Philadelphia, PA – A tradition of winning football games has be built in Fort Worth over the years.
The charge has been led, for the most part, by dominating defensive efforts, but more recently the quarterback play at TCU has been equally impressive.
Andy Dalton parlayed his time in Fort Worth into a starting gig in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and is one of the rising stars in the NFL. Following his departure from TCU, Casey Pachall stepped in and more than filled the void.
In his first season as a starter in 2011, Pachall set single-season school records for completions (228), completion percentage (66.5) and passing yards (2,921), while ranking 12th nationally in pass efficiency (157.98).
An encore performance was expected in 2012 and it certainly looked optimistic for TCU early on in its first season in the Big 12.
Pachall was red hot to start the year, completing 66 percent of his throws, for 948 yards, with 10 touchdowns and just one interception over a four-game span. The Horned Frogs were on a serious roll, with a nation's best 12-game win streak overall and a NCAA-best 25-game conference win streak in tow.
That all came to a crashing halt when Pachall was arrested for a DWI in early October, bringing to light a serious problem the star quarterback was battling. Head coach Gary Patterson immediately suspended his star quarterback, who was already spiraling downward with substance abuse issues prior to the arrest, as news of a failed drug test and admitted drug use were already out there.
On the field, the Horned Frogs faltered the rest of way, as a 4-0 start to the 2012 campaign turned into a 7-6 campaign when all was said and done. Freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin was forced into action and did some nice things, just not enough consistently to make TCU a factor in its new conference.
Meanwhile, instead of becoming more of a distraction to the team, Pachall withdrew from school and got himself some help, entering a rehab facility. Upon completion of the program, he returned to the school and the football program, where according to Patterson, he has done everything asked and expected of him.
Patterson is confident in both the decision he made for both the program and Pachall last fall and shared those thoughts at the recent Big 12 media event.
"The best part about it, what people forget is that they're somebody's kid. They have a mom and dad that do things" said Patterson. "When he came back in the spring, to see the color back in his face, the conversations we had that we weren't having when he left, to me, told me right away that we'd done the right thing."
However, nothing has been handed to Pachall, and any playing time this fall will be earned.
"I think having a two-quarterback situation that we feel like we have two quarterbacks now that can go win ball games in the Big 12 is a positive as far as the pressure type and go forward," said Patterson. . "Casey is a very talented young man. How he handles everything he does will be an indication of how well we do in the Big 12 Conference," Patterson said.
"If you want to play well in the Big 12, you've got to play well at quarterback. Even last year, when Trevone played well, we won. When he didn't play well, we lost, and you've got to play good defense. So having Casey Pachall back, I think he was the number one ranked quarterback after four game when we set him aside, I think tells you when he comes back and plays at that level, it gives us a better chance to win."
Pachall decided not to attend the feeding frenzy of the recent Big 12 media event, but he did step up and run the gauntlet this week at a press conference set up by TCU.
"I've matured a lot, Pachall said. "Everything that has happened has really humbled me and helped me out as far as my mentality. Everything that's happened has happened for a reason and I understand that now. I'm actually very grateful for it now."
Pachall also addressed how his return to the program was received.
"Initially I didn't say too much, but at the same time I could tell by the look in their eyes they didn't have too much judgement. But I knew at the same time that I had let them down. Coming back wasn't too much what I needed to say, it was what I needed to do. From that point on it was just a mentality that I had to have on and off the field to prove to them that they could trust me and I could be their leader."
He jumped over another major hurdle in addressing the media this week, as further avoidance of the issues could have lingered into the season.
It's hard to imagine a scenario football-wise, where Pachall doesn't earn the starting job this fall. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, with an NFL-caliber arm, Pachall still has a professional career in his future should he continue down the straight and narrow.
"I'm doing everything that is set forth for me and I'm going to keep doing that and no matter what anybody has to say negative or positive, I can only control myself and control what I do and that's what's going to keep me going forward," said Pachall.
If that is truly the case, TCU football has a real shot at the Big 12 title in 2013.