September 27, 2016
Rod Stewart’s “Maggie Mae” is one of my favorite songs. There’s a line in it that says, “It’s late September and I really should be back at school.” As I thought about where we sit on the calendar and on the football schedule, with game five coming, “late September” made me think of the song.
If you’ll allow another departure from the normal topic, what a roller coaster the past few days have been. First was the shocking loss of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, lost at 24, and then the amazing things happening to his team as they remember their young teammate.
On the other end of the age spectrum, we say goodbye to Arnold Palmer. I used to be in the golf tournament business on the Senior PGA tour, and I had the privilege to meet and spend time around “The King.” Let me tell you that everything they say is true: classy with an aura of strength. There won’t be another Arnold Palmer.
And last Sunday, Dodger broadcaster and legend Vin Scully called his last game at Dodger Stadium, ending a 67-year run. This year marks my 28th on the TCU Radio crew … kind of pales in comparison, huh? Vin has called 20 no-hitters and three perfect games. He’s the greatest ever. I had a chance to meet him at Dodger Stadium last July 3, and he, too, is everything you’ve ever heard. I asked him if I could borrow his voice when he retired … he has a great one. See the photo – think I was thrilled? You have one more chance to hear Vin this Sunday when he calls the Dodgers’ regular-season finale in San Francisco. Find it if you can … and press record.
The change in weather makes it feel like football season. For the Frogs, it’s time to step into the Big 12 grind. Conference games from here on out. Serious business.
Oklahoma is hurting, and let me tell you that there’s nothing wrong with the Sooners, except for the teams they’ve played. Their losses are to two Top 5 teams: Houston and Ohio State. They’re loaded. They’ll be ready to play.
More on the Sooners in detail on Friday. Until then,
Kick ‘Em High!
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September 23, 2016
Dallas, here we come!
The big purple caravan from Fort Worth will be rolling down the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike (that’s what they used to call I-30 before 1978 – you actually had to pay a toll to drive between Dallas and Fort Worth, and you handed the attendant at the toll gate 35 cents – no toll tags!!)
Frog fans need to get there early to beat the traffic and be loud once you get there.
This is the 96th meeting between the two schools. It would be the 99th time, except the Frogs and Mustangs didn’t play in 1987 and 1988 due to the now-infamous “Death Penalty” that the NCAA handed down to SMU.
I always enjoyed playing against SMU. In the games I had the privilege to tee it up in from 1981-1984, the four TCU-SMU games were decided by a total of 24 points. A three-point loss in ’82 and a four point loss in ’83 were the toughest. In 1983, late in the game, the Frogs had it first-and-goal at the SMU 4-yard-line to win it. SMU’s great defense, led by All-America nose tackle Michael Carter, held us out of the north end zone of Amon G. Carter Stadium for four consecutive plays to seal a 21-17 win. Talk about tears in the locker room.
Gerald J. Ford Stadium is a very nice venue for watching college football. Can you name all the homes of SMU football since 1970?
I mentioned that the Frogs will have to do some fancy trick-riding to stay on the horse tonight – SMU has improved. They’re gaining on it.
Head Coach Chad Morris has committed to signing players from Texas, and through two recruiting classes, he’s just about done that. He’s added tons of Texans to the SMU roster, which is an about-face from the June Jones era. Still haven’t figured that one out – what football coach doesn’t want to recruit the state of Texas?
SMU’s defense is more athletic than any you’ve seen in awhile. One defensive end, #99 Justin Lawler, is playing the best football of his career and has 4.5 sacks on the season. The best linebacker is #11 Kyran Mitchell, a hitting machine. In the secondary, #9 Horace Richardson has three interceptions on the year (SMU is No. 1 in the nation in interceptions with nine).
On offense, SMU took a hit early when star quarterback Matt Davis injured a knee against North Texas; he’s done for the year. Ben Hicks has stepped in and done an admirable job, leading the Mustangs to a 2-1 record, but he’s thrown five interceptions. The Ponies are struggling in the red zone. Many of those struggles are attributable to an offensive line that will get another lineup shuffle tonight.
