Casey Pachall tried not to think about it.
Tried to dismiss it halfway through the season. Tried to brush it off after Boise. Tried to act like it was out of reach.
But sitting in the Qualcomm Stadium press room, facing a row of cameras and a corps of microphones following TCU’s 31-24 Poinsettia Bowl win over Louisiana Tech University last month, Pachall had to face the facts.
The records were his.
The Brownwood, native completed a 42-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass to Skye Dawson at the 4:26 mark of the fourth quarter on his way to his first bowl victory as a starter, but Pachall left his mark on the program well before his game-winning toss.
The sophomore broke Andy Dalton’s single-season record for completions (228) with an 11-yard pass to David Porter on the final play of the third quarter and broke Dalton’s single-season yardage record (2,921) with a fourth-quarter completion to Dawson.
Pachall also completed 66.5 percent of his passes on the year, breaking Dalton’s previously held record of 66.1 percent.
Dalton, who set those marks last season while leading TCU to a 13-0 record and a win over the University of Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, was a second-round draft pick last April and recently led his new team, the Cincinnati Bengals, to the NFL playoffs.
Dalton’s record-setting 2010 season was the greatest ever assembled by a TCU quarterback. That’s why when three of his records fell the very next season, eyebrows tended to raise.
And here’s the catch: Pachall’s done it in his first year on the gig.
So, with two more years of eligibility left, where does the junior-to-be go from here?
Up, of course.
“The bar is going to be set high for myself and for my team,” Pachall said. “I always have high expectations because I love to succeed.”
But as the Frogs prepare to switch conferences next season, how does Pachall fit into the hierarchy of Big 12 quarterbacks?
Easy answer: Near the top.
Oklahoma’s Landry Jones announced he’ll be back for his senior season. Pachall will likely fall in line, initially at least, behind him. But Robert Griffin III, Baylor’s Heisman Trophy winner, will forgo his senior year and enter the draft.
And gone with him is Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden and Missouri’s James Franklin, as the Tigers move to the SEC.
Sift through the rest of the Big 12 quarterbacks and you won’t find much.
Texas’ situation is still uncertain but neither Case McCoy nor David Ash will have the numbers or pedigree to compare with Pachall.
Texas Tech’s Seth Doege showed flashes of good play this year, but overall, the junior was largely inconsistent as the Red Raiders limped to 5-7 finish.
So, that leaves Kansas State’s Collin Klein and conference newcomer Geno Smith of West Virginia as the only two Big 12 quarterbacks, outside of Jones, who’d stack up against Pachall.
Klein led the Wildcats to an 10-3 record and a Cotton Bowl berth while Smith guided the Mountaineers to a Big East title and a 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Smith, who benefits from Dana Holgorsen’s fast-paced, spread offense, obviously boasts a passing threat similar to Pachall. But Klein, who rushed for 27 touchdowns and 1,141 yards in 2011, does his best work on the ground running the ball, not in the pocket throwing it.
That leaves Pachall in a three-way race with Jones and Smith for the league’s top passer.
From Rose Bowl champion to Big 12 elite, the drop-off from Dalton to Pachall seems to shrink more and more every day.