This falls in the category of, “Well, you said it.”
On Tuesday, TCU head coach Sonny Dykes said what a loooooooot of people thought about his team last season, when they marched all the way to the national championship game.
“We are a couple plays away from being 5-0, and being in the top 10,” Dykes said in his weekly press conference. “We would be sitting here talking about how good we are, which we’re really not.
“But I don’t know how good we were last year. We were good enough to make it to the national championship game but we weren’t a dominant football team. We are in the same vein this year but haven’t made plays down the stretch.”
There is no spin here. That is the unvarnished, God’s-honest truth.
TCU is 3-2 with both losses by three points, at home, against unranked teams.
At the same point last season, TCU was 5-0, with two one-score wins, on the road.
“Go back and compare game-to-game last year,” Dykes said. “We were about to be in a barn-burner with SMU.”
TCU won at SMU on Sept. 24 by eight.
“We go to Kansas and pull it out at the end of the game,” Dykes said.
TCU was tied with No. 19 Kansas on Oct. 8 with less than four minutes remaining; TCU won on receiver Quentin Johnston’s 24-yard touchdown catch with 1:36 left in the game.
TCU’s ability to “barely win” defined the team’s most special season in the modern era. TCU played seven games decided by one score, and won six.
In three consecutive weeks last season, TCU trailed in the second half against Kansas State, at West Virginia and against Texas Tech. TCU won each game by 10 points; the fourth quarter of all three games had an air of “concern.”
TCU’s one-point win at Baylor last season on a fire-drill, walk-off field goal was the perfect summary for the year.
The quarterback always found a way to complete a pass, or bull rush his way for the first down. The wide receiver would put on cape. A running back made a play. The defense made stops when necessary. The kicker never missed.
It was all so similar to TCU’s 2015 season under coach Gary Patterson, when his quarterback was senior Trevone Boykin. The Horned Frogs were 6-1 in one-score games that year when they finished 11-2; this includes the Alamo Bowl win over Oregon where TCU trailed 31-0 at the half.
“But they barely won” became the common national criticism of TCU in 2022, until any critic had to look at the team’s record and concede that could no longer be a knock. TCU was good enough to beat every opponent but one, the team that finished the season undefeated.
“We are not (this season) that dissimilar of football teams,” Dykes said. “It’s hard for people to say that because of the record, but it’s not much different other than last year, when we got the ball back at the end of the game, we scored and this year we haven’t.”
To repeatedly play that many close games is common. To repeatedly win them is not. To expect a team to maintain an .857 winning percentage in one-score games is a wonderful way to see those expectations crushed.
Much like in 2022, the games in 2023 are there for TCU to take. For no less than 20 reasons, this team has not done that.
TCU should have/could have defeated Colorado in Week 1. The defense was terrible, and an offense that moved the ball all game picked the worst time not to make a play on a potential game-winning drive.
Against West Virginia last Saturday, TCU scored three first-half touchdowns against a good defense. TCU had its chances in the fourth-quarter to tie, or take the lead, and did neither in a three-point loss.
“That’s what I think young people have difficulty in understanding sometimes,” Dykes said. “They think, ‘We were 7-1 in one-score games and we’re going to be that again this year just because we were that last year.’ That’s not how it works.”
If his team didn’t know that before they do now.
Dykes has a good parts, but as a whole the team has been maddeningly inconsistent. TCU could be 5-0, and ranked in the top 10.
Instead, TCU is 3-2 not due to a blown call, or some weird set of circumstances, but because its has been out-played twice by the grand total of six points.
That is the unvarnished, God’s-honest truth.