Two and a half weeks ago, the Horned Frogs were riding high – leading the nation in consecutive wins and looking to dominate the competition by winning their second Mountain West Conference championship in only their second year in the conference.But alas, all was for naught as the Frogs saw their championship hopes diminished by a 31-17 loss to the BYU Cougars.
And then came the Utah Utes who all but destroyed TCU’s chances of a repeat run through the conference. What began as a 3-0 season start that included a signature win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders quickly turned into a team collapse following the bye week in a 20-7 loss to the Utes.
Head coach Gary Patterson has attributed much of the decline in the Frogs’ play to lack of focus, maturity and even physicality. And he even questioned the impossible-to-answer phenomenon behind TCU’s inability to stay solid and play without cockiness after big wins.
The loss to SMU last season following the huge win over Oklahoma is still a sore point for TCU fans and players, and the decline this season may upset Frog faithfuls for years to come, especially for those who saw the Tech win as a gateway to an undefeated season and a potential BCS berth.
But the question still remains as to why TCU now has two losses.
Last year, the SMU loss may have been the catalyst to turn the 1-1 Frogs into the 11-1 EV1.net bowl winners, but this season has not seen the same tenacity to avenge the early season upset at the hands of the Cougars.
Is it senior quarterback Jeff Ballard, who hasn’t been able to capture the same magic that propelled him to an 11-game winning streak? Is it the absence and injuries of veteran running backs Lonta Hobbs and Robert Merrill? Is it the lack of experience among freshmen defensive backs?
It’s all of the above and then some. And that extra little bit comes down to the team’s support here at TCU.
Nowell Donovan, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, sent an e-mail to students reinforcing the classroom attendance policy – a policy that kept many students from attending the first conference game of the season Sept. 28. Taking support away from such a beneficial school activity, both financially and reputably, is just bad business.
But Donovan isn’t all to blame. TCU students, even had they been given the opportunity to attend free of persecution as they are for each and every Saturday game, are notorious for spending more time in the parking lot than inside Amon Carter Stadium.
Who can blame the Frogs for losing faith in their season when their winning streak only sees a major upsurge in attendance during a big-time Texas rivalry game, in which a bird’s-eye-view saw nearly as much red in the stands as purple.
Maybe Patterson was right in saying TCU is the stepchild of Texas college football, but it’s not just the BCS and national media coverage that gives the Horned Frogs such a bum rap. Fans, the same ones who left mere minutes into the fourth quarter against BYU, need to show their team the support it needs to spring back to life and finish the season strong.
If they don’t, the Frogs and their fans, at least the ones who actually watch them regularly, are in for a long second half of the season.