Purple pyramid: No. 6 TCU starts from bottom in pursuit of pinnacle goal after getting close

The pyramid of goals that hangs prominently in TCU's meeting room is a visual reminder of what the Horned Frogs have accomplished and what their goals are.

Each time a goal is reached, sixth-ranked TCU shades that box in with the school color.

The chart that was mostly filled out in purple last season when the Horned Frogs became a BCS buster has been replaced by a fresh one. Only the bottom rungs are shaded, with a lot of uncolored boxes above that.

"To see that every day, it kind of ingrains it in your mind," center Jake Kirkpatrick said Tuesday. "It's hard to know that we got so high last year and now we have to restart."

Never before had TCU filled in as much of its pyramid as last year with its first undefeated regular season since 1938.

The only boxes left unshaded on last season's pyramid were "Go To BCS Game — and Win" since the Frogs lost to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, and the ultimate goal at the pinnacle that has never changed in coach Gary Patterson's 10 seasons as head coach: "No. 1, National Champions."

Now the Frogs are starting at the bottom and trying to work their way back up the pyramid again. The shaded pieces for now include attitude, extra effort, mental toughness, chemistry and accountability.

"If you went through what we just went through the last three weeks of two-a-days and as hot as it was, and understand our kids came out of it, you'd color that in purple," Patterson said. "I wish I had a darker shade of purple."

The only way to shade in more boxes now is by winning games.

TCU opens its season Saturday night against No. 24 Oregon State at Cowboys Stadium. The Frogs have held two workouts at the $1.2 billion showplace, about 20 miles from campus where the next Super Bowl is being played, to get out the "oohs" and "aahs" of being inside.

Only the middle of the pyramid changes each year, to reflect the games being played. The top two and bottom two rungs are always the same on the pyramid, which is surrounded by the signature of every player.

"It starts at the bottom, it doesn't have anything to do with wins," Patterson said. "It has all do with you, what kind of football team do you have, and how do you grow up. And then as you climb that deal, it has to do with wins."

While the goals are very visible, Patterson knows the pyramid — what's shaded, and more impressionably, what is not — helps keep the team from focusing on what's at the top.

"Right there," he said, pointing to the pyramid. "I don't talk about BCS bid, I don't talk about being 12-0. That's where you make mistakes. ... If you start talking we're going to start in the middle of the pyramid, then you'll be sadly disappointed. And hopefully our team's not doing that."

Senior and fourth-year starting quarterback Andy Dalton, who is tied with Sammy Baugh for the most career victories (29), likes having the pyramid to see every day.

"We're hoping to get back where we were last year. We saw it last year, we came so close," Dalton said. "You hear it all, but to see it up there, to see the things that you've done. ... Work you way up there. It all starts with the foundation."