Five plays into the game, Arlington seemed a lot farther than 20 minutes away for TCU.
The Horned Frogs had begun their Black Friday by giving up a safety and a touchdown to Baylor, a one-win team that was the only thing standing between them and AT&T Stadium, site of the 2017 Big 12 championship game.
They were on notice.
The Baylor quarterback had a pedigree. The Frogs were again without their best linebacker and a safety. And their offense, which hadn’t approached 30 points in weeks, was already nine points in the hole.
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But in about the time it takes to make that bus ride down I-30 to the town next door, Kenny Hill started making plays, Mat Boesen started making sacks and the Frogs were on their way to a 45-22 victory that earned that 20-minute trip.
No. 12 TCU (10-2) now gets a rematch against No. 4 Oklahoma (11-1) for the Big 12 title at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 2 at AT&T Stadium. The Frogs not only will get a chance to avenge one of their two losses, but also to win their first outright Big 12 title and perhaps earn outside consideration for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The Frogs got a taste of hope when they learned, just as they were mopping up at Amon G. Carter Stadium, that No. 2 Miami lost.
Much help is still required.
But still ...
“Any time anybody ranked above us can lose, that helps us out,” said linebacker Ty Summers, who had one of eight sacks for TCU. “But at the end of the day, we’re worried about us, trying to be the best TCU football team we can possibly be. And if everything works to where we can get in the playoff, fantastic. If not, we’re going to at least try to win the games we have set before us.”
The Frogs will give themselves a good chance if they get the kind of performances they got Friday from two of the 35 seniors recognized on the final home game of the season. Hill, sidelined last week by injury, threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns and ran for one, and Boesen recorded a school-record 5.5 sacks.
For a seventh consecutive game, the defense did not allow a touchdown after halftime.
As much as they could have reasonably hoped, the Frogs are in tune for next week’s showdown with the Sooners.
“We played this game like we know we can play, how we should be playing, how we played early in the season,” Hill said. “We just got back to us. It feels good. We’ll carry it on.”
TCU completed an undefeated home season and won double-digit games for the third time in four years.
“Really proud of my group, to be honest with you,” said coach Gary Patterson, who announced after the game that his contract had been extended by two years through the 2023 season. “It’s hard to win double-digits. Especially in the season we just had, as many places as we had to go on the road. A lot of guys stepping up and doing what they needed to do, and the coaching staff did a great job. I’m the one that always gets a lot of the credit, but to be honest with you, the staff did a great job all year long.”
The latest edition of the in-state rivalry, TCU’s longest-running against any opponent, game was marred by a fight with 1:25 left in the third quarter when Chris Bradley pushed a running back out of bounds on the Baylor sideline and exchanged taunts with the Bears. More shoves and bumps ensued and led to personal-foul warnings on both benches.
But both teams dodged ejections, and Patterson was glad TCU would be no more short-handed than necessary next week for Oklahoma.
“I relish the chance to win a championship,” Patterson said, asked if he relishes the chance to play the Sooners again. “That’s what you get in it to do.”
Sensing what’s ahead, Patterson continued.
“Let me just say this: Baker Mayfield is a really good player and has an opportunity to win a Heisman,” he said. “But it won’t be at their place. It’ll be 20 minutes down the road, and we’ll get an opportunity to do it again.”
In a week, the Frogs can take that 20-minute ride. It’ll take them right to another 60 minutes against OU.
BAY—B.Lynch 54 pass from Brewer (Martin kick), 13:26
TCU—Hicks 4 run (Bunce kick), 8:59
TCU—Stewart 7 pass from Hill (Bunce kick), :26
TCU—Olonilua 32 run (Bunce kick), 11:30
BAY—Ebner 58 pass from Brewer (Martin kick), 5:23
BAY—FG Martin 48, :00
TCU—D.White 14 pass from Hill (Bunce kick), 12:32
BAY—FG Martin 23, 9:56
TCU—Reagor 30 pass from Hill (Bunce kick), 1:39
TCU—Hill 3 run (Bunce kick), 13:36
TCU—FG Bunce 23, 8:45
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Baylor, Brewer 9-49, Ebner 6-15, Schrepfer 1-9, Hasty 9-9, Lovett 1-5, Te.Williams 1-2, Z.Smith 2-(minus 10). TCU, Olonilua 10-71, Hill 9-20, Turpin 1-18, Hicks 10-11, Snell 3-2, Niang 0-0, Muehlstein 1-(minus 2), S.Boyd 1-(minus 2), Slanina 1-(minus 6).
PASSING—Baylor, Brewer 19-29-1-301, Z.Smith 2-5-1-13. TCU, Hill 26-36-0-325.
RECEIVING—Baylor, Ebner 6-89, B.Lynch 4-110, Atkinson 3-49, Mims 2-26, Nicholson 2-15, Wainright 2-12, M.Jones 1-12, Hasty 1-1. TCU, Stewart 6-72, D.White 4-69, Reagor 4-39, Olonilua 3-40, Slanina 2-33, Austin 2-18, Hicks 1-26, Diarse 1-17, Ta.Williams 1-7, C.Hunt 1-4, Thomas 1-0.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Baylor, Martin 39. TCU, Bunce 45.