Sonny Dykes and TCU celebrate their 42-34 victory Saturday over SMU to bring the Iron Skillet back to Fort Worth (The Associated Press/Gareth Patterson).
By Jeff Wilson
Frogs Today senior writer
DALLAS — By the time the first quarter had ended Saturday, most of the fans trying to gain entry via the southwest gate at Gerald J. Ford Stadium had finally cleared security.
The thing is, getting in was probably about as easy as finding a place to park.
Once inside, many seemed to forego their seats to cram into the only shaded area in the entire place, beneath the scoreboard in the south end zone.
There weren’t so many sun-dodgers that they would have filled the gaping holes in the stands at what was recorded as the largest crowd in stadium history. If there really were 35,569 fans in there, I’ll eat my hat. Half were gone by halftime, when the SMU band didn’t even play the fight song to welcome the Mustangs back onto the field.
Outside to the west, where fans were streaming past after their early exits, are the football practice fields. Two of them, only 50 yards in length, just one end zone apiece.
Afterward, when TCU went to midfield with a 42-34 victory, no Horned Frogs player attempted to plant a flag on the Mustangs logo. Good thing, too, or else it might have triggered a flash flood.
And the bowels of the stadium, where the locker rooms are, smelled like bowels.
Gee, why would Sonny Dykes ever entertain leaving SMU?
The SMU football team played above the relative squalor of its home confines and its talent level, but it couldn’t overcome TCU’s fast start en route to capturing the Iron Skillet for the first time since 2018.
Max Duggan threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns, Kendre Miller rushed for 144 yards and Emari Demarcado scored TDs on runs of 2 and 63 yards. The Mustangs managed to make a game of it in the second half as TCU’s offense stalled and the defense wore down in the heat bouncing off the artificial surface, but they weren’t good enough to beat their old coach.
Dykes’ return to the Hilltop was all that mattered Saturday. Mustangs fans are still hurting over his departure. A grown man was screaming at the top of his lungs at Dykes and TCU players as they headed to the winning locker room. One kid, maybe an SMU student with a terrible attempt at facial hair, waited until Dykes was in the tunnel before telling him to eff off.
The real pain Mustangs fans are feeling is the reasoning for Dykes’ departure.
TCU is a Power 5 program with better players and better facilities.
SMU has a DART station really close to campus.
The Frogs have a better TV deal and are in a better position for conference realignment.
SMU has play clocks that don’t work.
TCU is in Fort Worth.
That one always serves as a mic drop for Frogs fans, but there’s some truth to Cowtown’s superiority in this rivalry. For all that Dallas has to offer, it hasn’t embraced SMU football since it was buying players. That’s legal now, and SMU is behind on that, too.
Fort Worth has embraced TCU, and not just because of Dykes. He’s picked up the baton and Frogs fans are racing behind him.
So are his players, to a 3-0 record ahead of the Big 12 opener next weekend at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Dykes said he was glad to have the SMU game behind him so he could finally coach his team and not deal with a storyline that eventually will play itself out.
Up next is Oklahoma, and that’s a whole other story.
It’s something else SMU is unable to match.
That’s why Dykes is coaching TCU.
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org