Late Saturday night, the TCU Horned Frogs felt a lot better about themselves than they did on a Saturday night a year earlier.
That was the final score last year in TCU’s season-opener, a high-stress shootout that was a four-point game in the fourth quarter and forced the starters to play the entire way in what was supposed to be a warmup act.
This year, the warmup hardly required anybody to break a sweat.
Instead, all it did was infuse confidence into a Horned Frogs team getting ready to make a trip to Fayetteville on Saturday for a show-me game against Arkansas.
“A lot more than what we had walking off the field last year,” coach Gary Patterson said.
It’s good for this team to have a different feeling about itself.
Last season, the close shave against South Dakota State was followed by a double-overtime home loss to Arkansas. It set up a 6-7 season. The Frogs have 17 starters who went through last year.
But as always, there are new faces. Five defenders made their first start for TCU on Saturday night.
“This is a lot closer football team,” Patterson said. “It’s a lot older football team.”
Jackson State is not as good as South Dakota State was a year ago, but TCU never looked out of sorts against Jackson State.
Outside of giving up 68 yards on the first 10 plays of the 2017 season at Amon G. Carter Stadium, the Frogs did exactly what a good team is supposed to do against a lesser opponent in a payday game — get ahead quick, get ahead by a lot and play a lot of guys.
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Starting quarterback Kenny Hill missed on only five passes and threw for four touchdowns. Fourteen players caught a pass. Six carried, not counting three quarterbacks. Backup Shawn Robinson threw two touchdown passes. And the defense turned two takeaways into points.
What a difference.
“We came into this game wanting to be 1-0,” said Hill, who completed 18 of 23 passes for 206 yards and was not sacked. “A game like this, we get to learn from it. Nobody really got hurt. That’s the biggest thing. Now we’re getting ready for the next one.”
The shutout was TCU’s 12th under Patterson. He likes that.
The 65 yards allowed were the fewest by TCU since Northern Illinois managed only 60 in the 2006 Poinsettia Bowl. He likes that, too.
That it all came in Patterson’s 150th win at TCU? Yes, he liked that.
But he’d like something else even more.
“I’ll be excited if I can get to 160 at the end of the season,” he said. “That would make me a lot more excited.”
Everybody was excited.
A lot more than a year ago.