The Kingda Ka roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey is the tallest and second-fastest roller coaster in the world.
Riders reach speeds of 128 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds before climbing a 456-foot tower. Seconds later, they're rocketed down the 418-foot vertical drop and quickly shot back up a less terrifying, although still extraordinarily dramatic, tower.
The recovery from Kingda Ka's 418-foot plummet has nothing on Gary Patterson's recovery history at TCU.
TCU won 12 games, tied for the Big 12 title, contended for the College Football Playoff in 2014. In 2015, they won 11 games and tied for second in the conference. Their 23 wins in that span tied the third-most of any two-year stretch in program history — and Patterson was the coach for the other three 23-plus-win stretches too.
They won only six games in 2016. The five-game drop from 2015 tied for the third-largest single-season win decline in program history. Patterson also owns the second-largest decline, when the Horned Frogs went from 11 victories in 2003 to five in 2004.
Last year's debacle marked the third time Patterson has suffered a win decline of at least four games in back to back years since 2001, his first full season as head coach. The previous two instances resulted in almost immediate bouncebacks, akin to Kingda Ka's rebound from the horrifying 418-foot drop.
After going 5-6 in 2004 and tying for sixth place in Conference USA, TCU rode an improved defense and punishing rushing attack to 11 victories, including a perfect 8-0 mark in their first season in the Mountain West. Over the next seven years, the Frogs went 77-13 overall and 48-7 in the MWC, including a staggering 36-3 and 23-0, respectively, from 2009-11.
TCU moved to the Big 12 in 2012 and lost five conference games — equaling their combined Mountain West losses of the previous five years. Their 7-6 mark in 2013 was followed up by a four-win season in 2014.
"So far, every single naysayer that predicted fail on TCU after it left the cozy confines of the Mountain West Conference can celebrate victory," wrote Mac Engel in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article titled Thus Far, the Haters Are Right About TCU in the Big 12. "The same for the old guard who had been around the final decade or so of the Southwest Conference and feared the Frogs would return to the bottom of a power conference."
Engel concluded the article by saying, "This transition was always going to take more time than people wanted to admit, but the end result will not be as bad as the haters believe/desire."
Even the realistic optimist Engel didn't see 2014 coming.
Patterson engineered a dramatic turnaround that no one saw coming. They went 12-1 and were the infamous Baylor blowout away from participating in the College Football Playoff.
We won't relitigate the controversial decision to exclude them from the playoff field. However, not only did they prove they were deserving of considering, their co-conference championship season also proved they deserved to be in the Big 12.
Now it's time for Patterson to prove — once again — that he's the master of turnarounds. And who knows, maybe if he returns to 10 wins in 2017, Six Flags — whose headquarters are in nearby Grand Prairie — will build a vertigo-inducing roller coaster in honor of him.