Running Back Braeden West ran for 220 yards against Liberty last week, and keep an eye on the wide receivers. Courtland Sutton, #16, is a big and tall receiver who had nine touchdown catches last year; he has four already this year. He’s a nightmare for cover men. Redshirt freshman James Proche, #3, is another threat who leads SMU in catches with 16. SMU is improved on offense. Even without Davis under center, the Mustangs are averaging 491 yards per game.
Make no mistake. The Frogs will get SMU’s best shot, and TCU will have to be ready from the start to avoid another one of “those games in Dallas.” Speaking of Dallas, here’s a stat that got my attention: In the last 10 TCU-SMU games played in Dallas, the Frogs are 6-4 — almost even.
OK, back to that question about SMU’s football homes since 1970. The Mustangs have certainly moved around. SMU called the Cotton Bowl home from 1948-1978, then moved to Texas Stadium (the “old” Cowboys’ stadium in Irving for those under 30) in 1979 and played there until the Death Penalty took SMU out of football in 1987 and 1988. Back at it in 1989, SMU decided to play on campus at old Ownby Stadium, which sat on the site of the current Gerald J. Ford Stadium. In the late ’90s, the Ponies went back to the Cotton Bowl for a few years while the new stadium was being built and then, finally, moved into Ford Stadium in 2000, where they’ve been ever since.
See you in Dallas for pizza at Campisi’s at 2:30!
September 21, 2016
For the second time in three weeks, the Frogs’ schedule has a SWC feel as they travel to Dallas to take on SMU for the 96th time. That’s a lot of history.
The Frogs and Mustangs first met in 1915. Along the way, there have been some great games and some interesting stories. Pull up a chair; let’s take a look back:
I look forward to Friday’s game with great anticipation. SMU has raised its talent level, and the Frogs will need some fancy trick-riding to stay on the horse. More details on the Ponies Friday morning.
September 16, 2016
Happy Homecoming, Frogs! And happy Parents Weekend, too. Couldn’t we find one other major event to pile on this one weekend? Game tickets are scarce.
After a long summer and much anticipated beginning to football season that we never thought would get here, today we find ourselves at Game 3. 25 percent done with the regular season. It goes fast.
At the quarter pole, the Frogs have a lot on their plate in the wake of the Arkansas loss. Sure they dropped out of the Top 25 and there’s a new road map to getting to the CFP playoffs (by the way, cheer for Arkansas and OU and Texas) and don’t forget it’s a short week to prepare for SMU next Friday. All kinds of “looking ahead” conversation among the TCU faithful.
But I’m good with this Frog team. Don’t get me wrong, losing is tough. And it’s no fun to experience as a player or talk about on the radio, but I think the pressure’s off a little bit. No ranking. No hype. Just 1-1 and Iowa State coming to town.
I think Coach P summed it up Tuesday at his press conference when he said, “I’m just trying to beat Iowa State.” Focus.
The best teams at the end of the year are the ones who learn to play in the eye of a hurricane. Lots of thunder, lightning, debris swirling all around but calm on the inside. That’s what great teams do and it’s that time for the Frogs.
Things for the Frogs to do:
1. Figure out a way to start fast. In this day and age of basketball scores in college football, getting out of the blocks quickly is a must. The effort the Frogs made to get out of 20-7 hole last week would have the stuff of legend if they’d won.
2. Tinker with the defense. Not fix it, just adjust. The Frogs have given up 41 points in three straight, if you include the Alamo Bowl. Again, cut that number by 10 points with a few takeaways and all’s well.
3. Play fast and loose.
4. Throw deep….test the secondary for big plays.
5. Let QB Kenny Hill do what he does. You’ve just gotten a peak so far. He’s a very gifted player.
Iowa State comes in with a new coach, new schemes and a lot of new faces. Head coach Matt Campbell is the youngest head man in Division 1-A at 36. He brings in a team that is 0-2 and, like TCU, is coming off a loss. Their offense has two big weapons in WR Allen Lazard, who had 147 receiving yards against TCU a year ago and is among the nation’s leaders in yards per game at 120.
