It's been three decades since Gary Patterson was on a football field in Manhattan, KS.
As a Wildcat alum, he's excited about his current team playing at the Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium, but he doesn't have time to think about returning to his old stomping grounds.
"This is the first time I'll be back in 30 years. I don't think I'll have time to worry about it, except for probably standing before the game and maybe after the game. It's been a long time since I was on that field," Patterson said. "Coach (Bill) Snyder has done a great job, and there have been a lot of good coaches and good players who have come through since then. (TCU) is my home, but that's close to it."
Snyder is an idol to several college coaches and Patterson has always looked up to him for what he's done to not only build that program, but that city as well.
"There is not even a comparison from where it was to what Coach Snyder has done. It extends to the facilities and Manhattan, Kan., in general," Patterson said."I think it has been voted one of the top places to live. The city and university are really growing. There are just a lot of positive things going on there. They have also been playing good football."
Snyder and Patterson took similar paths to their recent success. Patterson has led the Horned Frogs to a pair of BCS bowls and Snyder has led the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl and Fiesta Bowl in recent years.
After a slow start to the season, the Wildcats are playing more like the teams that went to those bowl games.
"They're playing with a lot more confidence. They are going to run the football and grind at you. You have to be able to handle a three-hour middle drill, both offense and defense," Patterson said. "They don't get enough credit but if you look at them on offense, they actually throw the ball for more yardage than they run it. You need to understand that you have to get ready to hit people in the mouth, because that is the way Kansas State plays."
The Wildcats are led by defensive end Ryan Mueller, who is one of the nation's leaders in sacks. He exemplifies the strong, smart defense Kansas State plays.
"They are going to be very physical, and then you need to make plays. Defensively, they're not going to beat themselves," Patterson said. "They're going to come after you so you have to be ready to play."
If Kansas State wins this game, it will become bowl eligibile. TCU must win its final two games to reach a bowl. This year reminds Patterson of a similar situation he's been in earlier in his tenure.
"This year is the same as other because of injuries. In 2004, we also lost five defensive linemen to graduation. In 2001, you had 10 new starters on offense because you lost so many guys from the 2000 season," Patteson said. "It is very comparable. We are kind of in the same situation where we sat that year, trying to be bowl eligible and we have to beat two teams who are playing the best in the league right now in Kansas State and Baylor."
The team took care of its fourth win last week on the road at Iowa State. The Cyclones had a late lead, but the Horned Frogs responded late to get the big win. TCU has been in just about every game this year and had chances to get wins in all of them and it finally got the job done on Saturday.
"They fought back. They also fought back in the Oklahoma game and to tie the West Virginia game. When you look through the season, they have continued to fight back and were finally rewarded at Iowa State," Patterson said. "In other games, we have done something to stop ourselves. In this ballgame, we didn't. We got the stops and score that we needed. Iowa State is a tough place to play."
TCU didn't have Jason Verrett, B.J. Catalon and Waymon James for that game. With Verrett out, Deante' Gray got his first college start at cornerback and allowed just one catch the whole game. That one grab was on the fake punt by Iowa State.
That special teams play was one of several key moments in the win against the Cyclones. ISU's All-American punter shanked a couple key kicks and the Cyclones had a muff that led to TCU's first score. The Horned Frogs got consistent play out of Ethan Perry and Patterson thought that was big.
"Ethan Perry was probably the player of the game. His 60-yard punt really changed the complexion of the game," Patterson said. "He also had a punt that he downed around the five or six and we had the opportunity to get another score. Just told him to get the ball up and do what he does."
Look for TCU to make a possible change at returners as Trevone Boykin has been getting reps there and will probably see snaps there on Saturday. But it's nothing that Cameron Echols-Luper has done wrong.
"We've caught the ball better (with Luper back there), but we haven't been able to do much with it. I'm not unhappy with Cameron Luper, but you just keep looking for a spark," Patterson said. "He's just a natural athlete. It doesn't matter where he's out there. He just likes to play. Boykin doesn't have to practice and he just goes out there and returns punts like he has done it for a million years."
TCU faces Kansas State with bowl eligibility on the line. If the Frogs don't win this game, they won't go to a bowl and won't get extra practices in December. There is a bright side of a loss that could help TCU in the future. No practices means more time for recruiting.
"Right now, I don't see how both things can make me happy, but there are positives and negatives," Patterson said. "One of our best recruiting years came after the 2004 season when we weren't working on bowl practices. It's hard to do that if you're coming back for bowl practices and practicing on the weekends. There's pluses and minuses to all of it."
The 2005 and 2006 recruiting classes did produce several key players including: Aaron Brown, Stephen Hodge, Marcus Jackson, Rafael Priest, Joseph Turner and Marvin White in 2005 and Marcus Cannon, Andy Dalton, Wayne Daniels, Jerry Hughes, Jacob Kirkpatrick, Colin Jones, Marshall Newhouse and Jimmy Young in 2006.