Callahan ignores previous struggles in career day

Chris Callahan O
Chris Callahan

By Cody Soto
Sports Writer

Freshman kicker Chris Callahan was 1-for-6 on field goals coming into Saturday’s shootout against fifth-ranked Baylor and ninth-ranked TCU. His only made field goal in 2014 was 45 days ago in the first game of the season against unranked SMU.

On Saturday night, it was his moment to turn those figures upside down.

A moment of silence from the crowd at the end of the fourth quarter gave the 5-foot-9-inch Houston native the spotlight in McLane Stadium, a silence so loud fans could hear their own heart beats.

Four seconds later, the crowd erupted into cheers as Callahan made the final field goal of the game, sealing a 61-58 win for the Bears.

“I saw that kick go up and how it came off my foot; I knew it was in. I had no doubt,” Callahan said. “The offense did an amazing job setting up the opportunity for me to make the game-winning field goal.”

Callahan was 4-for-4 on field goals in Saturday’s game and also a perfect 7-for-7 on extra point conversions.

His 19 points cements him into Baylor football history as the kicker with the most points in a single game. In fact, he didn’t even know he broke the record until Monday morning. The honor pushed all the previous statistics behind him, he said.

“One of my good friends on the equipment team texted me Monday when I was in class,” Callahan said. “Everyone was bringing up that I was 1-for-6 in the first five games, but I’m 4-for-4 now, so that’s what matters. I’m taking each week on its own.”

Head coach Art Briles said the game came down to 40 plays that determined the winner of the shootout and was capped by Callahan’s incredible 29-yard field goal.

“We made 21 plays and they made 19,” Briles said. “It is surprising how games come down to one or two plays, but this game was entirely different. We had stops in the fourth quarter, big plays on offense, and a critical special teams play to hit a big field goal for the win. Our guys deserved it and showed a lot of character and toughness.”

While Briles praised the fans for their phenomenal support especially in the fourth quarter, Callahan didn’t feel the pressure to make the final kick. It wasn’t a defining moment for this career, he said.

“I just kind of zoned [the audience] out. I didn’t hear anything except [senior quarterback Andrew] Frerking catch the snap and the ball rubbing against the back of the net through the posts,” Callahan said. “In that moment, it was really special and I enjoyed it, but now it’s time to move on to West Virginia.”

Even though Baylor football is known for its explosive offense and gang-green defense, Callahan emphasized the importance of the special teams lineup and the kicking game as part of a dynamic football team.

“Those 19 points ended up being crucial, so I think it shows everyone that the kicking game is just as important as the offense and defense,” Callahan said.

Senior quarterback Bryce Petty said that the game-winning field goal and incredible 24-point comeback gives the entire team the experience they need to strive for a repeat of the Big 12 conference title and a national championship playoff berth.

This game meant so much to continue both of those journeys.

“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. “It’s like Coach Briles says: you can’t 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 from anything.”

With this memorable moment under his belt, Callahan isn’t letting this game to get to his head. Less than one day after the game, Sunday morning was normal for Callahan as he spent it with his family.

His parents did a great job of keeping him grounded, he said.

“It was just another kick essentially, but the morning after I went to breakfast I saw the Waco newspaper on the table as I was sitting with my family and girlfriend, and it was really special,” Callahan said. “My mom was still having some tears of happiness.”

Briles said to give credit to Callahan for the belief that he had in himself, not only during the game, but also in practice.

“It’s hard to [kick in practice] when you’ve got over a hundred guys within five feet of you screaming and hollering while you kick. It’s not easy,” Briles said. “He’s done extremely well the last couple of weeks in practice. We just haven’t had the opportunities in the game. He got in there Saturday night when we had to have it and did an outstanding job. It’s really a credit to him without question.”

Callahan can be described as humble. The freshman kicker stepped up in a crucial point for the Bears, and because of his home values and his coaches for giving him a mature sports mentality, he looks to continue playing an active role in a powerful Baylor football team.

“You have to stay on the ground. Confidence is a choice,” Callahan said. “You can do everything you can to go with what everyone is saying and be bigger than what you really are, but at the end of the day, you’re still a human being. We’ve struggled this year, but we’ve really worked on getting back to perfection. We’re a resilient team.”