Running back Mike Warren was a freshman “phenom” last year as the Big 12’s Offensive Freshman of the Year, but he’s had trouble getting going behind a patchwork offensive line, which features center Brian Bobek, a graduate transfer from Minnesota who lined up against the Frogs at UM last year. The Iowa State offense has struggled.
The Cyclones were kept out of the end zone last week against Iowa, prompting a quarterback situation. Incumbent QB Joel Lanning gave way to Georgia transfer Jacob Park, a Top-15 national recruit when he signed with Georgia, but things didn’t work out for him in Athens. Based on what I’ve seen on video, Park moves the offense and really gives Iowa State a spark. Good arm.
If Iowa State has a something to lean on, it’s the defense. Iowa State returns seven starters and has a good secondary. They get back corner Nigel Tribune from a two game suspension and the defensive line is active with DE #9 Jhaustin Thomas who’s tall and rangy. I also like Linebacker #9 Reggan Northrup, who gets to the ball. He reminds me of TCU’s Travin Howard, about 210 pounds and can get to the quarterback.
The Frogs lead the all-time series 6-1, with the first game being played in 1998. The Frogs won the season opener that day with new head coach Dennis Franchione and a young, feisty defensive coordinator named……well, you know.
It’s an early start Frog Fans. Set your alarms as the parking lots open at 6 a.m. for this 11 o’ clock kickoff.
Now I have to run and pick up a corsage (with lots of bells). Happy Homecoming!
September 14, 2016
Here’s your mid-week oil check, Frog Fans!
Or should I say, “blood pressure check.”
That was a wild one last Saturday night against Arkansas – it had just about everything. And the emotional swings were like riding the old Comet Coaster at the State Fair of Texas: High speed and lots of ups and downs — you were holding on for dear life and hoping that the car stayed on the track! By the way, The Comet and its wooden frame next to the Cotton Bowl is long gone, but its impact on me is still there. Kinda like last Saturday.
But now’s time to get over it. My dad, Joe, always says that “losses are good learning experiences.” He should know. He’s nearly 92.
“When you lose, don’t lose the lesson,” is the famous quote. Here are some lessons from last Saturday:
1. The Frogs need to start faster. A 20-7 hole is hard situation to overcome. The Frogs made a super effort and great plays to get back into the Arkansas game.
2. When you’re fortunate enough to get back the lead in such a game, finish!
3. I really like the mental toughness of this team. The Arkansas game will pay dividends later in the season.
4. There will be more games like this. College football scoreboards these days look like tote boards at a telethon.
5. The Frogs have two big games coming in the course of six days (Iowa State
Saturday followed by SMU the next Friday). This is an important stretch and Iowa State is a capable team.
More on the Cyclones on Friday.
September 9, 2016
There is something special about a Friday during football season before a big home game. Vendors are busy setting up on campus. The field at Amon G. Carter has a fresh coat of paint (Love those purple end zones!), and you can feel the build-up and countdown to kickoff. It should be a great Saturday. Spruce it up — the SEC is coming to town.
And here comes Arkansas.
Arkansas is the first SEC team to visit “The Carter” since Vanderbilt stopped by in 2003. The Frogs beat #20 Vandy 30-14.
They’ll drop their gear at Amon G. Carter Stadium for the first time since October 5, 1991. Lots has changed since then, and the difference will be noticeable to Hog fans. This is not the same TCU from 25 years ago. Four conference affiliations, a Rose Bowl win and a brand-new stadium later, Hog fans will no doubt say, “Love what you’ve done with the place!”
Arkansas rolls in with the size that you’d expect from a SEC team — huge offensive line, a 500-pound backfield and a slow-down, bulldozer system that Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema calls “Huddle Football.” It’s a throwback to the old days of the SWC. Nobody else plays like that anymore, except maybe Kansas State. Quarterback Austin Allen is a talented, but new, quarterback who threw for two touchdowns (but also two interceptions) versus Louisiana Tech last week. He has a deadly tandem of wideouts to throw to in Keon Hatcher and Drew Morgan. Both have speed and are dangerous. Add to that another huge target in tight end Jeremy Sprinkle at 6-6 and 256 pounds, and suddenly coverage combined with a mean pass rush are musts for the Frogs. TCU will also have to be uber-physical on defense.
