TCU’s season came to an end Saturday with a game that typified the Horned Frogs’ year in agonizingly acute fashion.
No. 9 Baylor escaped with a 41-38 victory, thanks to a turnover-plagued TCU offense that gift-wrapped three Bears’ touchdowns in front of 43,568 at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
David Porter’s 22-yard touchdown catch from Casey Pachall pulled TCU to within 41-38 on the first play of the fourth quarter after Sam Carter’s interception set the Frogs up on the Baylor 25.
Despite four TCU turnovers, including three that led directly to 21 points for Baylor, the Horned Frogs were driving with a chance to tie or win in the final minute.
With 11 seconds left in the game, and TCU at the Baylor 23, Pachall’s pass on second-and-10 intended for Brandon Carter near the goal line was tipped into the air and intercepted by the Bears’ Terrell Burt in the end zone to clinch the Baylor victory. It was Pachall’s third interception of the night. The first two were returned for touchdowns.
“We could have kicked a field goal, but we thought we needed to take one shot to win it,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “We wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way. The ball bounces off us, they pick it, game is over. That pretty much sums it up. All the rest of it didn’t matter. The kids fought their tails off.”
TCU’s finale pretty much sums up the season for the Frogs (4-8, 2-7 Big 12), who failed to qualify for a bowl game for only the second time since Patterson joined the staff as defensive coordinator in 1998. TCU last missed out on a bowl in 2004. The four wins are the fewest for TCU since going 1-10 in 1997.
The Frogs lost four games by three points or fewer, including three of their final four games.
“I told them there was nothing for them to be ashamed about down in the locker room,” Patterson said. “When we were down 34-17, we could have quit — didn’t. The last five minutes we couldn’t get the ball moved. We got a stop and had a chance. That’s all you want. We wanted to win this ballgame. We wanted to be at 5 [wins]. That was our bowl game.”
The loss is particularly frustrating for Patterson and his players because of the job the defense did on Baylor’s nation-leading offense.
The Bears (10-1, 7-1), averaging a nation-best 661.6 yards and 56.8 points a game, were held in check for much of the game, especially after a fast and furious first quarter that saw Baylor run 40 plays and take a 10-3 lead. But TCU’s defense stepped up the pressure and held the Bears to 50 plays and 169 yards over the next three quarters.
“We should have beat them. Simple as that,” Patterson said. “With everything that went wrong, we still should have beat them. Give Baylor credit, they’re having a great season. Bottom line is, we should have beat them. And you don’t hear me say things like that very often.”
Baylor led 13-3 early in the second quarter on an 18-yard scoring pass from Petty to Clay Fuller and two Aaron Jones field goals.
All the momentum seemed to be behind TCU midway through the second quarter when the Frogs rallied with two touchdowns to take a 17-13 lead with 6:18 left in the first half. Jordan Moore scored on a 1-yard run and Trevone Boykin connected with LaDarius Brown for a 21-yard pass in the end zone after a 41-yard punt return by Cameron Echols-Luper set the Frogs up at the Baylor 21.
But a rash of TCU turnovers helped Baylor regain the momentum and the lead. B.J. Catalon fumbled and the Bears recovered at the TCU 1. Petty scored on a keeper to give Baylor a 20-17 lead. Later in the second quarter, Pachall’s pass was intercepted by Orion Stewart and returned 82 yards for a score to give Baylor a 27-17 lead at the half.
“I made quite a few mistakes that cost us the ballgame,” said Pachall, a senior playing his final game for the Horned Frogs. “I gave them 14 points, just handed it over on a platter. They weren’t a better team than us. We kicked their ass on the field, there’s no doubt about it. But my mistakes are what took us down at the end.”
Baylor finishes the regular season against Texas on Saturday in the last game to be played at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco. The Bears open a new stadium in 2014.
TCU’s offense struggled to move the ball for much of the fourth quarter after pulling to within three, but outgained the Bears 410 yards to 370, thanks to another stout performance by the defense. It has been a familiar theme for TCU this season.
“To an extent anyway. I thought we outplayed them tonight,” TCU defensive end and Aledo product Jon Koontz said. “A couple things here and there, that was the difference. I don’t think we could have done a whole lot better as a defense. Certainly there were things, mistakes here and there, and they did sustain some drives on us, but they’re a high-powered offense.”