With the 2020 regular season over, and bowl announcements soon to be made, it’s as good a time as any to take a look back over the season that was and think about what might have been.
This is also my invitation to you all to get back involved with the discussion part of Frogs O’ War; to chime in with your voice and your opinions, to agree or disagree with our staff and/or each other.
Keep the discussion relatively civil and the gifs PG-13 rated and we will have some fun.
So, this is the first in what I hope will become a regular series shared by many of our different writers over the course of the year: The Friday Off-Topic. The goal each week will be to bring something tangentially related to College Sports or TCU Athletics and have some fun with it.
Which game or play would you want back from the 2020 season, or any point of the Gary Patterson era of TCU Football?
My pick is of the 2020 variety, and is a... well, pick.
In a season that saw the Horned Frogs win five of their final six games to finish with a 6-4 record, it’s important to be thankful for a strong finish. Especially in a year that should have a big ol’ asterisk next to it. The future is certainly bright for TCU Football, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a few regrets, too.
For me, there is one play that could have potentially changed the entire course of the season and taken TCU from “also-ran” to Big 12 contender.
TCU Football’s season-opener was delayed due to COVID protocols within the Horned Frogs’ program, meaning that the Frogs’ first game of the 2020 season was also their first Big 12 Conference game of the year. They faced an upstart Iowa State team, a program that many considered a dark horse title contender in this weirdest of seasons.
At this point, we were still unsure what TCU’s quarterback situation would be; with Max Duggan on the mend from heart surgery, fans weren’t 100% sure that he would be cleared to play ever again, let alone this season, let alone in the opener.
But shortly before game day, it was announced that Duggan had returned to the practice field and to full-contact football, and would in fact be dressed and on the sideline for the Frogs’ matchup with the Cyclones in Fort Worth.
But he would not start.
In his place was the man we had talked ourselves into a season of if necessary, Georgia transfer — and brother of GA Michael — Matthew Downing.
Downing had a solid pedigree, a ton of high school accolades, and had been good enough to take snaps in garbage time for the Bulldogs. He wasn’t Max Duggan, but could he be an effective game-manager? Sure.
Things started okay for TCU, that day, as Downing engineered a 13 play, 43 yard play that ended In a blocked field goal after a third down sack. The second drive was more of the same: eat up some yards, eat up some clock, but two incompletions sandwiched around another sack led to a Jordy Sandy punt.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Iowa State offense clicked, scoring on a 75 yard Breece Hall run. But Downing responded, connecting with Quentin Johnston for a 37 yard touchdown strike that evened things at 7.
That’s when things started to fall apart.
ISU moved down the field to get in field goal range, retaking the lead at 10-7. On the following possession, after a four yard Kendre Miller run, Downing was sacked by JaQuan Bailey for a 13 yard loss, losing the ball on the ball on the play and turning it over to the Clones. Brock Purdy connected with Darren Wilson in the end zone for ISU’s second touchdown score, and the rest of the first half was anticlimactic, as TCU went in to the break trailing 16-7.
We all know how this one ended, with Duggan coming off of the bench in the second half to lead a furious comeback that fell just three points short. When you think back to that game, that moment, it’s hard not to wonder what might have been — had the Cyclones not gotten an easy touchdown there, would the defense held? Had the Horned Frogs won that game, maybe it gives them the momentum to beat K State (the worst loss of the year by far). If they win those two games, and finish the conference season 7-2, maybe they are playing for a Big 12 Championship this weekend?
If TCU finished 8-2 this year, maybe we have a completely different perspective?
A lot has gone wrong in 2020, that much we all know. Ultimately, it’s important to be excited about how this team is playing now and what they accomplished down the stretch.
But it’s okay to wonder what might have been, had the offensive line not gotten blown up by the Iowa State pass rush, had Matthew Downing been able to hold on to that ball, had Max Duggan played all four quarters.
We will never know.
Now, it’s your turn to chime in!