There was palpable excitement Tuesday — well as palpable as excitement can feel over a Zoom call — as Gary Patterson took the mic for his inaugural press conference of the 2020 football season. In front of about a dozen reporters, the TCU Football coach answered questions from a wide-range of topics, including how nice it is to finally be in a game week, the challenges of team bonding when you’re supposed to be kept apart, and what the quarterback situation will look like for the Frogs’ first game.
One of the biggest challenges for a program that has won 18 straight home openers is the opponent — the Frogs have often faced off against lower-division foes to start their season, but that clearly isn’t the case in 2020. Instead, they will have to play a conference opponent — and a very good one at that. “They’re a good football team. They’ve already played a game, so they’ve got two weeks to fix what they thought they had wrong and get better and get used to it,” Patterson said. “For us, we’re ready to play. We’ve had more practice time to be able to get where we need to get to, so from our standpoint we want to play another ballgame. This is what these kids have worked for so ready to go forward.”
Preparing for games is a lot different in the midst of a global pandemic, of course, and adjusting to those changes seems to have taken as much time off the field as the team is spending on it. “Usually I could go through three days on a yellow pad as far as things, anything I need to discuss at the staff meeting every morning at 8 o’clock. And sometimes I don’t get through a half of day.” But Patterson continues to tip his cap to all of the people that have made it work — from the coaches, to the players, to the medical people, the support staff, and on down the line. “You think of managing your own household, a couple of people, 2 or 3 or 4 people, and think of managing 250 people. You’re talking about trainers, equipment people, doctors, administrators, everybody. All the people that had to do extra stuff, all of the testing, the sign-in stations where you have to get your temperature, where people that may be working marketing... it takes hours and hours to check people in coming through the building all of the time to make sure we keep everybody safe. It’s taken a lot of work by a lot of people, and you have to commend them.”
As far as what will happen on the field on Saturday, the big news came in the way of a starting quarterback announcement, when, in a small surprise, Patterson named Matthew Downing QB1. The redshirt sophomore — a former walk-on by way of Georgia — has taken the majority of the first team reps this fall (despite missing a couple weeks himself due to COVID protocols) and seems to be more ready for week one than Max Duggan, the presumed starter who has just recently returned to the field after a heart procedure. All indications are that Duggan will see the field, but GP is confident in the backup who will be the starter, and whoever else takes snaps in game one. “He has that confidence. No matter who is back there it’s not going to make a difference. We all prepare the same. We’re all teammates. We’ve got each other’s backs. It doesn’t matter who is back there.”
Another big difference Saturday will be the game day atmosphere, when what would have been a crowd full on pent up ready-for-some-football fervor is reduced to 12,000 well-spaced fans. Patterson does think it could make an impact. “You have to bring your own energy, not going to have as many people in the stands, so you have to want it. You have to love to play the game. If you’re needing 50,000 or 100,000 people in the stands to play the game, then you’ll be disappointed. So you’ve got to get ready to go.”
Ultimately, the impression was given that the players and the coaches just want to play. All that work — that started in June — is about to payoff, as a team that has been chomping at the bit for nearly a month finally take the field. “You really don’t know until you play that first ballgame. For all of us, coaches all know that you’ve got to get through that one to kind of know where you stand and what you’re doing.”
The Horned Frogs and Cyclones are set to kickoff on Saturday, September 26th at 12:30 PM.