By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Holding onto a 28-26 lead with 2:07 to play Saturday afternoon at McLane Stadium, all the Bears needed to do was get a first down and they’d upset the No. 4 team in the country.
But Baylor football failed to move the chains and set up senior quarterback Max Duggan and No. 4 Texas Christian University for a game-winning drive. Duggan led the team 46 yards down the field and gave senior kicker Griffin Kell a shot to walk off with a win.
The Frogs (11-0, 8-0 Big 12) were out of timeouts and decided run the ball to get it between the hash marks, leaving about 17 seconds for the offense to switch places with Kell and the field goal unit. But the team got set with five seconds of running time on the clock, and Kell drilled it from 40 yards out, putting an emphatic stop to the McLane Stadium student section that was on the verge of rushing the field.
The crowd went silent as the Horned Frogs began their celebration following the 29-28 victory, clinging onto their undefeated season and College Football Playoff hopes in the process. Meanwhile, the Bears (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) were left stunned on a senior day where they felt they did everything right to win.
“It’s a tough locker room,” head coach Dave Aranda said following the game. “I told them that I wish that I could take the pain away. I wish you could say that you put together a great week and you bounced back from a hardship and put the pieces back together to fight for another day. And to do it all in the right manner. You wish that it would all work out in the end. We all know that’s not the case.”
Junior running back Craig “Sqwirl” Williams walked into the media room in an emotional state and said “it’s really hard to see it go that way” after the heartbreaking field goal.
“Great game plan, guys went out there and gave it their all,” Williams said. “We have a lot of guys on our team that I felt really deserved to walk out of here as winners today. For it to end that way, it really hurts.”
Williams totalled 112 yards on 19 carries on Saturday, his second time eclipsing the century mark this season. Redshirt freshman safety Devin Lemear led the team with a career-high nine tackles, chipping in a pass break-up as well, his fourth of the season.
Lemear said “it was a game of a couple of inches” and that the team was crushed to not send off the seniors on a better note.
“We were in the right spot, just inches away from making the play,” Lemear said. “That’s what makes it painful because you know where you’re supposed to be and you’re that close to making the play. To fall short really hurts, especially knowing what’s on the line with the seniors in their last game here.”
Baylor struck first on its opening drive, an impressive 11-play, 76-yard march that saw junior running back Qualan Jones hit pay dirt from 10 yards out, his seventh touchdown in 2022. The Horned Frogs were three-and-out after that, but fifth-year senior kicker John Mayers couldn’t connect from 46 yards out into the wind.
Duggan then scrambled for a seven-yard touchdown to make it 7-7 before the teams traded scores in the second quarter, making it 14-14 at the half.
Freshman tight end Kelsey Johnson scored for the Bears on a two-yard jet sweep, the first of his two career touchdowns on Saturday. This one came on the ground and he caught one through the air early in the fourth.
TCU’s junior running back Kendre Miller is the one who tied it, as he fell forward for a two-yard score following a questionable pass interference call that gave the Frogs a first down.
Freshman running back Richard Reese needed 30 yards to break Shock Linwood’s freshman rushing record that was set in 2013. Reese ran for 56 yards and now sits atop the throne, as he now has 908 yards on the year.
Sophomore wide receiver Monaray Baldwin snagged six catches for 123 yards as well. Sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen went 21-30 for 269 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the end zone right before the end of the first half.
After a missed PAT by the Frogs, the Bears trailed 20-14 through three quarters of action. But Baylor scored 14 unanswered points in just over five minutes to start the fourth and led 28-20 before the madness began.
The two teams traded possessions and TCU got the ball with 6:48 remaining. Duggan, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 327 yards, a touchdown and a pick, pushed the team 90 yards down the field in under five minutes to cut the deficit.
It was senior running back Emari Demercado who trucked across the goal line from three yards out to make it 28-26. The Frogs, forced to go for two following the earlier missed PAT, were unable to convert after Demercado dropped what would have been an easy score.
There was a sigh of relief among the fans as the Bears held onto the two point advantage, but TCU was able to get the stop it needed most and win in thrilling fashion.
The Bears now head into their final game of the season against the University of Texas on Friday at 11 a.m. on ABC or ESPN at Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin.