FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU coach Gary Patterson doesn’t believe it was an errant or accidental pass that hit safety Niko Small while going on the field for pregame warmups the last time the No. 10 Horned Frogs played No. 2 Oklahoma.
Patterson also takes exception to how Sooners coach Lincoln Riley responded about quarterback Baker Mayfield nailing Small, the TCU starter who has missed the last two games since playing that night in Norman.
“I didn’t really appreciate that we were trying to say that we were in the wrong because that was OK to let a quarterback throw a ball and hit a guy in the head that hasn’t played for two weeks. No, I’m not saying that was the reason,” Patterson said Tuesday, four days before their Top 10 rematch in the Big 12 championship game.
Responding to questions last week after a video surfaced showing Mayfield hitting a TCU player with a pass during warmups on Nov. 11, Riley said TCU ran right through the middle of Oklahoma warmups and added, “When you do that, things like that can happen.”
Patterson said there was a crowded sideline — “They had a great recruiting weekend that weekend,” he said, adding that a stadium official didn’t even know which way to send the Horned Frogs.
“Even as the head coach, I had to go through their warmup lines to get down to our end of the field,” Patterson said. “I wouldn’t have said anything if Coach Riley wouldn’t have said that.”
Patterson’s comments came during his regular weekly meeting with the media, a day after Riley had his campus availability to preview the title game.
Small had a season-high nine tackles and forced a fumble in TCU’s 38-20 loss, but hasn’t played since. Patterson, who has never elaborated on why Small was out, said Tuesday that the safety is expected to play Saturday.
When explaining why he didn’t believe it was an accident that one of his players got hit, Patterson mentioned Texas Tech, where Mayfield, Riley and TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie all were quarterbacks. Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma after being a freshman walk-on starter for the Red Raiders, while Riley and Cumbie also had stints as coaches at Tech.
“It was common practice. There was a Texas Tech pretty well-known quarterback that hit a guy from A&M in the head and they all thought it was funny, to throw balls and do those kind of things back in those days,” Patterson said, never mentioning any names.
While there shouldn’t be any pregame issues on the sidelines at AT&T Stadium, where the teams generally come out of their locker rooms on different sides, Patterson said he has told his players to keep their mouths shut.
“We’re going to play a game Saturday and hopefully it’ll be two football teams that are playing with high intensity the right way without talking,” Patterson said.