By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter
Two words: triple overtime. That’s what it took for No. 12 Baylor football to remain undefeated after seizing a 29-23 victory out of the hands of TCU Saturday in Fort Worth. With neither team reaching the end zone during regulation and the score tied at nine, the Bears and the Horned Frogs combined for five touchdowns with Baylor putting the stop on TCU in the final drive and clinch the win.
“I’ll tell you what I’m most proud of,” head coach Matt Rhule said. “We stormed the field when we thought we won the game and they came back and said it was a touchdown. Our guys just regrouped, went back said, ‘What’s next,’ kept playing.”
The Bears took the lead in the first overtime on a 3-yard keeper by junior quarterback Charlie Brewer. The defense came back out to work, almost shutting down the Horned Frogs with a sack of TCU quarterback Max Duggan by senior linebacker Blake Lynch, but the freshman QB connected with sophomore wide receiver Te’Vailance Hunt on fourth-and-9 at the edge of the end zone. The play was originally called out of bounds which meant Baylor would have taken the win at 16-9, but the officials overturned the call for a touchdown upon review.
So, with that ‘What’s next’ mentality, the defense returned to the field for another drive. Sophomore linebacker Terrel Bernard, who had a career-high 19 tackles and an interception, the team can’t focus on things that are outside of their control.
“Obviously we’re worried of what’s happening right now but whenever the ruling’s made, what’s next, go on about it and let’s play the next play,” Bernard said.
The next play saw TCU retake the lead as Duggan rushed the ball in, placing the Horned Frogs 3 yards out for a rushing score by senior running back Sewo Olonilua.
But the Bears once again tied it at 23 when Brewer connected with senior wide receiver Denzel Mims for 20 yards. Going into the final overtime Brewer hit senior wide receiver Chris Platt with a 21-yard catch for a first down and then tossed a 4-yard slant to Mims for the Bears final score.
Unable to make the two-point conversion, all Baylor had to do was put the stop on the Frogs.
Duggan, using his feet again, found an opening and flew in on third-and-5 for 17 yards to almost bring the score even again and possibly win the game with the two-point conversion, but his run was ruled out of bounds bringing the line of scrimmage to the 3-yard line one more time.
Baylor’s defense bunkered down as Lynch along with senior linebacker Jordan Williams and senior defensive tackle Bravvion Roy brought down Olunilua on several rush plays. Pushed back to the BU14 on fourth-and-goal, Duggan searched for someone to pass to but instead threw a pick to Baylor junior cornerback Grayland Arnold to end the drama.
Regardless of being the Horned Frogs fourth choice QB, Williams was still impressed by the way Duggan battled against the Bears.
“Max is a great player. I forgot he was a freshman,” Williams said. “I mean he battled. He went to the end with us and he kept fighting so I respect him a lot.”
But how did the Bears get to the point where they had to play a triple overtime for the third time in school history and the first under Matt Rhule?
Baylor was down by three with 03:23 left in the fourth quarter but 10 plays and 54 yards later the Bears were a yard out of midfield and less than a minute to make something happen on fourth down.
Freshman kicker John Mayers had already put Baylor on the board twice but at a much closer distance. Having originally sent out Noah Rauschenberg, another freshman with a foot of gold, out to make the longer kick, head coach Matt Rhule called a time out and sent Mayers back out there to drive the 51-yarder through the post.
“I called timed out like three times and the referee on the other side, he kept looking at me. I thnk he thought I was icing my own kicker,” Rhule said. “We said, you know there’s a little bit of wind on our back, let’s go with the guy who got us there. And that’s the thing about Meyers, he’s a gamer…I want him in my foxhole. He made the kick.”
Mayers, the walk-on redshirt freshman who has had his fair share of the spotlight this season, said he knew he to use what he’s done in practice to send the game to overtime.
“We worked on some longer field goals in practice; like I was hitting some in the upper 40s this week and I think that helped, but you know, I just knew I had to hit my best ball. My teammates needed me and I was happy to make the kick and help send the game to overtime.”
The Bears finished the day with 294 total yards of offense and on 74 plays, three touchdowns, three field goals and a possession time of 29:36. Brewer 24-41 in passing with one interception and also had 41 rushing yards, leading team rushing on the day. Mims and sophomore wide receiver Josh Fleeks led the team in receiving yards with 57 and 42 respectively.
ESPN’s College Gameday returns to Waco for the third time next weekend as Baylor prepares to host No. 9 Oklahoma at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium in a battle for the top of the Big 12.