Saturday, September 27, 2014

Beware, Frogs! Ponies with nothing to lose

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!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recalling TCU-SMU games of yore

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!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Off Week To-Do List

Off weeks are not really “off weeks.” Just like the Frogs, it’s an opportunity for our broadcast crew and Frog fans to sharpen their game, study up on upcoming opponents and get ready for a long stretch of games. So here’s my check list:

1. Re-watch Kansas State-Auburn game. It was a tough loss for the Wildcats, but they represented well. Red zone woes and a kicking game that melted-down — which was painful for me to watch — kept KSU from pulling the upset. Takeway: KSU can play defense, and they’re fast.

2. Check out SMU-A&M game. This will be interesting. SMU is hard to figure. They’re likely to come with everything and why not? A&M is rolling and can’t afford a stumble. Frogs need to be super sharp in a week.

3. Record OU-WVU. The Mountaineers have showed some toughness in the early season, and they hung with ‘Bama. Morgantown is a tough place to play. An OU win would make for a fun weekend at “The Carter” in two weeks IF the Frogs take care of business in Dallas next week. And if they’re both undefeated, does that warrant TCU a visit from ESPN Gameday? I would think so. Stand by.

4. Study up on SMU and OU.

5. Wash the back windows and replace the broken screens. (See it’s not all football.) Glamorous, huh?

Enjoy your last open week for a while, Frog fans! Here comes the college football buffet beginning next week with “breakfastball” in Dallas.

Kick ‘Em High!