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Extra Points

Long way from The Bottom Ten

November 8, 2014

Happy Game Day! Time to black out “The Carter” tonight.When I was a kid growing up in Dallas, I always looked forward to Fridays in the fall. The Dallas Morning News had a cartoonist named Bill McClanahan, who predicted the outcome of that weekend’s games with his artistry. They were great. I’ve attached one so you can see his fine work.

The Morning News also published the Associated Press’s “Bottom Ten,” ranking the 10 worst college football teams. In the mid-1970’s you could pretty much count on Northwestern, Rice, Miami (Fla.), Washington State, Florida State being there each week … along with Kansas Stateand TCU. The rankings would show teams Nos. 1 to 10, with the No. 1 team being honored as the worst in the nation. I used to feel sorry for those teams and I found myself pulling for them each week.Looking at the list, you can see that many of those teams have changed their football fortunes in the modern day. But none more than TCU and Kansas State. No programs have come farther. Now they’re Nos. 6 and 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings and today’s game in Amon G. Carter is, effectively, the first playoff game of the year. Loser is out. Winner advances and stays alive in the hunt for one of the coveted four playoff spots.

Things to K-now about K-State:
They are the antithesis of the Big 12. On offense, they are in no hurry.
The take their time and they execute plays with the precision of a Rolex watch.
They don’t have turnovers. They just don’t.
They’re the best third down team in the nation, mainly because most of their third downs are 3rd and 3 or 3rd and 1.

The Frogs will have to be super-efficient on offense as Kansas State will try to limit possessions by slowing down the game. Both units have to play great on third down and the Frogs defense has to be great on first down while not getting lulled to sleep by the Wildcats ground game. They will take their shots deep. Hello, secondary!

It will be the highest ranked pairing at AGCS since they started ranking teams. A long way from The Bottom Ten.

Kick ‘Em High!

Nobody saw this coming

November 1, 2014

There are a lot of questions and predictions swirling around today’s TCU-WVU game, but one thing’s for sure: Nobody saw this coming.

Experts and know-it-alls in the Big 12 media corps (yours truly included) voted the Mountaineers and the Frogs in the bottom half of the league in the preseason media polls.  Not a soul had this one circled as a pivotal contest that would have an impact on the Big 12 championship.

Things to know about this one:

  • Both quarterbacks have come light years and are having great years.
  • WVUs Kevin White is an elite receiver.

The Mountaineer defense is playing very well. After being bulldozed by Oklahoma, they’ve figured it out. The last two games against Baylor and Oklahoma State, WVU allowed offenses to convert just five of 31 on third downs. That’s awesome

They like to blitz too.

The Frogs will need a fast start to take the crowd out of it and a running game to control things. I believe the Frogs can run it on WVU.

We’re on the air tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. CT on the TCU Sports Network. Talk to you then from Morgantown!

Kick ‘Em High!

TCU, WVU back where they belong

October 30, 2014

When TCU and West Virginia entered the Big 12 in 2012, the pundits said the Frogs and Mountaineers didn’t belong or they couldn’t play in the “big boy” sandbox, especially the Frogs.

And while the first two years in the new league were not a cakewalk for either program, both Gary Patterson and Dana Holgersen took copious notes, assessed where their respective squads were short and made changes to make their teams in order to win, not just be competitive.

Size on the defensive line, depth in the secondary and additional difference-makers at wide receivers were the recipe. A good QB would help, too.

All are now in place for both teams as they prep for their “Showdown in Morgantown” this Saturday.

From 4-8 last year to this week’s College Football Playoff initial unveiling, both teams have the right to say, “How do you like me now?”

Even ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit is saying the Frogs can be in his Final 4, and West Virginia is on his list of Top 25 teams. My how things have changed for these teams!

Or returned to where they were.

Many were quick to forget that TCU and West Virginia were among the most successful programs much of the last decade. These schools are back where they belong — on the big stage and banner-carriers for their conference.

Saturday will be fun.

On Another Note

My heart breaks for Brandon Finnegan and the Royals after last night’s Game 7. Finny had a great year, becoming the only player to play in the College World Series and Major League Baseball World Series in the same year. He made a name for himself and represented TCU with tremendous pride. Thanks, Finny!

Kick ‘Em High!

