Closing the season with a 12-1 record, Frog football Head Coach Gary Patterson sat down with the Skiff to discuss the 2009 campaign and the program as a whole. Patterson has been a coach at the university since 1998.
He served as the defensive coordinator until 2000 when he was named head coach. Under Patterson’s leadership the Horned Frogs completed their first undefeated regular season since the 1938 national championship campaign and their highest season-ending ranking since 1955. He also led the defense to their second consecutive No. 1 national ranking, the fourth top finish this decade.
At the close of what many would consider the most buzzworthy season for TCU football in many years, Patterson reflects on the season.
Q: What are your thoughts on the three players you have heading to the NFL Combine?
A: Obviously, that means we’ve recruited the right kids. To have all three obviously speaks volumes about our program because when you get asked to go to the Combine, that means that the pro scouts are all very interested in what you can do. The thing I think is neat about those guys is that two of those three will have their degrees (at the end of the Spring semester.) (Editor’s note: After this interview a fourth player was invited to the combine.)
Q: With the loss of strong seniors on defense, what action is the team taking to prepare for next season and fill those spots?
A: We lost seven seniors a year ago. four of those guys went on the NFL and had chances, and three of them made teams. One of the things we’ve tried to develop here is not every once in a while just to have a good team but to have a great program. I think that TCU has gotten to that point. I think we’ve proved that this year by the graduation we had a year ago and the way the rest of the group stepped up and took their place. We just found out that we will be the No. 1 defense in the nation again for the fourth time in nine years. There’s not a lot of people that have been able to do that.
Q: Were you pleased with the team’s performance and the fan support this season overall?
A: The fans were unbelievable. The fans that traveled to the Fiesta Bowl were unbelievable. I’m just sorry that we didn’t finish. We came up a few points short but it was a great season. For us, now it’s our chance to start back in a week, start back in the off-season, forget what we just accomplished a year ago and start moving forward and building a foundation and chemistry and everything that we did a year ago to get where we needed to be. It will be interesting to see if we can accomplish that.
Q: How do you feel about the results of the Fiesta Bowl?
A: It was our first loss. It was only our third loss in two years. So for us, we were very disappointed. But I think the thing that was different than maybe the Utah loss of a year ago was that we knew we played as good as we could, and we just came up a little bit short. We did not feel like, especially on offense, that we did that. It came down to a fake punt, and. we turned the ball over three times. We needed to stop them one last time on defense. I don’t think we walked off the field saying, ‘Well that’s the best game that TCU could have played.’ So for us, I think that was a little bit frustrating. It was the same thing Boise had a year ago getting beat by us by a point. I think they came back in the off-season and said, ‘Look, some guys didn’t go out in the draft,’ and they wanted to come back and prove that they could get back to another BCS game. Now that we’ve been here, and now that we understand what it’s like to be a part of a ball game like that. we have initiative to be able to go and try to do it again. There needs to be a lot more drive.
Q: What areas will the team focus on improving for next season?
A: All of them. I think that’s how you build a good program. You really need to try and get better at every program. Even Jerry Hughes a year ago out of off-season and spring ball was a better player than he was. I don’t think you say, ‘Well, we’re good enough there.’ Even Andy Dalton, obviously, we threw away three interceptions in our last ball game. We only threw five all year. When we get to that kind of ball game again we need to make sure that we handle the situation and everything that goes along with it. There’s plenty of improvement to do in every area that we have on this football team.
Q: How do you feel about the No. 6 finish in the national polls at the close of the season?
A: I think the thing that probably strikes me most is just the respect paid by us finishing sixth and having a loss, having lost our bowl game. Last year the respect was paid with two losses and finishing seventh, this year the respect was paid by having one loss and finishing sixth. I think we have a lot to be proud of, not just our football team but our whole university and Fort Worth all have a lot to be proud of because everybody was a part of it.
Q: Do you have a message for the fans at the close of the season?
A: I would say this much to the fans: they made a big difference. To stay at the top it takes a lot more work than it does to be average. So they made a big difference at the end of the year. For us to be what we want to be as a program, not only at TCU but here in this community, it’s going to take a lot from everybody. That means we’ve got to show up in the rain, just like they did this year, or the snow, or whatever else it’s going to take to be what we want to be as a Frog nation.