They returned to Fort Worth by bus and were met on campus by some 100 well-wishers who were still deliriously happy after what could turn out to be college football's biggest upset of the season.
Many thought Texas would finally beat Oklahoma this year, but who could have imagined that another team from the state, Texas Christian, would do it first? TCU's 17-10 victory over seventh-ranked Oklahoma in Norman was the first outcome of the season that could dramatically affect the Bowl Championship Series picture.
"The BCS still is a long way away for us," TCU Coach Gary Patterson said yesterday in a phone interview. "We know we don't have a chance unless we win the conference title. . . . But we feel like if we keep playing better we'll give ourselves a chance."
Two seasons ago, TCU finished 11-2 after winning its first 10 games. This season, the Horned Frogs, should they go unbeaten, could join fellow Mountain West Conference school Utah as the only non-BCS school ever to make a top four bowl game.
This year TCU is competing in its third conference this decade, after playing in the Western Athletic Conference and, most recently, Conference USA. One of the reasons TCU was so attractive to the MWC was because its inclusion would bolster hopes for the conference to be awarded an automatic BCS berth in the future. TCU has reached a bowl game in six of the past seven years.
Patterson was TCU's defensive coordinator before taking over for the departed Dennis Franchione as head coach for the 2001 season. The Horned Frogs made bowl games during Patterson's first three seasons and became the first TCU team since the 1950s to finish consecutive seasons, 2002 and 2003, ranked in the Top 25.
Last year was the anomaly. TCU sank to 5-6 because injuries riddled the defense. The Frogs were ranked 117th, last in Division I-A, in defense against the pass. Five times TCU allowed opponents to score 40 or more points; Texas Tech poured 70 points on the Frogs.
Against the Sooners, though, TCU held Oklahoma to 225 total yards and Heisman Trophy runner-up Adrian Peterson to 63 yards on 22 carries. "We're going to try to prove this was not a fluke," Patterson said. "Probably in their case, they are going to try to prove it was a fluke."
Utah travels to TCU for a Thursday night showdown Sept. 15 that should be the Frogs' stiffest remaining test of the season. Before that, however, is a game at Southern Methodist on Saturday that the Frogs can't afford to overlook.
Patterson was pleased with his team's immediate reaction to the Oklahoma victory. Inside the visitor's locker room in Norman, he said, some players already were saying that if they relinquish their focus and lose next week, the Oklahoma victory would be deemed a fluke.
"We were focused but we knew that, even if we won, it wouldn't make our season," TCU quarterback Tye Gunn said after the game. "Like Coach said, they could be the better football team nine out of 10 times."
Weis: Room for Improvement
Among those who approached Charlie Weis immediately after Notre Dame's victory over Pittsburgh was his son, Charles, who simply said, "Sloppy second half, huh?"
Hoopla in South Bend, Ind., is about to get out of control after Weis's splendid debut, but the coach has his son to keep him in line. The Fighting Irish displayed near perfect offensive execution in the first half, but Weis was not overjoyed by the second half and was already thinking about next week's opponent, Michigan, in the final seconds.
Notre Dame is the only team in the country that will play three teams -- Southern California, Tennessee and Michigan -- ranked in the top five. A long road no doubt awaits, but the Weis Effect is clear after one game.
Notre Dame players appear more confident and are competing with a self-described "nasty" aggressive mind-set that Weis has instilled. He does not want to make himself the story, but even Weis admitted after the game: "I've been groomed under the best coaches in the business, under Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells. After working for those guys for 15 years, if you're not ready to go, you're not very good."
Before walking into the locker room following the game, Weis, a slight smile across his face, stopped to pat the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign on the wall.
Clemson and Georgia Tech demonstrated the depth of the ACC on Saturday, when the Tigers beat Texas A&M, which featured Heisman Trophy hopeful Reggie McNeal, and the Yellow Jackets defeated Auburn, which went 13-0 last season.
Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden saw his offense repeatedly drive into the red zone, only to eventually settle on field goals, six of them, to eke out a 25-24 win.
"It's always [a mistake] by one guy," Bowden said yesterday. "That is typically how it happens, making the machine break down. We can't survive in this conference with all field goals."
Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was knocked out of the game, but Bowden said yesterday that team doctors said the senior is expected to be full strength for Saturday's game at Maryland.
As for Georgia Tech, Coach Chan Gailey said no students were on campus ready to greet the Yellow Jackets upon their return. "At 4 a.m.?" he said yesterday. "No, I will give our students credit for being very intelligent."