It’s your turn now, Frog fans

October 24, 2014

Whether you’re a 24/7 fan or just a casual observer, there’s no doubt that TCU Football has gained your attention this season.It’s the WOW factor.

The new “Air Raid” offense, which I prefer to call the “Meacham Field” offense, has zoomed its way to a spot in the Top 10 in the nation in three important categories: No. 9 in passing offense (340.2 yards per game), No. 7 in total offense (537.7 ypg) and No. 5 in scoring offense (45.2 ppg). The Frogs are putting up huge numbers.

Now it’s your turn.

Home games mean home field advantage. The advantage is based on numbers and noise. The TCU student section should be Exhibit A in how to do it. They’re a non-stop noise-making machine, and the visitors bench area is not a fun place to be. Follow their lead.

TCU is now ranked No. 10 in the nation. This is the best team TCU has had in four seasons and is the best team in Texas right now. Game times reflect the Frogs’ performance, poll ranking and demand by the TV networks. The 11 o’clock kickoff excuse is gone. Get to the stadium.

Opposing teams’ fans are leaving tickets on the table, gobble them up and get your Purple on.

Texas Tech comes to visit with a sputtering offense and a defense that statistically is last in the Big 12 in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense. That’s three key categories. Regardless, as they say, you still have to play them and beat them.

That means putting up big numbers for everybody. The Frogs and their fans. That means you.

Kick ‘Em High!

Get over it

October 17, 2014

After the last five days of emails, phone calls, voicemails and texts from Frog Fans out on the ledge, I have one suggestion to offer.

Get Over it.

Sure, the Frogs had a 21-point lead in Waco, and it seemed TCU was on its way to 5 and Oh, my.  But it didn’t pan out that way for a number of reasons. So move on. And learn.There’s an old saying: “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.”

My guess is that Coach P’s lesson pad is full of reminders from last Saturday that will be used to Purple benefit on upcoming Saturdays.

If I had told you over a cold one last July 4th that in mid-October the Frogs would be ranked No. 12 with a 4-1 record, including a split with Oklahoma and Baylor, you’d have jumped on that deal and told me to get you another beer to celebrate.

Well, here we are.

And Oklahoma State is coming. You and the Frogs best turn your attention to the Pokes. Don’t let one loss turn into two because of Baylor.

There’s everything to play for, and we’re not even halfway done.

Trevone Boykin and Paul Dawson have been unreal. The new offense has been efficient, riveting and highly productive. Points are no long a problem.

OSU rolls into Fort Worth with speed and big wide receivers and a quarterback named Daxx, who has a big arm.

(Wanna guess with the first “Don’t” on the list in Denton’s Do’s & Don’ts will be on Saturday? Something about deep.)

OSU’s defense is young but gritty, and they create turnovers at the best times. Their sole loss is to Florida State.

Look ahead, Frog fans. There are more wins in store, but they are all located in front of you.

Kick ‘Em High!

Something Old … A Lot New

October 10, 2014

I’ve had to correct myself several times this week as I’ve thought about this week’s game at Baylor.In my mind’s eye, I’ve been picturing the old Baylor Stadium — Floyd Casey Stadium to those born after 1990 — and I caught myself. We’re not going back there, we’re going to some place new — in more ways than one.

We’re going to the brand new McLane Stadium and things are different. Much.

The Frogs and the Bears are going to celebrate the Big 12’s first conference game in the new football palace on the Brazos. New.

The Frogs and Bears meet for the 110th time, but for the first time ever as Top 10-ranked teams. (In fact, in all the meetings between the Frogs and Bears, this year is the first time both teams enter the game ranked.) What’s old is new.

For the first time in my life, Baylor-TCU has taken top-billing over Texas-OU or any other game in this part of the country. Grandpa, are you sure??? New.

The Frogs-Bears matchup features the top two scoring offenses in the Big 12 and the top two scoring defenses in the Big 12. No wonder ESPN’s College Football bus visited both campuses in the last 24 hours. Are there any SWC old-timers believing this day has come? NEW.

One thing that’s not new is that the winner of “The Holy War,” “Battle on the Brazos,” “McBattle of McClennan County at McLane,” or whatever you want to call it, will be the team that is most physical and plays the best defense.

Baylor has suddenly become a run-first team, staying on the ground 58 percent of the time through five games. Now, Art Briles may have magic pass plays stashed aside just for the Frogs, but I think there’s something to it.

