Dilemma for TCU's Patterson vs. alma mater K-State
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP)
Gary Patterson figures he was known more for playing his guitar than anything he did on the field as a Kansas State player back in the early 1980s.
During two years as a safety and linebacker for the Wildcats, Patterson played ''a lot on scout teams, a little bit of special teams.'' But it was also at K-State where he started his coaching career, as a graduate assistant in 1982 for the school's first-ever bowl team.
Now three decades later, with the third-ranked Wildcats undefeated and in the thick of the national championship race, the Kansas native and TCU coach faces his alma mater for the first time Saturday.
''It's hard, because you love seeing, from their perspective, they've come so far and have an opportunity to be so close to playing for a national championship,'' said Patterson, TCU's winningest coach with 115 victories in his 12 seasons. ''But also on our side of it, just try to get seven (wins).
''It's a dilemma,'' he said. ''But this is what they pay me to do.''
TCU (6-3, 3-3) is in its inaugural Big 12 season and became bowl eligible with a double-overtime victory last weekend at then-No. 23 West Virginia, the league's other newcomer.
With Heisman Trophy front-running quarterback Collin Klein, Kansas State (9-0, 6-0) has its highest BCS ranking ever, at No. 2 behind defending national champion Alabama.
The Wildcats are three wins shy of possibly getting into their first BCS national championship game. There almost certainly is no chance of that if they lose any of their remaining games: at TCU and at Baylor before the regular-season finale at home against Texas.
''I'll be on some post office wall if I win. I'll be one person that can't cross the state line,'' Patterson said. ''I used to say once I cross the Kansas line, I knew I was within 30 minutes, somebody would help me. Now I cross the Kansas line, I need to not tell everybody I'm coming, except if you're a KU fan.''
Patterson's time at Kansas State predated even coach Bill Snyder.
During his season as a grad assistant under Jim Dickey, Patterson worked with linebackers coach Mo Lattimore, who is now in his 17th year of his second stint on the Wildcats staff. K-State made it to the Independence Bowl that season.
''We played Wisconsin, which is kind of ironic,'' Patterson said.
Only two seasons ago, Patterson's Horned Frogs capped their 13-0 season with a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. That was a different outcome than his first bowl meeting against the Badgers and sent TCU to a No. 2 final AP ranking.
Another twist is that this is the 10th game this season. In their 10th game a year ago, the Frogs won at then-undefeated Boise State and cost the Broncos any chance of a BCS berth.
Patterson is apparently doing his best to make this game the same as any other for his players.
''He hasn't really spoke too much on it,'' cornerback Jason Verrett said. ''He's just ready to play.''
Offensive lineman Blaize Foltz said the fact that Kansas State is their coach's alma mater ''hasn't really been'' a topic of conversation.
''I'm sure for him, it's just like another game,'' Foltz said.
After K-State, the Frogs have left only games at 19th-ranked Texas on Thanksgiving night and home against No. 14 Oklahoma. They are just trying to win as many as they can.
Snyder and the Wildcats are trying to stay in contention for a national title shot. They've come a long way since the coach arrived in 1989 - when K-State had gone winless in its previous 27 games and then was considered the worst team in the NCAA's upper division.
''Well, I was part of a couple of those years,'' Patterson said.
Patterson pondered the question briefly when asked if he hoped to eventually have a similar impact at TCU to what the 73-year-old Snyder has at Kansas State, where he's in his fourth season back after a three-year retirement.
''Hopefully to some extent we have already. We got as far as a Rose Bowl,'' Patterson said. ''I'm not sure I'll be at 73 coaching. It's his passion, what he does. He's been very good at it, and it really says a lot about his energy and about how he does things. It's really truly, truly an amazing story.''
One that Patterson, for one game, will be trying to upset.