For the first 48 minutes Saturday, the TCU defense at least did what it needed to slow down the prolific Baylor Bears.
Kevin White intercepted Bryce Petty to set up a touchdown. The Horned Frogs held the Bears to three field goals in the red zone. And Marcus Mallet returned an interception for a touchdown, sending the Horned Frogs up three touchdowns.
Then it all fell apart.
Baylor gained 252 yards of offense in the fourth quarter and attacked TCU’s cornerbacks until a 21-point deficit had evaporated for a 61-58 win at McLane Stadium.
“Whatever it was, we quit tackling, we quit playing leverage, whether it was the run or the pass,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “I feel bad because it’s a proud defense, and we didn’t play very well.”
All five of Petty’s touchdown passes were 25 yards or longer, including a strike to Corey Coleman with 4:42 left in the game that tied TCU at 58-58. And on the final drive of the game, with Baylor facing third-and-10 from the TCU 43, Petty challenged the the Frogs’ secondary again with a ball intended for Levi Norwood. Cory O’Meally, a junior college transfer seeing his most significant playing time of the season, broke up Petty’s pass but was flagged for pass interference.
Petty zeroed in on O’Meally and redshirt freshman Ranthony Texada but didn’t shy away from even the Frogs’ most veteran defenders. With TCU’s momentum surging in the third quarter, O’Meally batted down a deep third-and-7 pass across across the middle of the field. But on the next Baylor series, Jay Lee burned O’Meally on a vertical route for a 47-yard touchdown catch.
Earlier in the game, with TCU leading 14-0, Petty hit Antwan Goodley for a 66-yard touchdown over the head of senior safety Sam Carter. Petty then went after Texada for a 47-yard pass to Corey Coleman. Petty later cut the Frogs’ lead to 21-17 with a 29-yard touchdown to Coleman, who again beat Texada.
“We’ll see that all the rest of the year,” Patterson said. “Until you stop the verticals, you’re going to see the verticals.”
But even with Petty posting 300 yards passing and three touchdowns in the first half, TCU was able to keep the momentum in its favor. White muscled his way through traffic for an interception on second-and-10 early in the third quarter. Later, on third-and-goal from the 4, Chris Hackett later hurried Petty out of the pocket and into an errant throw over the head of a wide-open Goodley.
Mallet appeared to close the door on the fifth-ranked Bears early in the fourth quarter. He forced a Petty fumble, which was recovered for a 6-yard loss, and then reached Petty again, forcing an incompletion. Two plays later, the senior dropped into coverage — much like Paul Dawson did last week against Oklahoma — and intercepted Petty with nothing but turf between him and a three-touchdown lead for TCU.
But then Baylor need four rushes and less than a minute to cut the Frogs’ lead to 14. Next, Petty engineered a 92-yard drive, including a 28-yard touchdown pass to Goodley to cut it to a score with 6:39 left.
“It was the same thing they were doing in the first half,” Carter said. “We just couldn’t make the play.”