Some called it the Cowtown Beatdown.
By the end of the first quarter, TCU had thrown four touchdown passes and forced a safety. At halftime, then-freshman cornerback Kris Boyd stirred major controversy by retweeting a Texas A&M fan letting Boyd and linebacker Malik Jefferson know that they were welcome to transfer to the Aggies.
“I remember it being the first quarter, 30-0,” Jefferson said on Tuesday. “It was probably the worst game I've ever been involved in. Definitely one of the most frustrating because there was nothing that you could do. Just watching guys catching the ball left and right, it was a bloodbath.”
One might even say that Amon-Carter Stadium turned into a slaughterhouse that day, as the Horned Frogs racked up 376 passing yards and six touchdowns through the air.
Things didn’t go much better the year before in Austin when TCU dismantled Texas 48-10 on Thanksgiving. Nor last year, when the Charlie Strong era officially ended with a 31-9 laugher at the hands of a Horned Frogs team that finished with a losing record.
So, the question for players on Tuesday was whether this game means a little bit more given the recent history between the two programs. But no one was biting — senior wide receiver Dorian Leonard offered a politic answer aligned with what head coach Tom Herman might say.
“We just try to take each week as a championship game,” Leonard said. “It's not hyped up because we lost to them, it's hyped up because it's the next game on our schedule. So we're just taking it as 1-0, we're just trying to win that championship game right now. So we're going to go out there and give it all that we have and try and come out with a nice result.”
Pressed on the recent record, Leonard noted that the “past is the past” and repeated the 1-0 mantra.
Does junior defensive end Charles Omenihu, who hails from the Metroplex, want redemption after the two blowout losses he’s suffered against TCU? Not exactly.
“It is not about redemption,” Omenihu said. “It is more about the next opponent and this is a game that we need to win.”
Another junior, left guard Patrick Vahe, simply paid respect to head coach Gary Patterson’s team.
“No guy is average,” Vahe said. “Every guy is player and they're a dude over there. So I give them a lot of credit, but at the same time we've got to do our job.”
After three close losses against the three other top-ranked opponents on the schedule, perhaps it’s no surprise that the ‘Horns are approaching the game with a workmanlike attitude.
“I think our confidence pretty much builds every week,” said sophomore safety Brandon Jones. “Our biggest thing is we take practice really serious. We know everything that we need to practice when we get in the game, so we kind of carry that on into every Saturday. Trying to be the most physical guys, be the most well-coached, also being able to know what to do and when to do it at the right time.”
That’s the alignment preached by Herman as the team draws confidence from the on-field results, even if the team hasn’t had the big breakthrough for an upset to truly define Herman’s first season.
The coaches aren’t asking the players to believe any more, just asking them to take their training and translate it to the field to go 1-0 on Saturday. No different than any practice or any other game.
Now that avoiding another blowout isn’t a motivation, perhaps that mental and physical preparation will make all the difference.