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At TCU they’re talking offense and maybe even a whisper of Heisman

Chuck Culpepper (c) 2014, The Washington Post. FORT WORTH, Texas — Around here, they’re talking about offense suddenly, and they’re talking about offense suddenly because one of the rarer of human occurrences: A 54-year-old man had the guts to change.

If people generally change only after traumas, then the list of life’s traumas apparently must include the following: 4-8.

That was the Texas Christian University football team’s 2013 record, the result of a second season as a toddler in the Big 12 after seven seasons spent traumatizing the Mountain West, with the 13-0 Rose Bowl year of 2010-11 as a pinnacle.

That familiar old risk-averse cat from Rozel, Kansas, Gary Patterson, finished enduring the 4-8 in his 13th TCU season and decided emphatically that he disliked it emphatically. He got busy with human resources, and if you peeked very carefully during the teens of last December, you would have noticed that Patterson hired an offensive coordinator, then hired another offensive coordinator.

Now he had jazzy offensive coordinators trying to jazz up the offense, and in the telltale quotation of TCU’s 2014 season, Patterson said this: “I think people are just in shock that I let them do it.”

He said that before the Texas Tech game of Oct. 24. In that game, his team scored just 82. It could have been more had the offense not stalled for those dreary four field goals along the way. TCU improved to 6-1 and wound up a hopeful No. 7 in the first-ever College Football Playoff selection committee listing.

That owed to a litany of upturned statistics wreaking points and the buzzy hope often known to arrive alongside points. In 2013, TCU got 210 yards and 10 points against Oklahoma, 325 yards and 17 points against Oklahoma State and 401 yards and 10 points against Texas Tech. It lost all three.

In 2014, TCU got 469 yards and 37 points against Oklahoma, 676 yards and 42 points against Oklahoma State and 785 yards and 82 points against Texas Tech. It won all three, the last so extreme that it forced Patterson to say afterward, “I didn’t want to score that last touchdown,” a touchdown that came anyway on a 25-yard run through a yawning hole with 1:16 remaining. Eighth in Big 12 scoring and ninth in passing yardage last year, TCU stands first and sixth this year — in the country.

It’s not that entrenched Horned Frog fans had never seen points, even given the defensive synapses known to rule Patterson’s brain. The 2010 team, for instance, got to 60 twice, to 40 six more times beyond that, and to 30 three more times beyond even that. It’s just that they hadn’t seen points come with such freneticism and against Big 12 foes to confirm the onslaughts.

Now, Frog-minded households aim to watch and wonder about points on Saturday as TCU tries its natural rivalry 1,077 miles away at Morgantown, West Virginia, against a West Virginia team that recently limited extravagant Baylor to 27 — a veritable shutout — then held Oklahoma State to 10, all part of a giddy four-game Mountaineer winning streak that got going after Oklahoma’s sobering visit to Morgantown on Sept. 20.

Long established as not a fool, Patterson still had something beyond not-a-fool, a wherewithal to question his own tack. After 4-8, he looked around and noticed again of how schools such as Texas Tech and Oklahoma State hatched meaning out of semi-anonymity with offenses that lived in hurries.

He hired one guy who played and coached at Oklahoma State, then one guy who played and coached at Texas Tech. He hired a 49-year-old and a 33-year-old. He hired Doug Meacham, who once blocked for Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas before spending eight seasons around Mike Gundy’s frenetic approach at Oklahoma State. And he hired Sonny Cumbie, who still holds the Holiday Bowl passing-yardage record from 2004 during his Texas Tech days, before his Texas Tech days extended all the way to offensive-coordinator-hood.

Already it was established that Trevone Boykin, from the other side of Dallas in Mesquite, knew his way around a gridiron. He was, after all, the only player in the 41 FBS states last year to have a 100-yard passing game, a 100-yard rushing game and a 100-yard receiving game. This season, though, after summertime uncertainty over who would play quarterback, it has been established that quarterback Boykin soon might know his way around midtown Manhattan.

He has come from the exurbs to the edge of the Heisman conversation with 24 touchdowns (21 passing, three rushing) against four turnovers, and seven touchdown passes in three quarters against Texas Tech. After the 82 that lured in many more eyes the way an 82 will, he said something that foretold even more chatter around Fort Worth.

He said Cumbie, the coordinator who deals with quarterbacks, told him “to be smart and be safe. What we are doing now is good, but the real talk is going to be in January.”

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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