The TCU Horned Frogs’ storybook football season came to its crushing end on Monday as the Georgia Bulldogs demolished the Frogs in the College Football Playoffs National Championship.
As disappointing as the 65-7 loss was, the season will go down as one of the most historic in school history. The improbable course of the season was impossible to foresee when the football season began.
TCU entered 2022 unranked, predicted to finish seventh in the Big 12, and facing significant questions. The school had cut ties with the all-time winningest head coach in campus history in the offseason and poached a new coach from across the Metroplex.
There was little reason to believe that Sonny Dykes could do much with a Frogs team that finished 5-7 and just 3-6 in the Big 12 Conference.
Dykes immediately got busy recruiting and acquiring players through the NCAA transfer portal. Key pickups like Mark Perry from Colorado and corner Josh Newton from ULM helped flesh out the roster.
After three years as the starting quarterback, Max Duggan was supplanted by former Oklahoma QB Chandler Morris, a 2021 transfer under Gary Patterson.
The Horned Frogs opened the season at the Colorado Buffalos and started slowly, struggling to gain yards in the first half, a trend that tended to hamper the team all season. In the third quarter, Morris went down with a severe knee injury, leading to Duggan taking over and leading the Frogs to a 21-point fourth quarter and a 38-13 win to open the season.
The Frogs’ winning ways continued through the early part of the season with non-conference victories over Tarleton State and a homecoming victory for Dykes in the Iron Skillet Challenge game against SMU.
On October 1, the Frogs faced Oklahoma, the first ranked opponent in a four-game stretch of ranked opponents. TCU did more than win against the Sooners; the Frogs put up 55 points and stifled any chance Oklahoma had at a comeback.
TCU was rewarded with its first AP Top 25 ranking at No.17.
Dykes, Duggan, and the Frogs kept winning, even when they were given no chance. Victories over Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State raised the Frogs ranking from No.17 to No.8. The team climbed to No.4 in the rankings ahead of a game against then-No.17 Texas.
The Longhorns were 7.5-point favorites despite the disparity in rankings, yet another sign of disrespect being shown to TCU. The Frogs beat Texas for its fifth victory of the season over a ranked opponent.
The season finale saw the Frogs face Iowa State in need of a win to ensure a spot in the College Football Playoffs, and the team rose for the biggest win of the season, a 62-14 beatdown that pushed TCU to the No.3 ranking.
Kansas State finally grounded TCU in the Big 12 Championship game, but Duggan demonstrated his grit and tenacity along with a competitive fierceness that nearly propelled the Frogs to a title and earned the quarterback a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy. Duggan was the runner-up to Caleb Williams from USC, who took home the trophy this year.
Even after all of the wins, the fourth-quarter comebacks, and the unlikely triumphs, TCU was still an underdog going up against the much-vaunted Michigan attack in the Fiesta Bowl. The Frogs handled that contest with physicality, picking up a 51-45 victory and sending the team to its first-ever National Championship.
Whether it was the size of the stage or the skill of the opponent, TCU was thoroughly beaten by Georgia. Unfortunately, SoFi Stadium raining red confetti as a jubilant Georgia team celebrated the victory will be the last memory many of the Frogs players will have.
Duggan has already declared for the NFL Draft, and wide receiver Quentin Johnston is expected to be a top pick. Neither will be back for 2023.
Speedster receiver and kick returner Darius Davis is likely headed for the draft board, as is running back Kendre Miller, who suffered a knee injury early in the semifinal win over Michigan and missed the title game. Jim Thorpe Award-winning cornerback Trevius Hodges-Tomlinson is headed to the draft to follow his uncle, LaDanian Tomlinson’s footsteps into the NFL.
The sting of the National Championship loss is likely something that neither the coaches nor players have fully absorbed yet, and for some, it may never fade completely. For now, Dykes and his coaching staff will begin identifying recruiting options and developing the next batch of players who will aim to surpass the 2022 Horned Frogs.