Many of the players on this TCU Horned Frogs team do not know life out of the top 25 polls. They do now.
Saturday's 40-33 overtime loss at home to the SMU Mustangs tumbled previously No. 20 TCU out of both polls. In fact, the Frogs, who lost at home for the first time in 23 games, dropped all the way out of the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls, meaning even the "others receiving votes" category.
SMU (4-1) has found its way into the latter portion of both polls, receiving five votes in the AP poll to come in 35th (of note: I am not a voter in the AP poll). The Mustangs received 10 votes in the coaches poll to come in 34th.
TCU coach Gary Patterson, who for last two years has received lavish national praise, and rightfully so, for the rise of the Frogs, did not take his team's second loss in five games particularly well. He is not happy with a defense that has allowed numerous big plays. At one point during his Saturday postgame news conference Patterson described a play in which poor coverage led to a big gain and said, "My mom might have knocked it away."
Despite Patterson's faltering defense and particular difficulty in the secondary, TCU is incredibly close to being 5-0. It's two losses have come by a combined nine points. Baylor won, 50-48, on a last-possession field goal after the Frogs took the lead and the Mustangs needed overtime to finish the job.
However, TCU fell behind big in both games and needed major fourth-quarter comebacks to have a chance late. Especially hard on Patterson is his typically rock-solid 'D.' He came to TCU as the defensive coordinator and in his 11th season as head coach he still calls the plays. The unit has ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense (yards allowed per game) at the end of each of the last three seasons, but this one is especially susceptible to giving up big plays over the top.
SMU, like Baylor, burned the Frogs multiple times down field, including a 71-yard touchdown pass and a 21-yarder.
"Our group is going to have to do some soul searching," Patterson said following Saturday's loss. "We've got a better team to play next week who has had two weeks to prepare." (SMU bulletin board material for next season's Iron Skillet or Patterson putting his team on notice?)
That would be San Diego State, a club that nearly pulled off the upset last season in Fort Worth. The Aztecs' accomplished senior quarterback Ryan Lindley will surely be excited for the rematch as will tailback Ronnie Hillman, the Mountain West Conference's leading rusher at 151. 5 yards a game.
The Frogs dropped to 90th in the nation in total defense, 59th in run defense and 101st in pass defense.
"If I had an answer for it I'd write a book," Patterson said, "Then I wouldn't have to be doing this and putting my life in the hands of 18-year-olds."
The Mustangs have a week off before playing host to Central Florida, the team that beat SMU in last season's Conference USA title game.