I’m having a really hard time coming up with something to write today, but I feel obligated to say something. I have read back over the quotes from yesterday, and to be honest, there’s not a lot to glean from them — at least not anything that has me inspired.
Gary Patterson took the podium quickly, Saturday, immediately pontificating on just how even the Big 12 is this year. The league certainly has talent discrepancies at the top and bottom, but can you tell me a conference that has more coaching talent, top to bottom, than the Big 12? Maybe that’s why, when Gary Patterson said “we’re just good enough we can beat anybody we got in this league and we’re just good enough we can get beat by anybody in this league,” it felt less like lip service and more like a statement of fact.
That’s the rub for Frog fans — though Patterson will remind you on one hand that there are no moral victories will pointing out that his team played pretty badly in spots but managed to lose by just seven points on the road on the other — it’s obvious that this group of players has the talent to win a lot of ball games but they have yet to figure out how to close the deal on Saturdays.
The word of the day was execution — Patterson talked about feeling really good about the game plan but that winning and losing usually comes down to “assignments and guys got to make plays”. Saturday, the defense made a lot of plays, bailing the offense out by forcing to punts and a missed field goal after the first three turnovers before allowing the 62 yard run by Chuba Hubbard after Max Duggan’s third pick of the day. And, really, outside of Hubbard’s two long runs and the Spence Sanders scoring scamper, they did their jobs — but when you play against a guy like Chuba, one blown assignment or one missed tackle is all it takes to go from ‘we’re doing okay’ to being the first defensive unit of the Gary Patterson era to allow a 200 yard rusher.
Patterson has been hesitant to be overly complimentary of his freshman QB, probably because he knew this game was coming. Duggan didn’t throw a pick until last week against Texas, but it was only a matter of time before he looked like a true freshman — and the tough road environment in Stillwater was certainly the additive to bring that to fruition. After the game, when asked about what Max could learn from such a game, GP didn’t pull any punches. “There’s no value in losing. As soon as you put value in losing, then you need to quit. It’s simple.” He went on to draw a comparison to the last freshman QB that started for him, easily recalling a moment from that first year (all the way back in 2007). “It’s like Andy Dalton when we played Air Force (September 13, 2007) and we threw a fade when we’re supposed to be running so we can kick a field goal — and they intercept it and went down and beat us in overtime. There was no value in it. We got beat in overtime. That’s what you need to understand. There’s no in-between.” While Patterson wasn’t quite willing to call it a growing experience for his team or his QB, the guy who caught the most balls from Duggan Saturday and the leader of a defensive unit that fought to give it back to him found some silver linings. “He can only grow up and get more experience and become better because he’s so young,” star receiver Jalen Reagor said. “With it being his first year and him playing as much as he is, he has nothing but room to grow.” Defensive leader, linebacker Garret Wallow, agrees. “Max is a good player. He’s going to be very good down the road. He’s a good player now. He just needs experience. When I was younger I needed experience. All of us at some point in time were young players that needed to get a feel for the speed and I think Max is pretty good. He’s very strong and you couldn’t tell he was a freshman how he handled himself and I’m proud of him.”
Lest you think GP’s stance is too tough or too old-school, he’s here to remind you why it’s not.” That’s how we built this program. There’s no moral victories.” But he didn’t put the loss on his quarterback either. “Bottom line to it is, this is game eight, we’ve all been together enough, we know what we did and what we didn’t do.”
The players, for their part, recognize how close they are, while feeling the same frustration that we all do. “You get tired of that happening,” Reagor said. “You’re so close to winning games, maybe 3-5 plays that separates between you winning and losing. It’s frustrating, but you just got to keep going back to work.” Wallow feels it, too. “For us to stop big plays like that, every one of the 11 guys on the field have to do their job, and there’s too many of us that didn’t do our job — and that’s on us. Execution was a big key in this game and we didn’t execute like we should have.”
Despite the frustration and the close losses and all the reasons we can find to want to give up, this team is two wins away from making a bowl game and get two more teams at home. And let’s be honest, will anyone be all that disappointed in whatever happens the rest of the way if TCU is the team to knock the Bears from the reigns of the unbeaten? I think a lot will be forgiven if that’s the case.
Let’s be there and be loud and do our part to make that happen.