TCU acknowledges Georgia’s higher ‘tier’ after blowout loss

TCU acknowledges Georgia’s higher ‘tier’ after blowout loss

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Paolo UggettiESPN

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — As TCU players removed the nameplates from the top of the locker room inside SoFi Stadium to take home after a 65-7 loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff title game on Monday , the emotions hanging in the air inside the quiet room had a mix of disappointment at what the game’s ambiguous nature had shown, as well as a thread of optimism for what might be to come.

“We want to be at that level where Alabama and Georgia are,” backup quarterback Chandler Morris said, acknowledging that TCU had failed to do that Monday night. “We’re going to walk away from that a little bit, but we’re going to use this as confidence.”

Unlike quarterback Max Duggan, who struggled against a ferocious Georgia defense that sacked him five times, Morris will be back next season and in contention for the starting quarterback job in the Frogs’ second year under coach Sonny Dykes. (Duggan will enter the NFL draft.) Despite the poor finish grade, Dykes’ 13-2 year at TCU has set a high bar.

“This does not take away from the season we came from a year ago”, said Emari Demercado. “To be in the national championship, that’s like something no one would have ever thought would happen here.”

Throughout the season, the Horned Frogs found ways to win, bounce back, overcome and continue their magical season. But against Georgia, the spell ended in nightmare fashion. From the opening snap of the game — an ominous one where the Frogs were called for a false start — any chance TCU had of pulling off a second and more improbable playoff upset appeared to be gone.

“We just didn’t play our style of football,” Jared Wylie said. “They had us on our feet”.

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By the time the red and white confetti went onto the field, Georgia had not only scored 65 points, but had also gained 589 yards to TCU’s 188. At one point, Georgia had almost as many points (45) as it played (48).

“We got kicked in the ass,” forward Wes Harris said.

“It will take some time for the sting to go away, I assure you,” Dykes said. “We will look back on this season and build on it from here.”

How the Horned Frogs fare remains to be seen. After a demoralizing loss, both the departing and returning players had some ideas, noting that despite the leap TCU made this season, most players on the team had only experienced losing seasons and lack of development because of it. The foundation that Dykes and his new staff have laid provides a perfect starting point from which to start again.

“Now, they will know what it takes to prepare for this moment,” said a departing Demercado. “A lot of these guys had never been to bowl games. They might have gotten emotional, but just understanding that and knowing how to be ready to go out there and do what you have to do.”

Dykes said he told the team afterwards that they needed to “look in the mirror” after such a result and figure out what they needed to do to improve in order to prevent it from happening again.

“I think that’s the best thing that happens when you’re dealing with adversity like this,” Dykes said. “You make mistakes and you learn from them and you get better as a program, you get better as a coach, you get better as players and the next time you handle the situation better.”

Whether TCU will get a “next time” is unclear. For teams that aren’t the powerhouses that Alabama and Georgia have become, success in college football is fickle. Moreover, the next season will bring a different challenge. TCU won’t be the underdog that was picked seventh in the Big 12, but because of its surprising success this season, expectations will now be a built-in feature of its season, not a bug.

Playing in garbage time, Morris threw just one pass Monday night. But as he spoke after the game, there was a sense that he was taking over from Duggan heading into next season. As the Frogs’ Heisman finalist took off his pads for the last time, the freshman made his stance clear for next season and beyond.

“At the end of the day, we want to win championships,” Morris said. “We fell short in the conference championship, we fell short in the national championship. We just have to build from there and that will be motivation for us going forward.”

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