Friday, September 30, 2011

TCU-SMU - An affair of the heart

Tomorrow, the Frogs tee it up with SMU for the 91st time. Some call it a rivalry and some shrug.

For those who shrug, I suggest taking the following to heart and extending your passion to field level tomorrow. It’s a game that you can feel from the stands if you’ll just pay attention.

The Frogs and Mustangs first met in 1915. Along the way there have been some great games and some interesting stories. Consider the following:

  • TCU lost the 1918 game by forfeit (official score was 1-0) as the TCU bus got stuck in the mud in Grand Prairie following heavy rains in the area.
  • The 1935 Game – at the time called the “Game of the Century,” played at TCU. SMU beat TCU, 20-14, with a late fake punt that turned into an SMU touchdown. SMU went to the Rose Bowl and lost. Frogs went to the Sugar Bowl and won. TCU eventually won the 1935 National Championship.
  • 1948 – Frogs defense contains SMU’s Doak Walker, the 1948 Heisman Trophy winner, and battle to a 7-7 tie.
  • 1951- Frogs down SMU 13-2 to lock up the SWC championship.
  • 1966- SMU’s Jerry Levias breaks the color barrier as the first African-American scholarship athlete in the SWC as SMU cruises 21-0.

In the early 1980s, I played against SMU four times and they were all battles:

  • 1981 – The Pony Express was in its third year and in high gear. SMU’s massive offensive line prevails at Amon G. Carter Stadium, 21-9.
  • 1982 – One of the greatest games of the 1980s and one of the best I ever played in. A late SMU field goal lifts the Mustangs, 16-13.
  • 1983 – A game that still hurts. SMU’s defense, led by Michael Carter stuffs the Frogs on four straight plays from the SMU 3-yard-line on a late goal line stand. SMU 21, TCU 17. I cried in my father’s arms after the game.
  • 1984 – The battle of two ranked teams at Texas Stadium in front of one of the largest SMU home crowds ever. TCU carries a lead late into the 4th quarter before SMU’s Reggie Dupard gets loose on a draw play for the game winner. SMU, 26-17.

Other series games of note:

  • The strange hole in the schedule in 1987 and 1988 with no SMU game while the Mustangs worked through the NCAA’s “Death Penalty."
  • 1990 - The odd specter of old Ownby Stadium on the SMU campus when TCU traveled to Dallas to play the Mustangs for the first time after the death penalty. It’s amazing when I think back of that “make-do” stadium environment that said all you needed to know about the condition of the SMU program at the time.
  • 1992 – A skinny, blond-haired quarterback named Dan Freiburger, threw two touchdown passes as the Mustangs ended six years of frustration and a 25-game Southwest Conference losing streak, beating TCU, 21-9.
  • 1997 - A Freshman running back named LaDainian Tomlinson has a breakout game and leads the Frogs to their only win, 21-18, knocking SMU out of what would have been their first bowl game after the death penalty.

What’s your favorite memory? It might happen tomorrow.

Get into this game and pay attention.

PREDICTION? Both of these teams deserve your attention.

Kick ‘Em High!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

This much we know

Whenever our old friend Keith Jackson wanted to sum something up on Saturday afternoons on ABC, he’d say, “This Muuuuuch We Knooow.”

Well, here goes for a Thursday:

  • It’s going to be a beautiful day for college football on Saturday in Fort Worth. High expected to be 83.
  • LSU looks like the real deal and, after a formality against Kentucky this Saturday, they’ll host Florida, go to Tennessee, host Auburn and then travel to ‘Bama. Texas A&M fans might want to pay attention to LSU’s journey over the next 5 weeks – it’s a sample of the Ags’ future diet.
  • Oklahoma State is pretty good. Told you!
  • Baylor’s Robert Griffin III has more TD passes than incompletions – maybe Baylor was pretty good after all. Heisman Trophy in Waco? Not likely.
  • Our old friend, Brady Hoke, has Michigan at 4-0. Let’s see how far they can go.
  • How about the job that Prentice Lewis and the TCU Women’s Volleyball team is doing? At 14-1, they’re off to a hot start. They’re at Boise State tonight for an 8:00 start. Go Lady Frogs!

