By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The man behind the frenetic, mind-bending memes that TCU has used to celebrate victories this season is an aspiring filmmaker from Maine who roots for the New England Patriots.
Jon Petrie’s official title is coordinator of creative video for TCU’s social media team. He was hired to film an ESPN+ series called “TCU Football: Carter Boys,” documenting this past season in Fort Worth, Texas.
Who knew it would lead to the College Football Playoff?
Petrie only dabbles in memes, but his have gone viral this season and captured the “Hypnotoad” ethos of TCU’s unlikely CFP run.
“The meme background is too much time on Reddit and too much time on Twitter,” Petrie said earlier this week.
The third-ranked Horned Frogs — or Hypnotoads, borrowed from the animated television show “Futurama” — face No. 2 Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.
The memes started after the Oklahoma State victory that put TCU alone in first place in the Big 12 Conference in mid-October.
“The first one was just trying to come up with as many frog things I could think of,” said Petrie, a recent graduate of the University of Maine.
The posts are a fast-paced compilation of images and sounds that often seem random and disconnected but end up kind of mesmerizing. For a TCU team picked seventh in the Big 12 that won seven straight game by 10 points of fewer, the memes matched the vibe of the season.
“I don’t think a lot of people expected this team to be as good as they were, and that surprise and that excitement, I think is chaotic. And a lot of the way that the games ended,” Petrie said.
“I think the one that really ties it together is the way the Baylor game ended. That’s a very chaotic ending and to lean into that with a very chaotic meme I think is, like, perfect.”
TCU beat Baylor on a last-second field goal when the Frogs ran the kicking team on the field with no timeouts left to come away with a one-point victory to stay unbeaten.
Petrie said he was not surprised the memes caused a buzz.
“The internet kind of runs on shock value and absurdity when it comes to content a lot of the time. And so if you just lean into that, it’s going to pop off,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to be as big as it was, but I didn’t also expect it to flop. I expect it to be well received.”
Because it’s social media, of course, there were some critics who found the memes less than sportsmanlike. The pleasant surprise for Petrie was that the most important people never pushed back.
“What shocked me was the silence from the administrators at TCU. Usually those are the people who are like, ‘you better not push buttons here.’ The fact there was nothing kind of showed a trust in the media team to do what our job is,” he said.
Peach Bowl opponents No. 1 Georgia and No. 4 Ohio State cross paths on the recruiting trail regularly as they target the best players in the country — including one time in Southern California when quarterback C.J. Stroud was trying to decide where to go to school.
Stroud landed at Ohio State and has gone on to become a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist with the Buckeyes. But he was interested enough in Georgia to persuade head coach Kirby Smart to make the cross-country trip.
“I was so upset (with) my assistant when I had to fly all the way out to California to go out there. I was like, are you sure we’re going to have a chance?” Smart said Friday in Atlanta. “It wasn’t my favorite travel trip when you have to go all the way to Cali, but it was worth it when you got to sit down with that young man and his mom. He was very impressive.”
Stroud made a return trip to Georgia.
“Usually when you get him on your campus, that means you have a shot,” Smart said. “I certainly enjoyed getting to know him and the relationship with him because of the young man he is.”
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