One year and one day ago, on Nov. 30, 2021, Sonny Dykes landed in a helicopter at midfield of Amon G. Carter Stadium, awash in purple lights, for his arrival as the new head coach at TCU. It was a flashy introduction for the decidedly unflashy West Texan making a 40-mile trip to Fort Worth all the way from Dallas.
But 366 days later, Dykes is still adjusting to being the center of attention, because he still hasn't lost a game in his career as TCU's coach. His 12-0 Horned Frogs are No. 3 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and are playing for a Big 12 championship against No. 10 Kansas State in the conference championship game on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
It's good to be Sonny Dykes right now. His team's frantic, chaotic season of destiny, augmented with quite a bit of weirdness, has made the Horned Frogs a national curiosity. There's an animated psychedelic amphibian that has captivated fans and inspired the team ("The Hypnotoad is powerful stuff," Dykes said in an actual postgame news conference). The creative team's bizarre postgame videos are puzzling, yet mesmerizing.
And now Dykes gets to travel all of 18 miles to play for a Big 12 title. If he didn't feel like taking the bus, he could do that in style, too, thanks to a booster and longtime friend. Fin Ewing III, a Dallas car dealer and TCU grad who furnishes the coach's car, came and picked up Dykes' GMC Sierra (the Texas Edition, naturally) to swap it with a loaner befitting the coach's lofty new status.
"I brought him a Mercedes, and he said he didn't want anything that fancy," Ewing said. "I said, 'Dykes, lemme ask you a question. Are you undefeated?' He said yeah, and I said, "Well get your ass in there.' Now he looks like Jethro Bodine driving an S-Class."
That's a Beverly Hillbillies reference, but Dykes isn't up and moving back to California anytime soon. Six seasons after Cal fired him, he has TCU on the cusp of being the first Texas team to land a spot in the playoff since it began eight years ago.
It's been a surreal season for the Horned Frogs, full of memorable moments and storylines. Here are 12 that tell the tale of TCU's 12-0 season.
Start of a new era
Ask any player on TCU's team when they had a sense this year was going to be different, and you'll get the same answer. It was that same day Dykes arrived in the helicopter, when they heard from him and strength coach Kaz Kazadi.
"The very first day -- I don't even think we'd gotten back in school yet -- we get a text from Coach Kaz saying, '5:30 a.m. workouts, be here early at 5 o'clock,'" offensive lineman Wes Harris said. "We were like oh my gosh, no way. But I'll tell you what, dude, it brought everybody together and kind of made everybody realize you know, we've always had the dudes to do it."
Steve Avila, the Frogs' Outland Trophy semifinalist at left guard, said Kazadi didn't waste any time setting the tone.