Tomorrow, we’ll remember SMU-TCU games form the past and take a close-up look at the 2011 Mustangs.

Kick ‘Em High!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

College football’s traditional rivalries – They won’t last

For those old enough to remember Joni Mitchell’s song "Big Yellow Taxi," it states:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got
Til it’s gone

Kinda like an empty bottle of fine wine.

Fans who make the trip to Amon G. Carter Stadium this Saturday afternoon should heed this ballad’s wisdom.

You see, those lucky enough to end up with one of the 32,000 seats for the 91st edition of SMU-TCU should stop and at least take it all in, even if just for a minute. Because that’s how long it takes for the “powers that be” in college football to kill off some of the game’s most prized possessions. This week, Texas and Texas A&M have all but made it official that they won’t play anymore after the Ags truck it on down the road to the SEC. The storied rivalry, Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, is already buried out back. Bring flowers.

Speaking of Oklahoma, when the Sooners were so sure they were headed to the Pac-12 to “hang 10” three weeks ago, Bob Stoops said that’d be the end of Texas-OU.

"I don't think it's necessary. No one wants to hear that, but life changes," Stoops said. "If it changes, you've got to change with it to whatever degree.”

What? No you don’t!

Oklahoma and Texas have been playing since well before they were conference rivals. They first met in 1900 and have been playing every year at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas since 1929. This year's game will be the 106th meeting between the teams. The teams split the revenue on 92,100 tickets whose face value is $100+, garner national television exposure and get bonus money from the City of Dallas for keeping the game at the Cotton Bowl (the real one, right next to Big Tex.) I thought I’d throw in the mention of money, since that does mean something. No offense, but I think Coach Stoops should stick to the X’s & O’s.

College football’s popularity has been built on grass roots interest spawned by regional rivalries and the games that, each year, reinvent the intensity and lore that lasts another 364 days until the next game. Rivalries produce games and interest throughout the land and keep the game at the forefront of fans’ minds. Rivalries are like Macy’s on the day after Thanksgiving – it’s a deal you can’t miss.

Unfortunately, it seems this is lost on those who would realign college football and rearrange it for the benefit of television networks that are going to pay out huge sums for rights to telecast college games that have high level of appeal. My question is, aside from being bad for the game and its fans, what network in its right mind would agree to pay for a college football schedule that has no Texas-OU, no Michigan-Notre Dame, no OU-Nebraska, no Texas-Texas A&M?

Hold those rivalry memories close, college football fans. The day is coming.

And if you’re lucky enough to be in Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday, be sure to take an extra sip. You’ll be glad you did.

Kick ‘Em High!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Crackin' open the Friday football cooler

It’s a beautiful Friday in late September, so let’s crack open the college football cooler:

- Portland State on Family Weekend presents the Horned Frogs will plenty of opportunities:

  • One last tune-up before the Frogs run through what I call “Gate No. 2” of the season, which features the SMU/SDSU combo. (Gate No. 1 was Baylor/Air Force).
  • A chance to muscle up against a pretty decent Portland State running game – watch out for No. 1 running back Cory McCaffrey, who ran for 222 yards last week. (I don’t care who the opponent is. If you run for 222, you should have a bullseye on your back.)
  • A great “contain drill” to confine a good quarterback for Portland State in No. 6 Connor Kavanaugh. He can keep a play alive with his feet.
  • A chance to thwart another team full of tricks on special teams.

- Hats off to Frogs’ kicker Ross Evans, who last week became TCU’s all-time leading scorer with 325 points. Stop and think about that. ... No. 2 on the scoring list is LaDainian Tomlinson (remember him?) with 324.

- Portland State brings a TCU connection to town this week. Vikings’ freshman wide receiver Roston Tatum is the son of my old teammate, Roscoe Tatum (remember him?), who was a speedy running back and world-class trackster back in the mid 1980’s.

Kick ‘Em High!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When it's game day, it's about the Frogs

I have kept a mental note over the past several years — as the Frogs have become a card-carrying member of college football’s most feared — that at home games, it’s not always about the Frogs.

And that’s wrong.

Some may be irked or confused by my stance, but here's my read: Many TCU fans base their engagement with the Frogs on the weather or even the opponent. I say ask fans at Alabama, Oklahoma, USC or even Texas, and they’ll tell you that they don’t care who the opponent is. If their team is on the field, then they’re there.


