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TCU Football’s offense has struggled in 2020. Time missed by key players has played a role in that.

COVID has changed everything about how the game is played — and coached.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 28 TCU at Kansas Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“I don’t think we got a chance to do what we wanted to do.”

TCU fans have been frustrated with the offensive game plan for much of the season, but in his press conference Tuesday, Gary Patterson gave some insight into much of why things have gone the way that they have on that side of the ball this fall.

“Everybody is about ‘how you should win’ and ‘this is what you should do’. No, there’s a lot of other points that go into playing a game and finding a way to win,” Patterson said in regards to the game plan last Saturday at Kansas. “How do you get out of the ballgame in three hours, keep your team as healthy as you can, be doing the things you need to do?”

Down to less than 50 scholarship players Friday, depth was an issue for TCU, who relied on a handful of walk-ons on special teams and in garbage time in Lawrence. It’s one of the many issues that COVID has exposed in programs across the country, and has impacted teams — and players — in a variety of ways, according to Patterson. And TCU has been hit especially hard, between injuries, transfers, COVID, and unplanned absences. “Let’s just take Max, for instance. We didn’t have spring ball, and he’s just going into a true sophomore season. Then he misses basically between a month and a half and two months of practice while we’re all practicing,” Patterson explained about his sophomore quarterback. He went on to explain that OCs develop offenses and game plans around how players work together, what they do well and what their weakness are. With Duggan missing so much time due to his heart condition, those tangible and intangible qualities are still a work in progress, and thus, so is the offense. “Where would he be right now if he had spring ball, had all those practices during fall camp, and went through all of it to get to a point as far as throwing the football and doing things?”

All of those things are true, and when you think back to all that TCU Football went through in August and September, and how most of us were preparing for a season without Max Duggan at all, it makes sense that the offense has been the slowest part of the team to develop. And while it’s easy to say, well, just put in the next guy, there isn’t always a next guy available. “I see people say, well, they still haven’t fixed this and that. Well to fix something, you have to have a remedy. You’ve got to have something to go to,” Patterson explained. “Well, if you only have five guys, and that’s all you got that can go play, you can’t have a remedy. I mean, there’s no other answer. It’s not like we get free agency and we go out and pick somebody off somebody else’s team.”

There have been many times that TCU has only had five offensive linemen available, and the wide receiver room has been especially bare with four players having transferred and a handful of others missing time for various reasons. It’s been a season of just making it work, and that’s why Patterson continues to take things just one day at a time. “We wanted to get nine games, we got nine games in league play. Right now it’s Oklahoma State. Somebody wanted to ask about the 10th game and I don’t care. Have to get through the ninth game. Come about 2 p.m. Saturday I’ll start worrying about the 10th game, if we have a 10th game by then.”

If the Frogs do have a tenth game, it will be one more shot to work on things. In the meantime, Patterson knows he has a very tough challenge ahead for his team. “You’re going to play a really, really, really good Oklahoma State team; very athletic, all sides of the ball, the way they play special teams. Coach Gundy again has put together a really good football team. So we have a lot of work to do.”