It's pretty amazing, isn't it? We all woke up a few mornings ago to some of the worst news we could ever imagine, and yet, somehow, it made for a memory few of us would ever believe was possible. We will have much more to say over the course of the week, but for now, the last Three Up, Three Down of a very special 11 win season.
I am going to do something a little different and get all of the "DOWNS" out of the way first, so we can finish on a high note.
DOWN: The Alamo Dome: Before the second half, most Frog fans were thinking that the only thing they would remember from the Alamo was the long lines that permeated most of the arena. Water sold out around halftime in most sections; beer was gone by the end of the third. It was unbearably hot throughout the seating areas, and at least where I was sitting, the audio was terrible at best, impossible to hear at worst. Restroom lines were also bad, and the climb to the top was tough for any fan to make. On that note, as good of a host city as San Antonio was, they were ill-prepared for the mass of humanity released from the Dome after the game. 40,000 + Frog fans filtered into the city, wading through the rain and in search of food and drinks - since the stadium had sold out - there were few options available. Lines were out the door for most bars, and the two places open for food - Whataburger and McDonald's - were so packed it was nearly impossible to get inside. This isn't your first rodeo, SA, I was shocked there weren't any food options. And hangry, because I went to bed hungry :(.
DOWN: Slow Starts: It was a problem for most of the season and things were no different in the final game of the year. TCU came out sluggish and disinterested, perhaps worn down by the bad news earlier in the week, perhaps not focused because they hadn't really had time to deal with Boykin not playing. There are a litany of excuses, but at the end of the day, they don't change the fact that the Frogs fell behind 31-0, and frankly, it could have been worse. Looking back, it's a totally different narrative if this is a closer game, so in a way, it's a blessing that things played out the way they did. But a main focus in the off-season needs to be getting the team to come out firing on all cylinders, no matter the opponent or the circumstances.
DOWN: Injury to (almost) Insult: Of course, the season would end the way it started - and the way it always was. The Frogs lost several key players during the game, not to mention before, as scores of them seemingly limped off the field throughout four quarters and three OTs. I know Oregon dealt with their own major losses - QB and starting center - but they had a 28 point lead at the time. TCU had to scrap back from down 31 with (at one point) their only available receivers being Tony James (true freshman), Jaelan Austin (true freshman), Jarrison Stewart (true freshman), and Desmon White (true sophomore). None of those players were regular starters, and combined, they had only a handful of starts between them this season. But, as someone pointed out, these are probably the guys that Bram was most comfortable throwing to, since they are the ones running with the second team in practice.
Also... bonus DOWN to whichever Oregon fan sold the sideline pass to Bram's mom. I know you paid a lot for the access, I know you were probably crushed, but don't charge the kid's mom to get down on the field to be with her son. That's just not cool.
UP: Backup QBs Being Ready to Play: Bram had one hour of practice time and a walkthrough to prepare himself to start against Oregon, as he only had two days notice that the job would be his, surprisingly. While he had taken some garbage time snaps early in the year, he got pulled from Kansas before coming *this* close to leading a massive second half comeback against Oklahoma on the road - in a game he didn't start. Bram looked a little lost early, but it's a testament to his ability and his character - as well as the excellent coaching staff employed by Coach P and TCU - that he was able to come back in the second half and rally his team and himself. That's a kid with some guts and some heart, and that's some outstanding coaching. It was ironic that Oregon, playing with their backup QB for the second half and OT, couldn't hold the lead, while TCU, playing with their backup, only got better throughout the game. Sure, you can say Oregon was unlucky to lose their guy, but the Frogs never had theirs. Yet, they were the ones that never gave up.
UP: Local Boys Doing Good: It was a great homecoming for three of TCU's stars in San Antonio, as Aaron Green, Ty Summers, and Derrick Kindred made not only their team, but their city proud. Green did what he does - as he racked up almost 150 total yards and was crucial in the final drive of regulation, carrying the load for a banged-up Bram and taking the ball almost all the way to the end zone. Once again, as he has done so often this year, when his team needed a clock-bleeding, momentum shifting, overpowering scoring drive, he delivered. He is going to be really hard to replace, not just from a talent standpoint, but a leadership one as well. On the other side of the ball, linebacker Ty Summers continued his late season tear - compiling double digit tackles and making a crucial sack on third and long in the third overtime after Lockie fumbled the snap. Kindred doesn't have wow stats, but he was once again the leader in the secondary, keeping the Frogs locked in on defense in the second half after they had been torched in the first two quarters. Peanut was probably the most indispensable player on the TCU defense this season, and the news that he played all year with a broken collarbone just adds to his lore.
UP: Frog Fans: Yes, there are a ton more good things to say about players and coaches, I could talk about #BrightSide and #ThePurpleShirtWorks, but I want to give my final shout out to you - the TCU fans. The Alamo Dome sounded like a home game, it was loud, it was proud, and if I close my eyes, I can still hear chants of T-C-U in my head. Purple shirted supporters flooded the streets of San Antonio despite the dreary weather, tailgated their hearts out in the rain, and overwhelmed Duck fans in sheer numbers. It was so loud in the Dome that it felt like a home game for the Frogs, causing me to remark that the Alamo Bowl is what Amon G Carter Stadium would sound like if it were a dome. Sure, we were pretty despondent at halftime, but even so, it seemed very few fans exited the building. And when TCU finally got on the board in the third, a murmur of excitement began - not a sarcastic applause, but an actual celebration. When TCU recovered the fumble, it rocked. When they scored their first touchdown, the building shook. And I have never heard anything quite as loud as the raucous release of noise when Bram tiptoed into the end zone in the third OT - at least until Denzel Johnson knocked the ball away at the goal line on the ensuing Oregon fourth down. TCU hasn't always been known for being great fans - but the last two seasons, the whole energy surrounding the program has changed. Sure, winning helps a whole lot, but it seems most of the folks in San Antonio were there to support a senior class and a group of young men and coaches who have battled adversity all season long, and never given up. We fans didn't give up either. And, we were all rewarded with something truly special.
Until September, Football Fans...