No. 4 TCU must be on lookout for 'ugly' game
By Mac Engel
The game is coming, or it may have already happened. Every college football coach whose team has a realistic chance of going undefeated knows there will be some game that should be over before it begins -- but won't be decided until the final seconds.
Be it because of a team made up of a collection of 20-year-olds, bad weather, crazy bounces or simply a hot opponent, an upset that should not occur can suddenly be in play.
"I tell you what -- it's a helpless feeling sometimes," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "Fortunately for us, we haven't had those helpless feelings in the last five or six years as much as some others have. It's a helpless feeling when everything they're doing is right and nothing you're doing is going pretty well."
The elements of these games usually consist of the following: a highly ranked team against an ugly underdog, on the road, a week before or after a "big" game.
TCU's game this week fits some of the criteria.
The No. 4 Frogs will play host to a 2-4 team one week before playing host to No. 23 Air Force.
BYU is your atypical ugly 'dog. The Cougars haven't been this bad in years, and motivation to play a conference rival such as this usually isn't lacking.
But Patterson is acutely aware in guarding against such games, but sometimes it's out of his hands.
"No. 1, you can't feel sorry for yourself. All of us have a tendency [to say], 'This is not what I planned on.' That doesn't work very well," Patterson said. "You [have to] start looking at, 'What can I do? What can I say to get [the team] coming back?'"
The signs begin rather quickly. Maybe it's bad weather. Maybe it's an odd turnover or a bizarre touchdown. But the momentum that should have existed for the favorite starts to disappear, and the little engine that could suddenly is playing like the Indianapolis Colts.
It almost feels as if the Frogs might have already gotten this game out of the way.
Ranked No. 4 in the nation on Sept. 24, the Frogs trailed SMU 17-14 early in the third quarter. The evening was beginning to feel like an NCAA Tournament game, when a No. 15 seed starts throwing in stupid 3-pointers from the equator to beat one of the top-ranked teams in the country.
"We're so used to having things go your way, but when things don't go your way, how are you going to respond?" TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick said. "We were able to overcome our mistakes and come away with a good win [41-24 over SMU]."
Nearly every team en route to a special season has one of these games.
TCU had it last season in a 20-17 win at Air Force.
Eventual 2009 BCS national champion Alabama had its version of hell at home against Tennessee in a 12-10 win.
They always seem to happen, and it's just a question of whether the superior team can figure out a way to "ugly" its way to win a game it may deserve to lose.
"That's fair to say," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday via a conference call. "Thinking back, particular to us in the 2000 year, the Texas A&M game we came back and won in the fourth quarter, [it] was probably fair to say, 'Whew, we dodged a bullet.'"
And when that bullet is dodged, there is something far greater gained than just another win.
"Another way to look at it -- it's fate," Stoops said. "I made the comment after [OU beat A&M 35-31 in 2000], 'You know what boys -- we can't lose."
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