There’s not sugarcoating it. All losses might count for the same in the record books, but some are far worse than others. TCU’s 26-27 loss to the lowly Kansas Jayhawks — a team that had only posted one conference victory since November 2014 prior to Saturday — was nowhere near the category of a “good loss,” if such a term even exists.
The damage from the debacle at Memorial Stadium is glaring. The Horned Frogs are now 3-5 and riding a three-game losing streak, both of which haven’t been seen in Fort Worth since the 2013 season. Once voted No. 3 in the Big 12 preseason media poll and ranked as high as No. 15 in the AP Top 25 poll this season, TCU is now dead last in the Big 12 standings (yes, behind Kansas when factoring in head-to-head) and will need to win three of its last four games — at least one at either West Virginia or Baylor — to merely achieve bowl eligibility.
The final full week of October certainly was far from a normal one for the Frogs, who received news that starting quarterback Shawn Robinson would undergo season-ending surgery before it was announced the following day that star receiver/return specialist KaVontae Turpin had been dismissed from the program in wake of a pair of domestic violence arrests — one which occurred in March and wasn’t brought to light until Turpin was arrested a second time last Sunday. Nor was it a good look for TCU athletics when the university admitted in a statement that the team “did not do enough to get the full story” on the first arrest for Turpin, who played in seven games this season with an outstanding bench warrant.
And yet none of that excuses the loss in Lawrence, which likely would have ended in the form of a TCU victory — albeit another close one — had Darius Anderson not fumbled after running into his own man in the final minutes of play, or if the Frogs had simply fallen on the ball during a last-second free kick to give them a chance of a game-winning field goal. TCU, somehow, found a way to lose to the laughingstock of the FBS — a team that has lost to not one but two FCS opponents dating back to 2015. As was the case for Texas in 2016, the general public won’t be forgetting about TCU’s latest stumble.
Like it or not, there is no other way around it:
This was — and might be for some time — the worst loss in TCU football history under the direction of head coach Gary Patterson.
For all the greatness that Patterson has achieved since being named head coach in 2000 — greatness that shouldn’t be overlooked — losing to Kansas simply can’t fly. The last time the Jayhawks managed a win in Big 12 play, they ultimately managed to get the opposing head coach fired. Of course, Patterson is far more proven as a head coach than Charlie Strong, but a loss to Kansas is the bar-none the most humiliating form of defeat — at least in terms of perception — that this sport has to offer. And that’s why the unthinkable ending to an unthinkable week for TCU takes the crown for the worst-of-the-worst among the 62 defeats the team has endured under Patterson’s watch.
Of course, there were some other candidates that gave the fateful turn of events on October 27, 2018 a run for their money — even if they ultimately fell short in terms of embarrassment and misery. Now is your warning to exit the line, if you would rather not dwell on the low moments of TCU football over the past 18 years.
Sept. 18, 2004 — Texas Tech 70, TCU 35
To this date, TCU’s 35-point loss to Texas Tech in September 2004 stands as the most single-game points surrendered by the Frogs in the Gary Patterson era. And ironically, it was none other than current TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie who started that game under center for the Red Raiders as he torched what is typically the staple of Patterson-coached teams for 441 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. TCU finished the season 5-6, marking just the first of two times that the Horned Frogs have failed to make a bowl game under Patterson.
Sept. 11, 2005 — SMU 21, No. 22 TCU 10
Patterson has used this game year after year as an example of why not to get too caught up on the emotional high after a big win. Just a week after opening the season with a stunning upset of Oklahoma in Norman, TCU returned to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, only to give SMU its first win over ranked opponent in 19 years as the Frogs inexplicably stumbled at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas. The Mustangs jumped out to a 14-3 first half lead, and while TCU was able to pull within four in the third quarter, a 4th quarter SMU touchdown ultimately sealed the deal in the Battle of the Iron Skillet. The Frogs ultimately finished the season at 11-1, but one could only imagine what could have come with an undefeated campaign that included a road win over the 2004 national title runner up.
Nov. 19, 2016 — No. 13. Oklahoma State 31, TCU 6
While the result wasn’t necessarily a shocker given the mismatch on paper, many still found the Horned Frogs lopsided loss two years ago to Mike Gundy and the Cowboys, a game in which TCU surrendered 31 unanswered points, relatively surprising — considering the Frogs had ran all over a top-25 Baylor team by a score of 62-22 in their previous outing. The 25-point loss stood alone as the most-lopsided defeat at Amon G. Carter Stadium under Patterson until Oklahoma handed TCU a 52-27 defeat earlier this month, though the Frogs ultimately had more to show on offense against the Sooners they did the last time the Cowboys rolled into Fort Worth. At the time, TCU’s 6 points were also its fewest points ever scored in a home game under Patterson — a mark that was matched two weeks later in a 30-6 loss to Kansas State in the final week of the regular season.
But to the point.....
It’s one thing to lose in Lubbock during the Leach era, and still as a member of a mid-major conference. The SMU loss was bad, but that was the lone blemish in what was otherwise a dream season for the Frogs. And the loss to Oklahoma State? Ugly no doubt, the Pokes were clearly the better team that season — even before the game began.
Losing to Kansas trumps them all.
Football is a harsh sport. There are harsh hits, harsh seasons (TCU certainly knows a thing or two about that) and ultimately — harsh criticisms, even for the best coaches in the game.
Distracted or not, an inexperienced group or one of veterans, this was the worst loss of the Patterson era for TCU football.