Key stat: Arkansas gave up four sacks last week to Louisiana Tech with an offensive line that is trying to break in three new starters.
Defensively, Arkansas runs a 4-3 scheme with a lot of 4-2-5 mixed in throughout the game. The defensive line is one of the largest in the SEC (next to Alabama) and features defensive end Deatrich Wise, Jr., who has 7.5 sacks in his last five regular-season games). Experienced defensive tackle Taiwan Johnson holds down the middle; he’s making his 28th start. The linebackers are young and improving. The secondary is where Arkansas needs work. Last year they gave up an average of 275 yards per game through the air, and they didn’t look much better against Louisiana Tech. Former Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads is the new secondary coach, and he has his hands full. And he’s running out of bodies.
Key stat: Since the start of fall camp, Arkansas has lost three corners to injury, two for the season. They’re taping up injured cornerback DJ Dean and will likely have to play him Saturday. Frog receivers, are you listening? Hello!
· The weather is going to be perfect with the kickoff forecast for 80 degrees. It’s fall and you can tell by the angle of sunlight – it’s changing.
· Arkansas is the first SEC team to visit “The Carter” since Vanderbilt stopped by in 2003. The Frogs beat #20 Vandy 30-14.
· Arkansas cornerback DJ Dean is the nephew of former TCU defensive end Kevin Dean, who played for the Frogs from 1983-86 and was a member of the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl team that defeated Arkansas 32-31 in Fayetteville.
September 7, 2016
It’s hump day …
… and that means we’re about to get rolling downhill toward Saturday and a reunion with an old SWC foe: Arkansas.
Finally, the Frogs get to play Arkansas – the last former member of the Southwest Conference that TCU hasn’t played in football since the conference went away in 1995. In the years since we laid the SWC to rest, the Frogs faced Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Houston, SMU, Rice and Texas A&M – played them all. But not Arkansas, which adds to the appeal of this matchup.
The last time the Frogs and Hogs played was in Fort Worth in 1991 – a wild game that saw the Frogs bolt to a 21-0 lead, only to fumble it away in a 22-21 last-minute loss. Former head coach Jim Wacker was in his last year at TCU. Jack Crowe was in his last year as head coach at Arkansas.
The next year Arkansas was off to the SEC.
Ironic that 25 years later, if you go looking for the most recent conference football championship trophy in the Arkansas case, it says “1989 SWC Champions”. That’s the last one for the Hogs. They played Tennessee in the 1990 Cotton Bowl, losing 31-27.
The last time the Frogs beat Arkansas at home was in 1981, a delicious 28-24 win that saw the Frogs end a 22-game losing streak to the Hogs. That’s right … 22. Quarterback Steve Stamp engineered a 99-yard, fourth-quarter drive and found Stanley Washington in the north end zone of Amon G. Carter Stadium for the winning touchdown. Before that game, 1958 was the last time TCU had beaten Arkansas, so to celebrate, they left the scoreboard on until Monday! It was TCU head coach F.A. Dry’s signature win for the program.
This year’s freshman class at TCU was born the same year that the Frogs beat USC in the Sun Bowl.
Nonetheless, it’ll be fun to hear them “call the Hogs” and bring all that Arkansas has to offer on a football Saturday. For those 45 and older, it’ll remind of the old days. Can the ’80s and ’90s really be the good ol’ days?? Wow, I’m getting old.
Fact is, new Frog fans don’t know about Arkansas, or the SWC … or losing. This year’s freshman class at TCU was born the same year that the Frogs beat USC in the Sun Bowl. Fathom that stat.
More on Arkansas on Friday.
See you Friday.
September 2, 2016
OK! Here we go!
It’s September! That means dove season in Texas. I heard hunting expert Big Billy Kinder, a TCU Football alumnus, say there will be 250,000 Texas dove hunters out spraying shot this weekend in pursuit of birds … wow!
