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Mauch on Sport: A new season, new hope

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There’s something special about the start of every football season. Each team and their faithful have the highest hopes, and no bubble has yet been burst.

“It’s the season opener, everybody has that chance. Everybody believes,” said Jake Hare, a TCU fan. “It’s a magical feeling at all levels.”

Of course, for some teams, those hopes get somewhat dashed in the very first game, as was the case for Arkansas-Pine Bluff Saturday night in a 39 loss to TCU at Amon Carter Stadium. Some have sarcastically said that the lackluster performance, particularly by the offense, didn’t bode well for the Horned Frogs as well, though odds are head coach Gary Patterson will figure out a few things, especially once he settles on a permanent starting quarterback.

Nonetheless, TCU fans are used to winning home openers as the Frogs improved to 18-1 in the season’s first home contest under Patterson, including the past 18 straight.

For TCU fans, the return of football season brings rejuvenated hope as the Horned Frogs look to return to the form that has had them competing for – and winning – conference championships. And while no one was going as far as committing to challenging favored Oklahoma for the Big 12 title this season, the overall feeling among Frogs faithful appears to be one of “don’t underestimate us.”

Given Patterson’s history of teams bouncing back after sub-TCU type seasons, which last season’s 7-6 record was, that is understandable. Patterson’s teams regularly rebound from such seasons with double digit wins the next.

“I had a countdown from 11 weeks down,” Hunter Nix said. “They are underrated. If we have even average quarterback play we’ll win nine or 10 games.”

And for some, the opponent doesn’t matter, Daniel Hale said. Another season is kicking off, and that’s the main thing.

“It’s the start of football season for the Frogs. I’m excited about what TCU is doing, the stadium (renovations), the atmosphere, there’s so much to be excited about,” he said.

And, of course, most of the excitement centers around the team they are putting on the field. Oklahoma is favored by most to win the Big 12, with Texas next. The Horned Frogs are picked fourth by most behind Iowa State (and some even have them fifth, also behind Baylor).

However, with Iowa State barely escaping Northern Iowa 29-26 in three overtimes Saturday, and Texas having to come to Fort Worth on Oct. 26, Hale said perhaps the prognosticators should take another look. Never mind that the season is still in its infancy and there was not much to write home about in the win over Pine Bluff.

“I think they’re (the Horned Frogs) are very underrated. I think they’ll be in the top third-plus. They have a chance to be a contender in the Big 12,” he said.

Just what the “top third-plus” is in a league with 10 teams is a question mark, but for argument’s sake, we’ll say it’s the top three.

The Horned Frogs, admittedly, have some question marks as the season gets underway, a lot of those questions still remain. But there’s more to the excitement of a season opener than the game itself, Alexandria Hutchison said.

“I’m third-generation TCU. My mom and dad come to the games. She and her mom went here, and we’re keeping the tradition going,” she said. “I think the team is still kind of in a rebuilding stage, but we’ll be better than last year.”

Her friend Rebecca Rienstra, is starting a TCU tradition in her family – a family that has had members graduate from several Horned Frogs rivals past and present. Her dad went to Texas, her mom attended Baylor, and her sister went to Texas A&M, which left the Big 12 several years ago and is now in the Southeast Conference.

“I’m a first-generation TCU member, but I have a long family history with the Big 12,” she said. “It’s so exciting to have a new season, the atmosphere, the camaraderie.”

The Horned Frogs have an off week and then travel to Purdue on Sept. 14. While it won’t have the magic of a season opener on Sept. 21 when they return home, there will be nonetheless be a special atmosphere as they face rival SMU. The Horned Frogs are 15-2 against the Mustangs under Patterson.

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