The skeptics and fans alike could sit back and look at the things the Frogs didn't do, such as beating Oklahoma in Norman or closing out the undefeated Utah Utes in Salt Lake City, a game that may have ultimately cost the Frogs a shot a Sugar Bowl berth. But with a record of 11-2 and the stingiest defense outside of USC, TCU accomplished way more than anybody thought they would heading into the 2008 campaign.
At the annual Meet the Frogs in August, Patterson said his defense would be successful if several players stepped up and replaced seniors, such as all-conference defensive ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz. This is where he sort of challenged junior defensive end, Jerry Hughes. The coach said Hughes could be classified as a better athlete than Ortiz, but that he had a long way to go to become as good of a player. Hughes finished this season with 15 sacks, 52 tackles, 19.5 TFL, 2 interception, 6 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries. His tremendous play earned him first team All-American honors. As a team, the Frogs totaled 43 sacks and 15 interceptions.
The defense finished the season with the no.2 total ranking in the country, giving up 11.3 points per game and the lowest rushing yards with 47.1 ypg. The outstanding play of seniors Robert Henson, Jason Phillips, Stephen Hodge, Matt Panfil, Cody Moore and James Vess made this season truly a special one. After 2007 saw the Frogs lose five games, with four decided by a combined 18 points, the team was on a mission to prove that it was still a force to be reckoned with. By battering quarterbacks and forcing teams to become one-dimensional, it did just that.
Standing in the shadow of the defense, the offense quietly put up the most points in school history with 437. Led by sophomore quarterback Andy Dalton, the team averaged 421.3 yards ypg. Dalton finished the season 182-307 for 2,242 yards and 11 touchdowns to only five interceptions. The team really took off in the passing game with the emergence of sophomore receiver, Jimmy Young. The Monroe, Louisiana native had 59 catches for 988 yards and five touchdowns. Both Dalton and Young are still maturing as players, but they both made huge strides this season. If they continue to grow, opposing defenses will have nightmares trying to stop the duo.
But even though the offense made big plays in the passing game, their bread and butter was the running game. The team scored 39 rushing touchdowns on the ground, churning out 220.2 ypg. But the carries were spread out, with five players rushing for more than 300 yards on the season. Junior running back Joseph Turner led all rushers with 577 yards and 11 touchdowns.
While the play on the field in 2008 was pleasing to the Frog faithful, it also opened the eyes of top recruits across Texas. The 2009 recruiting class already has 17 verbal commitments, including four from some of the state's best: Casey Pachall, Waymon James, Malcolm Williams and Jurell Thompson.
2008 was great, but 2009 and beyond could see the Frogs continue their rise to national power. Even if the games are decided by 1 point.