By Shehan Jeyarajah
With only 11:38 remaining on Saturday at McLane Stadium, TCU linebacker Marcus Mallet intercepted a pass from senior quarterback Bryce Petty and returned it for a touchdown to push the TCU lead out to 58-37.
Baylor’s College Football Playoff chances seemed to be slipping away with every waking second, but Petty never lost faith.
“I just knew looking at the other guy’s faces we were going to come back in that game,” Petty said. With our offense and the way we play defense, 21 points is not a big deal for us.”
With Baylor fans as quiet as they had ever been at McLane Stadium, sophomore running back Devin Chafin ran for a touchdown. Four minutes later, Petty found senior wide receiver Antwan Goodley to cut the lead down to seven and get the crowd back into the game.
After another stop, Petty threw a 25-yard pass over the top to sophomore wide receiver Corey Coleman to tie the game at 58-58 with 4:42 remaining. After another stop by the Baylor defense, struggling freshman kicker Chris Callahan came up for a 29-yard field goal attempt to win the game.
And he delivered.
No. 4 Baylor (6-0, 3-0) broke through to force one of the most improbable comebacks in program history in a 61-58 thriller over No. 12 TCU (4-1, 1-1).
Baylor came into the game tied up at 51-51-7 all-time against the Horned Frogs. Even though the rivalry has existed since 1899, this was the first time both Baylor and TCU were ranked in any matchup between the two.
“It was just a statement game for us,” Petty said. “It is another chance to prove that we are here to stay. It was a huge opportunity on a national scale, and we won it again.”
Petty got off to a slow start, throwing two interceptions in a game for the first time in his career. He more than redeemed himself late. In the 11 minutes after throwing the pick-six, Petty threw for 123 yards and two touchdowns, including the equalizer to Coleman with 4:42 remaining.
After a disastrous day against Texas where he threw for only 111 yards, the senior got his Heisman Trophy campaign back on track with a career-high 510 yards and six touchdowns against the Horned Frogs.
“I thought Bryce played outstanding,” head coach Art Briles said. “Not everything is going to go your way, but it is all about how you respond to it, and I thought Bryce responded well tonight.”
Petty was not the only player to step up when it mattered most. Sophomore running back Shock Linwood ran 13 times for 113 yards in the final quarter on the way to 178 total yards rushing against a stingy Horned Frogs front seven.
“I really wanted the ball,” Linwood said. “The first half I did not play very well, so going into the locker room I was mad at myself. I just told myself that I had to play better the second half. Whenever I got the ball I was playing with anger, and it paid off out on the field.”
Despite the lofty score, Baylor’s defense was key to the win on Saturday. The Bears held the Horned Frogs to 5.4 yards per play, the lowest TCU has been held to all season. The Bears held the Horned Frogs to 485 yards, which is below their season average.
“I don’t think our defense ever really gave up,” senior linebacker Bryce Hager said. “We didn’t stop believing. It was just one of those things we just knew and had a feeling. When we needed to step up, we stepped up, and our offense did the same.”
With the win, Baylor took sole possession of first place in the Big 12 conference standings. The Bears also moved up to No. 4 in the Associated Press poll and moved down to No. 4 in the Amway Coaches Poll. For now, the Bears have control of their College Football Playoff destiny.
“It really is a lot of confidence for us because there’s not going to be many situations worse than that, being 21 points down that late in the fourth quarter,” Petty said. “So for us, it’s like Coach Briles says: You can’t really teach experience or read it in a book. You just have to live it. So for us, that was living proof that we can come back literally from anything.”
No. 4 Baylor will face another test at 11 a.m. Saturday when they travel to Morgantown, W. Va., to face the West Virginia Mountaineers.