Kyle Hicks back?
Its head coach, deadlocked at three games apiece in a series battle with the Mountaineers, sauntered to the podium Wednesday. A wry smirk graced his features as he gripped the edges of the stand and, in a moment of quiet confidence, dropped a mini-bombshell on the room.
“He was out practicing [today], but I think we have to be smart,” Gary Patterson said. “I don’t think it needs to be a 20-25 carry game with him. I think he needs to work himself back into the offense. He doesn’t need to, either. It’s good to have a guy like Darius (Anderson) that’s really come on, Sewo (Olonilua) and (Kenedy) Snell. (Shaun) Nixon’s gotten some reps, too.”
TCU has always played well when they have something to prove or the big stage to show out on. They’ll have both on Saturday with GameDay in town.
“We’ll see,” Patterson said. “With ‘GameDay’ going to be here and everything, if they’re not fired up to go play the ballgame, besides trying to get to 5-0, I can’t help them much with that. It’s really exciting. I’m really glad that ESPN chose to come, because it’s been since 2009. I’m glad we got ourselves in a position where we could do that.”
But Patterson is trying to pull off a balancing act between letting his team feed off the emotion of the ‘GameDay’ visit and not allowing his players to think they’ve arrived.
“We’ve only played four ballgames,” Patterson said. “How do we move forward from here? We’ve got a lot of football to do. ... The next four weeks are four weeks that you’ve got to get to.”
Death. Taxes. And pyramid talk every time TCU makes it into the top ten. \
On a row labeled “Don’t Back Down” to mark the five Big 12 road games, the first of the five is listed as OSU. So there is only a thin strip of purple to signify the 44-31 win in Stillwater more than a week ago.
“Just a slice of what we need to fully accomplish,” safety Niko Small said Tuesday. “It’s a whole pyramid. Just winning one part of it, or not building a foundation, it could crumble. ... That’s not really aesthetic to look at and just see a whole bunch of white through the purple. But once you see it, and there’s a lot of purple on it, it looks a lot better.”
Some want to say TCU’s defense has fallen off since they entered the Big 12, but that’s just not true. And this is another one of those seasons where GP is proving that.
But it will also highlight one of the constants in college football for nearly two decades: the well-respected, schematic, defensive mind of coach Gary Patterson.
Five times during his 17-year tenure, TCU has led the nation in total defense. And this season’s resurgence – rising to No. 8 in the top 25 after being projected to lurk in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 – is largely due to this veteran defensive unit playing more like a Patterson-esque defense.
“I get too much credit,” Patterson said Tuesday. “I hear the word guru and all this kind of stuff. Let me tell you why people are good at what they do: Because you have good players and you have a lot of hard work that goes in. Period.”
The Horned Frogs (4-0) are tied for third nationally with three defensive touchdowns this season. They rank first or second in the league in rushing defense, sacks, total defense and scoring defense. More noteworthy, they schemed up a way to harass Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph and intercept three passes in the surprising Sept. 23 win in Stillwater.
Patterson has been around the block, and part of what makes him so good is that he’s never too high or too low. And, when he has a veteran team, they copy his emotion.
In 2005, TCU followed a 5-6 season with 11-1. In 2014, the Horned Frogs went from 4-8 to 12-1 and within a whisker of making the first College Football Playoff. And though there’s plenty of work remaining for the Horned Frogs this time, the trajectory is once again pointing toward the theory that Patterson himself might handle failure better than success.
“I remember in 2004; we’d been here since 1997, and 2004 was the first losing season we’d had,” Patterson said. “It was my third or fourth year as a head coach, and I remember a kid saying to me, ‘I thought we were just TCU and we wouldn’t lose.’
“We’re in a pro market, a world of instant (gratification), so what happens is people lose their way. I watch them on TV and say, ‘You better be careful, he’s becoming invisible.’ When you think you can say anything because of who you are or do anything and nothing’s going to happen to you. As you find out in this day and age, that’s not true anymore. Becoming invisible is how you fall. I suppose it would be that I’ve been probably a better underdog than I am a front-runner.”