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TCU acknowledges UGA’s higher ‘tier’ after loss

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — As TCU players ripped their name decals off the top of their locker rooms inside SoFi Stadium to take home in the aftermath of a 65-7 loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff title game, the emotions that hung in the air inside the quiet room were a mix of disappointment for what the lopsided nature of the game had shown, as well as a glimmer of optimism for what could come.

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

Unlike quarterback Max Duggan, who struggled in the face of a ferocious Georgia defense that sacked him five times Monday night and is set to enter the NFL draft, Morris will return next season and be in competition for the starting quarterback job in the Frogs’ second year under head coach Sonny Dykes. Despite the sour finishing note, Dykes’ 13-2 year at TCU has set a high bar.

“This doesn’t take away from the season we had coming from a year ago,” running back Emari Demercado said. “Being in the national championship, that’s like something nobody would’ve ever thought would happen here.”

All season long, the Horned Frogs found ways to win, to come back, to overcome and continue their magical season. But against Georgia, the magic ran out in nightmare fashion. From the game’s first snap — a bad omen 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 vanish.

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

By the time the red and white confetti papered the field, Georgia had put up not just 65 points but also gained a whopping 589 yards to TCU’s 188. At one point, Georgia had nearly as many points (45) as it had plays (48).

“We got our ass kicked,” offensive lineman 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 do just that remains to be seen. After a demoralizing loss, both departing and returning players had some ideas, noting that despite the leap TCU made this season, most of the players on the team had only experienced losing seasons and a lack of development because of that. The foundation that Dykes and his new staff have set provides a perfect point from which to restart.

“Now, they’ll know what it takes to prepare for this moment,” an outgoing Demercado said. “A lot of these guys had never been to bowl games. Emotions might have gotten to them, but just understanding that and knowing how to be ready to go out there and do what you gotta do.”

Dykes said he told the team afterward that they had to “look in the mirror” after a result like that and figure out what they needed to do to improve in order to not let it happen again.

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

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

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

“At the end of the day, we wanna win championships,” Morris said. “We fell short in the conference championship, we fell short in the national championship. We just gotta build from there and this is going to be motivation for us in the future.”

Sourced from ESPN

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