AND it’s finally football season. What a lineup for the first weekend. Looking at the schedule, I almost thought I “Rip Van Winkled-it” through the fall and it was bowl season already. Look at what the College Football Playoff has given us: more meat and fewer cupcakes; real games between ranked teams early in the season. And a nice list it is!
Big 12 fans need look no further than No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 15 Houston. Could this be the play-in game for the Coogs’ Big 12 future?
No. 4 Florida State takes on No. 11 Ole Miss. Don’t laugh, Frog fans. Ole Miss is improved and they have a great quarterback.
No. 2 Clemson visits Auburn. And Georgia at No. 18 takes on No. 22 North Carolina. And don’t forget, Wisconsin hosts No. 5 LSU at Lambeau Field … can you say physical?
Are you detecting the heavy Southeastern Conference sauce like I am??
Closer to our Big 12 home, Bill Snyder and his Kansas State Wildcats take their mojo to No. 8 Stanford; No. 10 Notre Dame rolls into Austin to take on Texas; No. 16 UCLA tries on the humidity for size in College Station against the Aggies.
Oops, I nearly forgot … No. 1 Alabama tunes up the machine at Jerry World against No. 20 USC in what will be the yawner on the menu. Tide rolls.
But those games are not why you’re reading this. You’re interested in the Frogs … and you should be.
Last year’s injury-dotted march to 11 TCU wins and a historic bowl victory for the ages set the stage for this season. Now that we’re on the silver-lining side of the 2015 season and all those injuries that vaulted redshirts and freshmen into duty (especially on defense), Coach P has a team that’s mature beyond its years and has depth to show for last year’s storm that ended perfectly at the Alamo Bowl. And then … those seven home games … huge!
Now add Kenny Hill after 18 months at Camp Frog, where he learned the TCU way. Then add a recruiting class full of talent, many of whom will make their way onto the field this year, to a defense with depth aplenty.
Things I’m looking forward to:
As we begin the season, here are some names to keep an eye on:
On offense: Emanuel Porter (#1) is primed to have a great year. His hands are always in the right spot, and you saw what he can do in the Alamo Bowl. Kyle Hicks (#21) is a back about to blossom – he showed glimpses last year. This year you’ll see the whole picture.
Ty Slanina’s back from injury, ‘nuff said. Same for Deante Gray – fast! Another receiver, Taj Williams (#2) will make plays; over the last two years at Iowa Western Community College he had 128 catches! Watch out for tight end/halfback Cole Hunt (he’s Joey Hunt’s little brother); he can run deep routes really well. And watch out for frosh (that’s old school for freshman) Sewo Olonilua at running back. He’s 6-3, 225 pounds and knows which way the end zone is. Don’t’ forget running back Darius Anderson, either. Too bad we can only play 11 at a time!
On defense: Lots coming back, and a lot of new faces. And all of them can run. I already mentioned McFarland and Carraway, and the defensive tackles get my attention, too. Joseph Broadnax had a great fall camp, as did Aaron Curry. Chris Bradley has nine starts at defensive tackle and knows his way around a block. L. J. Collier is hungry and motivated. At linebacker, welcome back Sammy Douglas. In the secondary watch out for two freshmen, safety Innis Gaines and cornerback Vernon Scott. At the other corner are Jeff Gladney and former wide receiver Tony James. He threw a 20-yard pass in the Alamo Bowl. (Remember the double pass play Doug Meacham called early in the third quarter?) James is now a corner and can keep up with anyone.
The kicking game took a hit with Jonathan Song’s injury, opening the door for kickers Ryan Graf and Brandon Hatfield to step up. Punter Adam Nunez had a great fall camp. He’s a pure punter.
South Dakota State brings a young, talented team into “The Carter.” The Jackrabbits are ranked No. 8 in the Football Championship Subdivision for a reason. They’re better than you want them to be. It’ll be a good idea for the Frogs to start quick in this one.
Happy Football Season!
February 8, 2016
Every year, millions of people watching the NFL’s Super Bowl catch a glimpse of Ben Nix ’63. But what viewers really see what’s he’s holding — the shiny Lombardi Trophy that goes to the big game’s winner.
