THERE WAS the classic late-summer mismatch. TCU coach Gary Patterson took his Horned Frogs north to play Oklahoma last Saturday, loading 104 scholarship and walk-on players onto three buses, as if numbers could prevent the inevitable. The Sooners, 26 1/2-point favorites, awaited with a full stadium and sophomore running back Adrian Peterson, the Heisman runner-up in 2004. After six straight bowl appearances, TCU had slipped to 5-6 a year ago. Oklahoma had gone 12-1 and played in the national championship game for the third time in five years.
Before darkness fell on Norman, however, the Sooners were 0-1 for the first time since 1997 and Patterson was riding a bus back to Forth Worth, receiving congratulatory messages on his cellphone from Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione, his predecessor at TCU, and from Southern Mississippi coach Jeff Bower, both of whom have experience as college football Davids. "There are people who understand how tough it is to win when you don't have the same tools as your opponent," Patterson said on Sunday, still relishing the 17-10 victory. "When you're an aspiring program, you work hard for [moments like this]."
The Horned Frogs' defense, which finished last in the nation against the pass a year ago, is vastly improved. Against inexperienced Oklahoma quarterbacks, TCU modified its 4-2-5 scheme, putting nine men in the box and using lockdown coverage from senior corner Drew Coleman, who missed much of 2004 rehabbing a surgically repaired ACL. "We wanted to make them beat us with the pass," said Patterson.
The plan worked. Oklahoma was held to 225 yards of total offense, including just 128 passing. Peterson gained 63 yards on 22 carries and no doubt missed playing behind departed All-America offensive linemen Jamaal Brown and Vince Carter and with 2003 Heisman-winning quarterback Jason White.
After springing the upset, Patterson punched up SMU schemes on his laptop--TCU makes the short drive east on I-30 to Dallas on Saturday--during the bus ride home. "I've always enjoyed being the underdog," he said. "It's easier when you've got nothing to lose." His team, of course, no longer fits that description.