GLENDALE, Arizona — 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.
The third-ranked Horned Frogs — or Hypnotoads, borrowed from the animated television show “Futurama” — beat No. 2 Michigan 51-45 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 games by 10 points or 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.”
Smith a game captain
Georgia senior outside linebacker Nolan Smith, one of the team’s top defensive players before suffering a torn pectoral muscle against Florida on Oct. 29, ending his season, was a captain for the game. Coach Kirby Smart has said Smith has continued to act as a team leader even when unable to play this season.
Smith started eight games before the season-ending injury. He had 56 tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception in 2021, when he started all 14 games.
Georgia’s other game captains for the pregame coin toss were quarterback Stetson Bennett, center Sedrick Van Pran and safety Chris Smith.
Ohio State’s captains were quarterback C.J. Stroud, tight end Cade Stover, wide receiver Kamryn Babb and linebacker Tommy Eichenberg.
As the Fiesta Bowl went bonkers in the third quarter, Robert Griffin III sprinted behind the goal posts and up a tunnel in a purple checkered suit.
Amped about the game? No, the former NFL player turned analyst’s wife had just gone into labor.
“WIFE IS IN LABOR,” he tweeted, with video of his hasty exit.
Working for ESPN2, Griffin took some grief for answering his phone while on live TV. Once his co-hosts realized what happened, they gave Griffin hugs and told him to get going.
Griffin unhooked himself from his microphone monitor and went into a full sprint to leave the stadium as the game was still going on.
Ohio State announced at the start of the second half tight end Gabe Stover, suffering from back spasms, was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons.
Georgia and Ohio State had players whose status had been uncertain return to be in uniform while still having more limited roles in the Peach Bowl.
Buckeyes running back Miyan Williams, who missed practice last week with a stomach bug while also still recovering from an ankle injury, worked with the first-team offense as expected in pregame warmups. Williams had only three carries for eight yards, including a scoring plunge from the 2, in the first half
Williams hurt his ankle last month against Indiana and missed one game before being limited to eight carries for 34 yards in a regular season-ending loss to Michigan.
Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey had two catches for a net loss of 1 yard in the first half in his return. Right tackle Warren McClendon was in uniform but did not start. Amarius Mims started at right tackle.
McConkey and McClendon each suffered knee injuries in the SEC championship game win over LSU on Dec. 3.
Georgia had new injury concerns in the first half. Outside linebacker Chaz Chambliss left the game late in the first half with an apparent left knee injury. Tight end Darnell Washington left with a left ankle injury.
Story by Ralph D. Russo.