In the stadium.

Making noise on opponent’s third downs.

THERE . . . to get the most out of the college football experience.

THERE . . . to make sure that their team knows their fans care.

Thankfully, things have changed a lot since I played against the Houston Cougars in 1981 in front of a whopping 13,257. Our crowds are much larger than that.

But one thing hasn’t changed — the players notice whether the stands are packed. And they feed off the energy provided by full seats.

Whether it’s Penn State or Portland State, the attitude should be the same.

There’s a new Amon G. Carter Stadium coming up out of the ground. Make it yours, Frog Fans. Get THERE.

And pack it this weekend.

Kick ‘Em High!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Two-fer Tuesday!

Here’s a double dip of brainwaves for you on this fine Tuesday.

Scoop #1

Can you believe we’re already heading into Week 4 of the college football season? Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Oklahoma is for real. Once they got up 10 points on FSU Saturday night, I turned it off.
  • Oklahoma State is better than I thought. That should be some battle when they meet OU (who’ll still be No. 1) on December 3rd in Stillwater. They call it “Bedlam!”
  • Bust of the Year YTD: Notre Dame. So much made about so little. The Irish beat Michigan State, but the Spartans still get more votes in the AP Poll....think the pollsters were impressed?
  • I still miss Keith Jackson on my TV.
  • Collision of the Week: No. 6 Oklahoma State at No. 8 Texas A&M.

Scoop #2

I’m already impressed with the play of so many of the new faces on the Horned Frogs:

  • The defensive line, including David Johnson, Chuckie Hunter, Ray Burns, Ross Forrest, Jon Koontz and Jon Lewis.
  • Casey Pachall – you’re wondering why I didn’t put him first – I had a feeling that he’d handle all this just fine and, so far, he has.
  • The Fab 5 – the freshman wide outs are as advertised, and DeSoto’s David Porter, while the least touted, has had the most impact.
  • The rebuilt offensive line – giving Matthew Tucker and Waymon James room to work and keeping Casey upright.
  • These guys aren’t new, but WRs Josh Boyce and Antoine Hicks have been “handy.” I wouldn’t want to have to cover them.

Conference Call

OK, OK! I know, you’re wondering about conference realignment. It might as well be called “covert reassignment.” There are so many factors and so few rules to this puzzle that in the time it took you to read this article, something major changed…I assure you.

Kick ‘Em High!

Friday, September 16, 2011

99 and one to grow on

Tomorrow the Frogs open the home schedule against ULM (Louisiana-Monroe for those scoring at home!)

It’s also a chance for the Frogs to notch another home victory and get Gary Patterson his 100th win as TCU head coach. Gary’s not taken with that stat and, frankly, neither am I, but I am intrigued to think about the first 99 wins.

Which one’s the best, the most important, and the most favorite? Obviously, Coach P has taken us on some fun rides. Some entries to ponder while you come up with your own list:

  • The win over Southern Miss in the last game of the 2001 season that put the Frogs in a bowl and sent Nebraska (who had beaten the Frogs earlier that year) to the BCS National Championship game;
  • The Liberty Bowl win in 2002 over a really good Colorado State team – the Frogs were dominating on defense;
  • The big win at home on over Louisville on Thursday night on national TV – remember the Louisville FG attempt bouncing off the crossbar on the last play of the game?
  • The win at OU in ‘05;
  • The win over Boise State in the “6th BCS Game” at the Poinsettia Bowl;
  • The win at Clemson in 2009, which launched the Frogs’ rocket;
  • Any win in 2010;
  • The Rose Bowl win

Take time on this Friday to come up with your own Top 10.

And, thanks, Coach P, for the first 99. What’s next?!!

Enjoy your college football weekend, everybody!

Kick ‘Em High!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Some thoughts about realignment

Conference Realignment??? You’re gonna feel a little pressure.

Every time I hear another discussion on college football conference “realignment,” it makes me think of going to the chiropractor — and how appropriate!

Chiropractic is defined as a health care discipline that focuses on the relationship between musculoskeletal structure (primarily the spine) and body function (as coordinated by the nervous system.

