RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Player
TCU coach Gary Patterson embraced changed and joined an exclusive club.
Patterson was voted college football coach of the year by The Associated Press on Wednesday, joining Nick Saban as the only two-time winners.
The AP coach of the year has been awarded since 1998. Patterson, in his 14th season at TCU, was coach of the year in 2009. Saban was coach of the year in 2003 when he was with LSU and in 2008 at Alabama.
Patterson received 27 of 54 votes from the AP Top 25 media panel. Urban Meyer of Ohio State was the runner-up with 14 votes. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen received six votes. Alabama’s Saban and Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez drew two votes each. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Baylor’s Art Briles and Memphis’ Justin Fuente had one.
Patterson guided the sixth-ranked Horned Frogs to an 11-1 record and a share of the Big 12 title after going 4-8 in 2013.
“The head coaches get too much attention,” Patterson said. “That means really that you had a good team. Good players and really a great coaching staff.”
After his worst season at TCU, Patterson overhauled his offense, knowing he needed more production to keep up in the high-scoring Big 12. He brought in Doug Meacham to be offensive coordinator and Sonny Cumbie to assist and coach quarterbacks. They installed an up-tempo, spread offense similar to the one used by Big 12 rivals Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
What resulted was one of the biggest turnarounds of the season. TCU went from being ranked 105th in the nation in yards per play and 106th in yards per game in 2013 to ranking ninth and fourth, respectively, in those categories in 2014. The Horned Frogs increased their points per game by three touchdowns, from 25 to 46. Trevone Boykin, who seemed destined to become a full-time receiver, instead developed into one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.
“It was a big jump for us. Thirty-two years of my 33 years (in coaching) I’ve been part of run, play action, play good defense. Special teams. This was outside of my comfort zone,” Patterson said.
Patterson learned a good defense and an up-tempo offense could co-exist. And TCU, in just its third year in the Big 12, won a share of the conference title. Only a last-second loss at Baylor kept the Frogs from a perfect season.
TCU was in the hunt for a College Football Playoff spot and came into the final weekend of the season third in the selection committee rankings. The Frogs ended up sixth and instead of playing for the national title will meet Mississippi in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31.
“We wanted to be in the playoff, but I’m not sure the way it all was handled that TCU didn’t gain even more from not being it in. How we handled it,” Patterson said. “There’s a lot of positives that came out of how everything turned out.”
A look at the other contenders and their cases to be coach of the year.
The Buckeyes’ coach has had an unbeaten season with Utah, won two national championships with Florida and is 36-3 at Ohio State — and has never been AP coach of the year.
This season, with a rebuilt offensive line and a redshirt freshman quarterback, Meyer and the Buckeyes overcame early season growing pains to win the Big Ten and earn a playoff spot. Meyer’s greatest strength has always been building a stellar staff. Credit quarterback coach Tom Herman for turning J.T. Barrett into a Heisman contender after Braxton Miller went down in the preseason and for getting Cardale Jones ready to play against Wisconsin in the conference title game.
In his sixth year with the Bulldogs, Mullen led Mississippi State to one of the best seasons in school history. Mississippi State went 10-2, spent five weeks as the No. 1 team in the AP poll, and earned a spot in the Orange Bowl. Mullen’s greatest success is building a program that can have sustained success on one of the smallest budget in the SEC West. This season an experienced team made up mostly of three-star recruits jelled into a team that could compete with all those five-star rosters in the toughest division in college football.
Another coach doing more with less in a rugged neighborhood. Rodriguez’s team was expecting to take a step forward this season, but instead the Wildcats made a leap, relying on a freshman quarterback and running back and a defense led by a sophomore linebacker. Rodriguez won the Pac-12 South, handed Oregon its only loss, and maxed out his roster on the way to an appearance in the Pac-12 title game. Arizona finishes its season in the Fiesta Bowl.
Like Patterson, Saban hired a new offensive coordinator (former USC coach Lane Kiffin), moved toward a more no-huddle attack and won a conference championship. Saban has had so much success he is almost underrated. He could be coach of the year almost every year.