STILLWATER — For TCU coach Gary Patterson, the Big 12 experience has proved to be all it was cracked up to be.
Good and bad.
Take last week's wild and entertaining affair with Texas Tech, when the Horned Frogs played solid defense into the fourth quarter … and lost 56-53.
“If you would have told me before the season that we would hold somebody who throws the ball like Texas Tech does to under 200 yards through three quarters and four minutes, and that we'd lose 56-53,” Patterson said, “I would have said you're crazy.
“Welcome to the Big 12 and three overtimes.”
Next stop: Stillwater, home of the reigning Big 12 champs.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Bill Young said taking TCU for one of the two voids left by the departing Texas A&M and Missouri only made sense.
“I thought that was a great fit,” Young said. “Being from this part of the country. TCU's always been a good team. I was a little surprised they brought in West Virginia — that's coming a little bit out of left field.
“But TCU made sense.”
TCU's game notes detail the superlatives from the school's run under Patterson, highlighted by dominance of the WAC, Conference USA and Mountain West.
* An 82-15 record since 2005, ranking No. 2 nationally during that stretch and No. 1 among all teams from Texas.
* The only school in the country to win at least 11 games in six of the last seven seasons.
* One of 12 schools to play in at least 13 bowl games over the last 14 years.
* One of six teams to play in a BCS bowl two of the last three seasons.
* Since 2008, TCU's 52 wins trail only Boise State (56) and Alabama (55).
* Among active coaches on the job a minimum of five seasons, Patterson ranks No. 4 nationally in winning percentage at .781 (114-32), trailing Boise State's Chris Petersen (.919), Ohio State's Urban Meyer (.830) and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops (.804).
Patterson knew the Big 12 was an upgrade, both in status and in stiffness.
And the Frogs have felt it competitively, standing 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the league, losing to Iowa State and Tech with the Big 12's big shots still to come.
Yet, Patterson and the school welcomed the move. Still do.
“Our kids are really excited about the kinds of crowds we've been playing in front of,” Patterson said. “I'm really excited about being in the league. You've got a lesser chance, obviously, coming into the league of winning 10 or 11 or 12 games.
“It's hard to do that for anybody in this league, because the competition level is so close.”
TCU, too, is close.
Dismiss the Frogs at your own risk. They're not as much out of their element in the Big 12, as they are short on players, at least experienced players.
This isn't the team Patterson envisioned for TCU's Big 12 debut. Dismissals and suspensions and injuries have rippled through the roster and dented depth, with 20 players once counted on now missing from action. The Frogs have played more true freshmen (16) than they have scholarship seniors (11). And their combined 28 true and redshirt freshmen are tied for the most nationally with LSU and North Carolina.
“We're trying to coach them like they're juniors and seniors and get them to grow up,” Patterson said. “And I think they have.”
They've had to grow up at the most critical position, with redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin replacing returning starter Casey Pachall, who left the team to seek addiction treatment following a DWI arrest.
So it hasn't been easy, not that anyone promised it would be.
And in all the other areas — attendance, interest, recruiting, perception — Patterson said the move to the Big 12 has delivered.
“The league has been a great change,” Patterson said. “It will make us better as a university and a football program. All the rest of the sports are getting better and I think we have the chance to get better as well.
“The kids are excited about the crowds and environments. We're excited about where we are. We would rather not be 2-2. We are only a few plays away from being 7-0.
“Like I told the kids, ‘We have to keep fighting and growing up. We have to keep looking down the road.'”