Defensive-minded coach Gary Patterson knew he was going to make changes after TCU's first two seasons in the Big 12 Conference. What a difference they made in year three.
The Horned Frogs last year had a 4-8 record filled with close losses before Patterson hired new co-offensive coordinators to install a more spread, up-tempo scheme. They were still one of the league's top defenses this season, but outscored opponents by 26 1/2 points a game while going 11-1 and sharing the Big 12 title.
Patterson was named Tuesday as The Associated Press Big 12 coach of the year after getting 17 of 20 votes in balloting by media members who cover the league on a regular basis. The other three votes went to Baylor's Art Briles, who last season was the unanimous pick by AP voters as the league's top coach. The Bears, the only team to beat TCU this year, claimed a share of their second consecutive Big 12 title.
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Sixth-ranked TCU plays No. 9 Mississippi in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 after the Horned Frogs were left out of the four-team playoff. They dropped from third to sixth in the final College Football Playoff rankings even coming off a 52-point win over Iowa State.
While disappointed about missing the playoff, Patterson feels better than he did the end of the 2013 season when "changing jobs and changing offenses and all the things that we had go through a year ago to get where we we're getting to right now."
Patterson is TCU's winningest coach, with a 131-45 record in 14 seasons. He was the Frogs' defensive coordinator for three years under coach Dennis Franchione before that.
Led by quarterback Trevone Boykin, a unanimous pick Monday as the AP Big 12 offensive player of the year, the Frogs had 542 total yards and 47 points a game in their new offense. They scored at least 30 points in every game, including a Big 12 record for a conference game with 82 against Texas Tech.
"He's a great guy and he's our leader," Boykin said of Patterson. "We follow him, he's a winner."
Before moving to the Big 12 in 2012, Patterson and the Frogs won or shared seven titles in the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA and the Mountain West. TCU left the MWC after three consecutive championships without losing a conference game, including a 13-0 record in 2010 capped by a Rose Bowl victory and a No. 2 ranking in the final AP poll.
The Frogs went 7-6 in their inaugural Big 12 season, finishing with a 17-16 bowl loss to Michigan State. They then had four conference losses by three points or less in 2013, three of those in the final month of the season.
"People told me you'd never play in the Rose Bowl, and we played in the Rose Bowl, and we won it," Patterson said. "We're new on the scene, really, as far as us doing it in this conference. We've got to show that we can do it on a year-to-year basis."