The TCU football team makes the jaunt down I-35 to Austin to play on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1928.
The nationally televised holiday game will be a big stage for a team in its first year in the Big 12. A team that has started more true freshmen than scholarship seniors.
The 6-4 Frogs visit Austin with a disappointing 2012 résumé in comparison to recent years, but they pose a bigger threat than many would expect from a team ranked sixth in the conference. They are no strangers to the circumstances surrounding their Turkey Day showdown in the state capitol.
The Longhorns, a team ranked no. 16 in the country and averaging over 450 total yards per game, present a challenge for a Horned Frog defense that has only one starting senior. However, the young Frogs lead the Big 12 conference in run defense, total defense, and third down defense. Kansas State managed only 260 total yards against the Horned Frog defense.
Darrell K. Royal Stadium’s anticipated crowd of over 100,000 people will be the largest the Frogs have played against since New Year’s Day in 2011 in Pasadena. Few in Horned Frog Nation would complain about the outcome of that game.
Patterson is a man who goes about his business with a routine. So much so that he has worn the same dress shirt – vertical purple stripes and a white collar – to 10 of his 11 Tuesday press conferences this year.
However, with last Saturday being their first open date since Sept. 1, Patterson switched the Frogs’ practice schedule in preparation for the bout with the Longhorns.
“We knew this would be a physical game, so we wanted to bang early,” Patterson said. “We wanted three days of game-plan practices this week.”
Coach P moved the typical Wednesday and Thursday practices to last Thursday and Saturday, giving his team off-days in between those physical practices.
History shows that, when Patterson does deviate from his routine, there is a method to his madness.
Take a two-point conversion call last November in Boise that broke the fifth-ranked Broncos’ 67-game regular season winning streak on the Smurf Turf. Take a similar call in overtime in Morgantown three weeks ago that propelled TCU to a 39-38 win over the Mountaineers in its first ever trip to West Virginia.
And this week, TCU is forced to abandon the routine with ten days’ rest leading into its first Thursday game since 2008 and its first Thanksgiving Day game since 32 years before Patterson was born.
Patterson and his team may try to once again thrive on the unexpected in Austin. The unexpected is something the Frogs have dealt with a lot in their inaugural Big 12 campaign. Unexpected injuries. Unexpected off-the-field adversity. And, falling short on their biggest expectation: winning.
TCU has been much less of a model of consistency this season in comparison to its Mountain West conference days. The Frogs haven’t strung together back-to-back emotional performances on both sides of the ball in 2012.
Last week’s game against Kansas State was less than stellar. The Frogs could not get anything going on the offensive side of the ball. An empty paper bag tumbling in the breeze moved more explosively down the field than the TCU offense.
But, that loss could be the best thing for TCU in preparing for Thursday.
TCU has not lost its ability to bounce back from a loss. The Frogs are 23-8 in regular season games following a loss under Coach Patterson, and that has translated to this season.
The Iowa State loss was followed by an enthusiastic performance against Baylor and a 28-point win.
TCU bounced back from a loss in Stillwater with the double-overtime win against West Virginia.
And now, the Frogs are faced with another opportunity to respond to a loss. And it couldn’t come in a better situation for a team still trying to prove naysayers wrong.
“Those people that said TCU couldn’t play week-to-week in the Big 12 didn’t watch much college football,” Patterson said. “The Thanksgiving Day game is a staple [of college football], and we want to be a part of history.”