Horned Frogs defeat the Rebels 56-9

When Kris Gardner visited TCU his junior year of high school, he came away knowing two things: the program was going places and he had to be a part of it.

Three conference championships and two BCS appearances later, Gardner sat in the TCU Four Sevens team room for the final time, answering questions for the media following the Frogs’ 56-9 win over UNLV Saturday afternoon.

“When I was getting recruited my junior year, I told my mom ‘This program, I can see it,” said Gardner, who returned an interception for a touchdown in his final game at Amon G. Carter Stadium on senior day Saturday. “Just talking to coach Patterson, I was like ‘hey, this place is about to go somewhere big and I tried to tell all my friends with TCU offers they better come because I think this place is about to blow up. And it really just came to pass.”

Saturday’s win improved TCU to 10-2 on the season and helped the Frogs clinch their third straight Mountain West championship. But the real story, at least during the first half of the Frogs tilt with UNLV, may have been the one happening four hours south of Fort Worth in Houston, where Case Keenum and the Cougars, needing to stay undefeated to clinch a spot in a BCS bowl, lost to Southern Miss 49-28 in the Conference-USA championship game.

Houston’s loss opens the door for TCU.

The Frogs now need to move up just two spots in the BCS standings to clinch a spot in a BCS, most likely the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Gardner, a Louisiana native, said the fact that TCU, with two losses, still has a chance to make the BCS is a testament to the program Patterson has built over the years.

“It just lets you know what Gary Patterson has built this program to,” Gardner said. “The national level of respect we have is amazing. To be a non-automatic qualifier and lose two games and still be talking about the BCS is really just showing where this program is.”

Patterson agreed.

“It goes to show you how much respect we’ve earned from we came from five or six years ago,” Patterson said. ”

But at this point, TCU’s bowl destiny is out its hands. The Frogs won’t know where they’ll end up until Sunday night after the BCS standings are released. Until then, they’ll have to sit and watch how everything unfolds.

So, with TCU needing to impress voters and move up in the polls, will Patterson lobby for his team?

“Nope, never have,” Patterson said.. “Didn’t do it back in 2008. Didn’t do it in 2009. Didn’t do it in 2010 and sure as not going to do it in 2011.”

But the veteran head coach admitted his team is different then it was in September and October when it lost two games and that it did something not very teams can say they’ve done.

“We’re a lot better football team then we were at the start of the year,” Patterson said. “I’m just telling you, over 10 years nobody has gone to Boise and beat Boise. They might have missed a kick, but we were the only ones that took them to where they had to do that. That more than anything was a win that should’ve jumped us higher than it did.”

Still, Patterson said he trusts the pollsters will get it right. In college football, you have no choice but to do so, Patterson said.

“You got to (trust the voters),” Patterson said. “We’re in a profession where you have to trust people. Anybody can prove you wrong, but you have to trust people. I’m not going to jump ship and change my mind from how I’ve done things from the beginning.”

Patterson does know one thing: The fan support TCU has gotten the past two seasons — the Fiesta Bowl in 2009 and the Rose Bowl last year — has to help when it comes to BCS bowl officials selecting teams.

“Here’s what (BCS officials) know: TCU people will spend money,” Patterson said. “And they’re not coming for a day — they’re coming for a week. They know when (TCU fans) go, they spend money. And that’s what they want.”