Baylor’s been a ground team — but why? Bryce Petty has one of the best arms in the country and a fleet of wideouts that have been hand-picked. What am I missing?

Nonetheless, the Frogs front six will definitely be tested and Baylor has a variety of backs to do just that.

But I still harken back to that 2011 game when Baylor came out bombing TCU, and, after watching the OU video of TCU’s early struggles covering Sooner WR Sterling Shepard, who could blame the Bears if Baylor comes out flinging?

One thing’s for sure: The Frogs have to be good from the opening verse as Baylor has scored at least 31 points in the first half in four of their five games. The Frogs need stops early.

And a continuation of the hot offensive output that has seen the Frogs score on their opening possession in all four games.

It’s only 89 miles between campuses. Don’t be surprised if there are 89 points between these two teams Saturday.

And watch out for the DPS Troopers on I-35W in Itasca.

Kick ‘Em High!

Wait ‘Til the Frogs Play Great

October 9, 2014

On the way out of the radio booth last Saturday, two thoughts occurred to me: Wow, what a statement-making win, and What will happen when the Frogs play really well?No doubt that Saturday’s win over No. 4 Oklahoma was the biggest victory since the Rose Bowl. It had a big crowd with huge noise, Bob Stoops versus Gary Patterson, and all the history that the OU program brings with it. It was a perfect day to make a statement, especially when half the Top 10 went down.

The Frogs made plays when they had to and kept OU guessing all game long. The defensive effort in the fourth quarter was stellar with OU having to punt twice, throwing two interceptions and turning it over on downs at the TCU 23 after the Frogs held on fourth and one. What a play!

And then, they defended the Hail Mary on the game’s last play.

TCU 37, Oklahoma 33.

The Frogs were richly rewarded with a Notre Dame-like jump in the polls all the way from No. 25 to No. 9.

But if you put Saturday’s performance under the microscope, there’s work to do. And that’s the great news!

Consider that the Frogs had:

  • 12 penalties (including one that wiped out a touchdown)
  • A missed field goal
  • A blocked point after touchdown attempt, which was Oberkrom’s first career missed PAT (He’d made 100 in a row for a school record)
  • Got beat deep on pass plays numerous times
  • Scored a touchdown and then ran the next play so fast it couldn’t be reviewed

 

And yet they still got the W.

 

So it begs the question: What will it look like when the Frogs play really well?

 

I can’t wait to see.

 

Kick ‘Em High

Frogs, Sooners have back-and-forth history

October 4, 2014

If you want to know what to expect from today’s TCU-OU matchup, you don’t have to look too far back in this series. Four games in the recent past tell me all I need to know.

As my buddy Rod Serling would say on “The Twilight Zone,” “Submitted for your approval.”

1. Consider the surprising 1996 game in Norman, when TCU went into Soonerland and ruined the coronation of new OU head coach John Blake. The Frogs screen-played the Sooners out of the stadium on their way to a 20-7 win. And it really wasn’t that close.

2. Fast forward to 1998, when the Sooners came to Fort Worth and came away with a 10-9 victory in a heart-stopper. Fans may recall the OU pass that Joseph Phipps intercepted, seemingly icing the Frog win, only to be stripped by a Sooner tight end. Oklahoma recovered, continued the drive and kicked a field goal. Looking back, the Frogs could have been a 9-win team that year.

3. Then there’s the epic 2005 work of art by the TCU defense, quarterback Ty Gunn and a Frog team that showed that it clearly had more speed than OU. The defense bottled up Adrian Peterson, and the Frogs dealt OU its second home loss in the Stoops era, 17-10.

4. Last year in Norman, the Frogs hung tough, trailing 7-0 at the half with ZERO first downs in the 1st half! No team in the nation played OU as tight as the Frogs….nobody.

Now comes tomorrow’s game, with OU running the ball again and being physical on defense. (Sounds like the good old days!) Meanwhile, the Frogs have jumped into the polls with commanding wins of their own.

FACT: Neither team has faced what they are going to face today at Amon G. Carter Stadium. How good is OU’s defense? What will the new TCU offense be able to do against a slashing, attacking Sooner unit that some say is Stoops’ best-ever? I think that’s where this game is decided.

Add to it that this is one of the few times in the series that BOTH teams are ranked. I believe we have recipe for a great game.

What do you think?

Oh, and look for a few new wrinkles from both teams. They’ve been storing them up for a day just like today. It’s conference play. It’s for real now.

Kick ‘Em High!

Beware, Frogs! Ponies with nothing to lose

September 27, 2014

For those of us who live to wake up on Saturday morning and get our game faces on, things are about to get really good.

The Frogs are about to kick it off with SMU for the 94th time, which also equates to the 3rd start to this TCU Football season. After a “Win-take a week off, WIN-take a week off” stutter start to the season, we’re about to begin my prescription for a successful season: TAKE ONE OPPONENT EVERY SEVEN DAYS, AND AVOID INJURY.

Here we go.

And it all starts with the Mustangs, who are looking for answers in all corners of Ford Stadium. That’s what makes them dangerous.

Starting with red chrome helmets, the Mustangs will likely pull out all stops on the Frogs. Once a throwing team, SMU is now a team that now wants to run the ball – and they did a decent job of it last week against Texas A&M.

Yes, I know – I’ve looked at all the stats, facts, figures, etc. but let me pass this along: Remember earlier in the week when I recounted the old SWC battles between the Frogs and the Ponies in the early 80’s? Well, TCU was the underdog back then and , frankly, had no business staying on the field with the Pony Express. Fast forward 30 years and turn the tables. That’s what TCU faces….SMU’s best shot.

The Frogs need to be good early and often on offense. Defensively, they need to bring the heat, targeting QB Garrett Krstich (pronounced Kris-STICH).

A full 60 minute effort is required. No looking ahead – Stay in the moment.

Kick ‘Em High!

Recalling TCU-SMU games of yore

September 24, 2014

A student reporter at TCU 360 called me this week and wanted to know, “What was it like playing against SMU?”

It made me think, and two things came to mind about SMU — the rivalry and playing against the “Pony Express” in the early 80’s:

  1. SMU was loaded and they were good. Really good.
  2. Anybody 25 years old or younger has no idea.

I played against SMU four times from 1981-1984. The Ponies were in high-gear when I arrived at TCU. They had hired a hot shot coach named Ron Meyer from UNLV in 1976 and he was about to put his “Mustang” into high gear.

1980 was when SMU started to make a move, they had running backs Eric Dickerson and Craig James (and called them the Pony Express), an offensive line full of future NFL stars and a defense that in one year saw nine of the 11 starters go in the NFL Draft.

Nose Tackle Michael Carter was a dominant player and an Olympic shot-putter. In the back half, SMU had an All-American safety named Russell Carter (no relation to Michael). A Carter would punish you up front and in the secondary.

When they inserted freshman QB Lance McIlhenny as the starter in mid-October 1980, the Mustangs beat Texas in Austin and the run was on. SMU claimed part of National Championships in 1981, which was the best team I played against, by the National Championship Foundation, and again in 1982, by the Helms Athletic Foundation. They beat Dan Marino and Pitt, 7-3, in the 1983 Cotton Bowl to complete the program’s return to prominence.

TCU-SMU in those days was the real deal. Although the programs were at different places, TCU had talent and the late September date was always on your mind as the season neared. Things got heated. I recall in 1982 when our nose tackle Garland Short called out Craig James in an interview with local TV!

Those four games I played in were intense, hard-hitting, fun. And painful to lose. I’d love to play in any one of them again today. For some reason, the games played at the old Texas Stadium in Irving were especially good. In 1984, when the Frogs and SMU were both good, 60,000 crammed into Texas Stadium to watch — and weren’t cheated.

Here’s the scores of the four I had the privilege to play in:

Sept. 26, 1981
Amon G. Carter Stadium
SMU, 20 -9

Sept. 25, 1982
Texas Stadium
SMU, 16-13

Sept. 24, 1983
Amon G. Carter Stadium
SMU, 21-17

Sept. 29, 1984
Texas Stadium
SMU, 26-17

We didn’t play for the Iron Skillet back then. It was lost and hadn’t been found yet.

But the memories and the impact over time on me and anyone who played in TCU-SMU are real. That’s what makes a rivalry.

Ask Dan Jenkins about the 1935 heart-breaker or about Lindy Berry vs. Doak Walker in 1948  or  Don Meredith vs Bob Lilly in the 1950s. Those are great memories and that’s what rivalries are built on.

Let’s see what great memories the Frogs make on Saturday.

Kick ‘Em High!