Three and Out: Baylor stuns TCU after improbable second-half comeback
It was a wild night in Waco, Texas, as No. 5 Baylor welcomed No. 9 TCU to shiny, new McLane Stadium. The Bears needed a double-digit fourth-quarter comeback, but they emerged from a shootout with a huge 61-58 win. Here are three thoughts from the Big 12 thriller.
1. Baylor never gave up in the fourth quarter
TCU linebacker Marcus Mallet picked off Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty with 11:38 remaining in the fourth quarter and ran it back for a touchdown. The score gave the Horned Frogs a seemingly insurmountable 58-37 lead.
From that point on it was all Baylor.
The Bears scored 24 unanswered points in the final 10:39, a run capped by kicker Chris Callahan’s 28-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. Callahan had made only four of nine field goal attempts on the year until that point. Each of Baylor's final four scoring drives lasted 1:23 or less, and the Bears’ defense kept TCU out of scoring position while their offense took control.
Suddenly, the Bears sit at 6-0 and squarely in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 title. Prior to Saturday, we didn’t know much about Baylor’s potential due to its cupcake nonconference schedule. But the Bears survived their first major test of the season against TCU. Now the biggest remaining obstacles are Oklahoma (Nov. 8) and Oklahoma State (Nov. 22). There’s plenty of football left to play, but coach Art Briles’ team looked like a College Football Playoff contender this weekend.
2. Quarterback Bryce Petty was dominant
Baylor’s quarterback looked sluggish in the a 28-7 win over Texas last week. He completed only seven passes for 111 yards, a far cry from his usual stat-stuffing efforts. Now fully healed from two broken vertebrae, however, Petty returned to form Saturday: He went 28-of-55 for a career-high 510 yards with six touchdowns.
Petty did throw two interceptions, including the pick-six to Mallet in the fourth quarter that seemingly sealed the game. But he shook off the late mistake to carry the offense, throwing two touchdown passes during the final 10 minutes and leading four straight scoring drives.
The Midlothian, Texas, native has garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk, but he didn’t look worthy of it against Texas last week. The quarterback the nation saw against TCU has a distinct shot at reaching New York. His chances only increase if the Bears remain in the Big 12 title hunt.
3. This was not a defensive battle -- until it mattered
Baylor and TCU entered the game ranked first and second in the Big 12 in scoring defense. The Bears and Horned Frogs also boasted the league’s top two scoring offenses. Something had to give, and offense ruled the day.
The two Big 12 programs, which each averaged more than 42 points per game prior to Saturday, staged a shootout. They combined for 119 points, 62 first downs and 1,267 yards of total offense. In fact, TCU’s 58 points are the most ever scored on the road against a top-five team in the AP Poll.
Still, Baylor’s defense was a big reason why it had a chance in the fourth quarter. When TCU faced a fourth-and-three with 1:17 remaining, the Bears’ defense forced an incompletion from Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin. That gave Baylor the possession it needed to knock in the winning kick.
Baylor’s offense draws a lot of attention, but its defense could turn out to be just as important in the program's quest for a second consecutive Big 12 title.