Nervous? You bet. Nationwide the talk of realignment has Athletic Directors and Conference Commissioners sleeping lightly and waiting for the next big text message to buzz in on their predawn bedside table.

College Football fans, you better be nervous, too. For years, the NCAA stated that college football needed to be distinctively different from the professional game. Rules were different, goal posts were wider (believe me, I know) and the focus was on competition and the overall health of the game. The NFL was left to worry about television contracts, media markets, expansion and how much to pay the players. Now, those conversations have oozed into the college game on a daily basis.

Sure, lay the blame for starting this latest wildfire at the feet of ESPN (gas can) and University of Texas (match), but there are plenty of other players to include on the list of suspects. And don’t forget to blame two inventions of post-World War II America, the jet engine and television — without them we wouldn’t have this situation.

My point is that maybe everyone should back off and think about what has built college football to this point:

  • Regional conferences that make game access for fans easy.
  • Road trips that all fans can make.
  • Rivalries that hook fans as toddlers and carry through a lifetime. (See Texas-OU and Texas-Texas A&M, both on the chopping block.)
  • Scheduling that keeps ‘em coming back for more.

See where I’m going? Some things just should not be abandoned.

Several years ago, NASCAR decided it was going to get too big for its britches and bolt out to larger markets, abandoning its historic regional roots and killing off races in Nashville and North Wilkesboro Speedway and Rockingham for Las Vegas, California, etc. and it’s not working out the way they thought it would. Oh, by the way, NASCAR has announced that it’s going back to Rockingham next year after a 7-year hiatus. Making the move of out Rockingham wasn’t a good idea after all. Is there a marketing lesson here?

For Texas A&M, the marketing research may lie as closely as the University of Arkansas. The Hogs bolted for the SEC in 1990 and took one leg off the SWC chair that eventually crashed under the weight of Big Bertha. Arkansas fans will tell you that it hasn’t worked out the way they thought it would. The SEC is a meat grinder, and TCU has been ranked in the Top 10 more than Arkansas has. not to mention that when Arkansas went east to the SEC, it abandoned its recruiting base in north central Texas because it ceased playing games in Texas and game exposure to recruits diminished. (That’s why Jerry Jones — a Hog alum — booked the Hogs into Cowboys Stadium to play every year.) Again, TAMC (for you older readers) might want to review this case study.

Finally, whatever configuration is decided on at the end of this domino game, the serious talk of 16-team conferences makes me scratch my head. TCU lived in the 16-member WAC from 1996-2001 and the travel, scheduling and operation of the conference were unwieldy. In a five-year period there were actually conference opponents that TCU never played home-and-home in football. In basketball, teams played everyone in their 8-team division and then cross over to the other division to play 4 teams in one of the “crossover quadrants” which alternated year-to-year. Confused? Twelve-team conferences are the way to go.

This situation brings to mind a passage from The Life of Reason (1905-1906) by George Santayana:

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Perhaps the best answers for the future of college football are wedged in its past.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Frogs look to avoid rocky start in the Rockies

The Rocky Mountains welcomed the TCU Horned Frogs to Colorado Springs today with temperatures that are 55 degrees warmer than what the Frogs braved in their last trip to Falcon Stadium in 2009.

Enough about that cold, cold day. This trip is more eerily similar to the trip they made to the foothills in 2007, coming off a loss in Austin to Big XII (or is it 10 or 9?) member Texas and starting MWC play versus a pesky Air Force team.

Keys to remember as you settle in with a beverage for this one:
  • This is the most experienced Air Force team in some 20 years – lots of juniors and seniors, including four-year starter Tim Jefferson (he makes it go) at QB.
  • Troy Calhoun has instilled a “protect our home” mentality in the Falcons – they are 20-5 at home in the Calhoun era.
  • Calhoun is one of the bright minds in college football – he always has a stellar game plan put together.
  • If you like chess matches, watch Gary Patterson and Troy Calhoun match wits tomorrow – it’ll be a strategist’s dream.
  • Frogs are hungry and ready to get back on the winning track but they have to be disciplined against Air Force’s triple option attack, which will pull up and throw on you occasionally.
  • Frogs have to play great defense on first down and put the Falcons in long down-and-distance situations.
  • The Frogs need to continue to run the ball like they did at Baylor to control the clock and keep the Air Force offense off the field.
  • Each of the last two games played by these teams at Falcon Stadium has been decided by a score of 20-17 — that’s 6 points total over two games!
From the OH, BY THE WAY DEPARTMENT: TGIF and there’s college football tomorrow to take our time and attention away from all the rumors, speculation and heresay on conference realignment. It’s sad that most of the attention is gobbled up by this issue at a time of the year when fans should be enjoying the great college game most. Enjoy the weekend and read every score on Sunday morning!

Kick ‘Em High!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

These Frogs have heart

Here’s hoping you had a great Labor Day Weekend and enjoyed the cooler temperatures. That early-morning coolness kinda feels like football weather doesn’t it?

Takeaways from last Friday’s Baylor game:

  • This TCU team has heart. Young, though it may be, it showed the mental toughness and resilience of a veteran team. No panic spotted from my vantage point.
  • Coming from 24 points down to retake the lead is no small feat.
  • Several Frogs showed the leadership skills that Gary Patterson has been looking for. In fact, last Friday’s wild-and-crazy game was the perfect crucible for a young team trying to find its identity.
  • QB Casey Pachall’s presence in the fourth quarter was undeniable as he engineered the comeback with great reads and pinpoint passing.
  • TCU’s offensive line — a worrisome lot in the preseason — performed very well and gave Pachall & Company the time and opportunities it needed.
  • TCU’s kickoff return and punt return teams were stellar.
  • TCU’s defense made some great plays late in the game when they needed to, including holding Baylor to a field goal with the game on the line.
  • Baylor’s QB Robert Griffin III (with lots of offensive weapons around him) will have even bigger games this year in the Big 12 — you watch.
  • Baylor will win a lot of games.

And now, here comes Air Force and MWC play this Saturday. So no time to fret.

No doubt, a season-opening loss is not what TCU is about. But I promise you, later in the season, coaches, players, fans and so-called “experts” will look at the Baylor game and say that it was an beneficial outing that helped these young Frogs grow up in a hurry.

Kick 'em high!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Are you ready for some Frog football?

There's a saying that Opening Day in college football is like Christmas — you can't wait, you're anxious and you never know what's in the box.

Well, today is that day, Frog Fans. Get ready!

For the first time in four years, you'll have to get by without Andy Dalton. Tejay Johnson's gone. So is Jeremy Kerley.

But don't fret. TCU is a program that reloads — rebuilding is not part of the purple vocabulary.

Tonight's matchup at Baylor revives an inter-church school battle that dates back to 1899 and has lots of storylines:

* A Baylor program trying to prove that last year's success was not a fluke.
* A TCU program trying to stay at the same level as last year's Rose Bowl team.
* A new starting TCU QB in Casey Pachall. Watch him...he's really talented.
* Baylor's new defense trying to be the difference between last year's TCU blowout win and tonight's game.
* TCU's defense vs. Baylor's dual threat QB, Robert Griffin III.
* TCU's rebuilt offensive line vs. Baylor's rebuilt defensive line.

And, as always in first games, look for special teams to play a key role in this one.

Enjoy this new season of college football. It's time!

And I hope you like what's in the box!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Finishing “The Carter”

This week, TCU Athletics Director Chris Del Conte announced plans to replace the east stands of Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Big news. And timely, too.

For many, it fired the starter’s pistol for completion of a project that they thought they’d never see. For others, it’s an extra-large bow on the gift that is the beginning of the 2011 college football season.

Pool-siders who keep tabs on conference realignment, TV contracts and the business of college football were all hit by the splash, made at just the right time. Aside from bowl season, this is the week that has college football fans most lathered-up. Everybody’s undefeated and can’t wait.

The renovation of Amon G. Carter Stadium is a huge deal for TCU. Finishing it is even a bigger deal. For those who can remember back when TCU didn’t need half of the 46,000 seats in the old “Carter,” yesterday was a special moment and an historic day, I argue.

Finishing “The Carter” says TCU knows how. Gets it done.

And it sends a well-placed and important message to TCU fans, players (past, present and future), students and the gatekeepers of college football on this first week of the season.

Big news.

More renderings of the proposed renovation