ARLINGTON — Only one quarter earlier, Baylor football was riding high. The offense looked all but unstoppable, and it had gotten to the point where junior offensive guard LaQuan McGowan caught a touchdown pass to push the lead out to 41-21 heading into the fourth quarter.
Three minutes into the fourth quarter, Josiah Price caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook to cut the game to two scores. Eight minutes later, running back Jeremy Langford got into the end zone.
With under a minute left, freshman kicker Chris Callahan came into the game with an opportunity to put the game away. Michigan State blocked the kick, and drove down for a touchdown to deal Baylor a crushing 42-41 loss in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl.
“I feel like we had a really good opportunity to come out of here victoriously,” head coach Art Briles said. “We had a couple of unfortunately things that happened down the stretch that prevented us from winning.”
Senior quarterback Bryce Petty was playing his final game in a Baylor uniform, at played potentially the best game of his career. The senior threw for a career-high 550 yards and three touchdowns on 36-for-51 passing efficiency.
“It’s all for naught when you lose,” Petty said. “Like I said, the whole going into this game was finishing.”
Michigan State had a quick start to the game, scoring a touchdown only two-and-a-half minutes into the game. Baylor countered back with a 49-yard pass to freshman wide receiver KD Cannon to tie the game up. Michigan State added an 11-yard run from R.J Shelton, but a double-pass from junior receiver Jay Lee to sophomore receiver Corey Coleman tied the game up at 14-14 heading into the second quarter.
For the next 20 minutes, it was all Baylor. The Bears went on a 27-7 run, including two field goals and a 74-yard bomb to Cannon less than 30 seconds into the second half. Even McGowan added a touchdown with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
When the fourth came around, it was all Connor Cook. The Michigan State quarterback posted 179 passing yards and two touchdowns, including a heartbreaking 10-yard pass to Keith Mumphery with 17 seconds remaining to catapult Michigan State to victory.
“I think it’s what I’ve said all along: field position, turnovers, momentum,” Briles said. “If you win those three ingredients, you’re going to win the football game. I think they maintained the momentum and we didn’t; we let it get away by not being clean.”
Like last year, Baylor finished the season with a crushing loss in the bowl game. The Fiesta Bowl against UCF was a major factor in Baylor missing the inaugural College Football Playoff this season; the Cotton Bowl could have a similar effect next year.
Despite the disappointment for Baylor football, there were some bright spots on the day. Cannon led the way with 197 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while Coleman added 150 yards and a score of his own. Both players will be back next year.
On defense, freshman linebacker Taylor Young showed why defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is so high on him. Young finished with 15 tackles, a pass breakup, a quarterback hurry and what would have been a pick-six if it wasn’t overturned by a block-in-the-back. Despite the loss, he was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
“A couple plays here and there and we’re sitting in here feeling a lot different; but it didn’t work out that way,” Briles said.