team CLEARLY changed after that loss. Instead of worrying about rankings and Conference Championships and the BCS, they took the games on a week to week basis and played like a team with nothing to lose and everything to prove. If we roll into Boise 8-1 with a high ranking and a BCS berth directly in our sights instead of 7-2 and nothing, does Patterson call the 2 point play to win it? Does Casey Pachall play with the loose, no pressure attitude that he did and have the game of his career? Do we get all of the same nauseating calls against us to set up the karmic shift in the form of Dan Goodale's gimpy leg? I say no. I say we show up high strung and let the pressure of the moment directly impact the game in a negative way. With Boise jumping ship too, a BCS almost all but assured no matter the outcome, and the Broncos having little chance of a national title bid , perhaps Craig Thompson refrains from using the Buffalo Wild Wings phone and things are called a little more evenly. Without the adversity of losing a game they had no business losing, what ammunition do Patterson and his staff have to refocus the teams' mindset from, "We should win because we're TCU" to "We won't win unless we play up to our potential"? All of those things played a HUGE role in the win and you're crazy if you believe otherwise.
Let's be honest, 10-2 was a BEST case scenario for this season. Thinking back to September 3rd, if someone had given you the option of beating SMU but losing to Boise or beating SMU but losing to Boise, which means you'd also lose the Conference, I'd have to imagine a lot of us would've taken the latter. I realize the Poinsettia Bowl is a drag. It's a drag because we thought we were going to get a backstage pass into the BCS. It's a drag because we've been there twice before. It's a drag because, as Conference champs, at the very least we should have received an invite to Las Vegas. It's a drag because it's before Xmas and few of us will be able to travel. It's a drag because of the opponent; if we're being honest, until the projections started coming out, I just assumed LT was in the Sun Belt. But those are all pretty petty reasons to be upset. After all, it's a lot better than Tech's Bowl game. Most importantly though, YOUR football team is still playing in it. Not that I expect many, if any, current Horned Frogs read Spitblood, but regardless if they do or not, the team feeds off of fan emotion a LOT more than you think. Read twitter sometime, because they talk about fan support, or lack thereof, with some frequency. If we're all mopey and bitchy and whiny about the bowl destination, how do you expect them to show up ready to play? I'm not saying fan support will be the reason for a win or a loss because the coaching staff has shown time and time again that they're capable of targeting focus, but it's not going to help matters if we all resign ourselves to the "Bah!Humbug!" attitude espoused on this very site yesterday. You know what's worse than playing Louisiana Tech? Losing to Louisiana Tech, a very real possibility if we show up flat because you KNOW they'll be fired up. Let's do our parts to help out.
I'm as bummed out as most of you because, despite my logical brain, I would've had to be a robot not to have held out a LITTLE bit of hope for a BCS game, even as the twitterverse was telling me otherwise. (Speaking of: How much has twitter ruined ESPN's hold on the BCS Selection process? I knew at least 2 hours before the show that Virginia Tech was in, TCU was out and OSU did not jump Bama. Kind of kills the excitement. At least I knew there was no need to watch Craig James.) But let's not allow the venue where we finish the season to tarnish the reality of how we got there. It's been one of the most memorable Gary Patterson coached TCU seasons ever, a sentiment he'd surely admit in private, even if it took a gallon of truth serum and liter of bourbon to get it out of him. Let's just enjoy the high points, learn from the low, and view this BCS snub as the first dousing of fuel for the Big 12 fire next season. We won't know for sure until it happens, but I have a feeling we're going to look back at this moment when we're knocking off Texas in Austin, Oklahoma State in Stillwater or Oklahoma at Amon G and realize we wouldn't have been there without it. Keep your chins up, Frog fans and let's kick the crap out of the Bulldogs. Go Frogs.