In the final minute, Gary Patterson knew the truth.
His defense wasn’t going to stop Baylor.
The game had been too long, the yards and snaps had piled up too high, and there was nothing else to do but try to win it with his offense converting a fourth down and kicking a field goal.
But there was no conversion, and there was no defensive stop. Baylor’s Chris Callahan put through a 28-yard field goal with no time remaining for a 61-58 victory that ended a titanic clash Saturday at McLane Stadium between the Big 12’s best teams.
The nearly 4 1/2-hour game left both teams exhausted, but Baylor and its fans stormed the field in happiness. The Bears (6-0), despite trailing for the first time this year and giving up almost twice as many points as they had in any game this year, kept alive their hope for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The Horned Frogs (4-1) knew it could have been them with the CFP hopes — they needed one more stop or three more points.
“We didn’t finish in the end,” Patterson, the veteran TCU head coach, said. “When you play somebody at home, you’ve got to drive the spike. And we didn’t. We were up 21 points, and we didn’t get that done.”
TCU had plenty of chances with the spike in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Marcus Mallet’s interception return for a touchdown gave the Frogs a 58-37 lead with 11:23 to play.
But Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, who threw for 510 yards and six touchdowns, led a fourth-quarter offense that erased those 21 points as if it were drinking water.
The Bears reached the end zone on fourth-quarter drives of four, five and five plays that covered 45, 92 and 91 yards. Two drives lasted 59 seconds, the other a minute and 23 seconds.
By the time the Bears got the ball for the 20th time, following the fourth-down stop, they had snapped the ball 100 times. They drove 44 yards in nine plays for the game-winning field goal, finishing a 782-yard day.
“I feel bad because it’s a proud defense,” Patterson said.
Patterson tried to protect the defense. On fourth-and-4 from the Baylor 45 with 1:17 left, Patterson opted for a fake punt. But he called timeout, changed his mind, and sent the offense back to get the first down and perhaps drive for its own game-winning field goal attempt.
“Even if we kick it to the 5-yard line, I didn’t know if we could have stopped them,” Patterson said.
Trevone Boykin’s fade to the sideline for Josh Doctson fell incomplete, however, and Baylor had the ball for its game-winning drive.
“Basically, you have a guy that has great ball skills,” Boykin said. “You basically just give the guy a chance. That’s what we tried to come out and do, and the defensive guy just made a better play.”
The loss negated B.J. Catalon’s fireworks with the ball. He returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, ran for 48 yards and two touchdowns and caught two passes for 71 yards. It was part of TCU’s 485-yard effort on offense.
“B.J. is one of those guys, when the ball is in his hands, you never know what could happen,” Boykin said. “He had a great game, but we needed a full-team effort on all three phases. Offense has to pick their part up, and defense has to pick their part up, and special teams. At the end of the day, we had weapons all over the field, but we need to win ballgames.”
Patterson said the whole thing came down to “five or six plays,” including a snap over the punter’s head that gave Baylor a field goal before the half.
But he said he knew where the blame belonged.
“There’s only one person I can blame,” he said. “It’s my job to stop them, and I didn’t get that done.”