A former Dallas Cowboys security officer and FBI agent, Nix has worked for the NFL since 1981. Each year, his job is to coordinate the travel and protection of the league’s ultimate prize.
The trophy, made by Tiffany’s, weighs 7 pounds and costs about $50,000. It’s made of sterling silver. Unlike the Stanley Cup in hockey, the Lombardi Trophy is made anew each year. The winning team keeps it forever rather than giving it back at the start of the ensuing season.
Starting the week of the Super Bowl, Nix goes wherever the trophy goes, transporting and guarding it at numerous appearances at the site of the big game each year. Photos are OK, but no one touches it without white gloves, until it’s time to hand it to the league commissioner at the trophy presentation.
“The most difficult part is to keep the hands off it until the team gets it,” he said. “It smudges up pretty easily and so we try to keep that from happening.”
Nix, a former TCU football player, gets busy at the fourth quarter winds down.
“About four minutes left in the game, [I] bring it out to the field and eventually hand it to the presenter who takes it down to the winning team,” he said.
And when that final minute runs off the clock and the handoff is made, Nix exhales.
“There’s always a sense of relief,” he said. “There’s no question about that. Yeah, a big sense of relief.”
November 27, 2015
Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!
I hope all of you have a great holiday and enjoy all your family traditions, whatever they may be. This holiday is all about family and food. And it wouldn’t be complete without some football with one of our Big 12 family … and feud.
Baylor-TCU is a game that’s been long-anticipated, sort of like Grandma Denton’s sweet potatoes … with melted marshmallows.
The campuses are only 83 miles apart. These two are each other’s closest neighbors on Big 12 Lane. And the shared fence has taken a beating of late. It’s a rivalry that’s complete — from the guy in the last row to the players and all the way down to the head coaches. It’s thorough and thick, and it’s amazing that it’s taken this long.
Sure, Baylor and TCU played 110 times all through the early years and throughout the history of the SWC, but it never had the heat that it has now. In the old days, the Bears view of the Brazos was ruined on a regular basis by the hated Aggies, and TCU couldn’t stand SMU, a mere 30 miles east.
TCU and Baylor will play for the 111th time tonight, and it’s one of the most played series in college football. If the SWC hadn’t broken apart, this would be one of the top three series in college football in terms of total games played.
It’s hard to imagine these two teams going at it more than once a year, but when these two schools were located in Waco, multiple meetings were commonplace: They played twice in 1901, three times in 1902, twice in 1904, three times in 1905, three times in 1907, three times in 1908, three times in 1909 and twice in 1910. The Frogs and Bears lost 10 games when didn’t play each other after 1995 until 2006.
The flames on this rivalry really got fanned in 2010 when Andy Dalton and the Rose Bowl-bound Frogs (from the MWC) welcomed RGIII and his Superman cape into Amon G. Carter Stadium. TCU led 35-3 at the half and dismantled Baylor in grand fashion, 45-10. That made it three straight TCU wins over Baylor and the folks in Waco didn’t like it. The next fall, when Casey Pachall and the Frogs rolled into Waco, Art and RGIII and big pass plays were waiting. While the Frogs had a chance to win it at the end, this shootout victory by Baylor leveled the table. Since the Frogs entered the Big 12 in 2012, it’s been a year-round tussle in worthy of neighborhood attention.
Even though TCU has lost two games and Baylor has lost one, there’s still a lot on the line, especially bragging rights and who gets to have fun with billboards in I-35 and team photos for the next year. It’s the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and these two teams are shopping for weaknesses to exploit and good gets that no coupon can bring. The store opens at 6:30 p.m. Don’t be late for these door busters!
It’s a Purple Out game at The Carter, so lay off the tryptophan and get amped up for this one.
John Denton has been the color analyst for the TCU Sports Network from IMG since 1988. A former standout for the Horned Frog football team, Denton went from walk-on to a four-year lettermen as a kicker and punter for the Purple and White from 1981-84 and completed his career at the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl. Shown here with his former coach, the late Jim Wacker, Denton currently serves as the Director of Major Gifts for TCU Athletics.