Every year, each team has a situation or two that will define the season. If it makes a play, it goes on to great things; if it fails, it’s time to start talking about next year.
Baylor had a few of those on Saturday against TCU. Because the Bears came up big in two pressure-packed situations, they find themselves in position to qualify for the inaugural College Football Playoff.
For clarification, neither of those moments refer to the two hotly contested penalties at the end of the game. Much like being in an art museum, all of us saw the exact same thing, yet we all have completely different interpretations as to what we just witnessed.
Whether or not you thought both calls were correct or incorrect, it’s wrong to say that the officials decided the outcome of this contest, especially since Baylor was penalized more times and for more yards than TCU was. The bottom line is that the Horned Frogs had ample opportunity to put the game away for good in the fourth quarter, but weren’t able to.
And, for that, you’ve got to tip your cap to the Baylor Bears.
Let’s be honest: it looked like Art Briles’ squad was going down after Marcus Mallet returned a Bryce Petty interception for a touchdown. Sure, we knew Baylor had a high-powered offense, but what were the odds that the Bears would find the end zone four times in 11 minutes against the seventh-best defense in the country? Considering that Baylor had more turnovers (two) than touchdowns (one) over its previous six drives, the odds of a comeback seemed virtually impossible.
But that’s what the Bears did. Shock Linwood stole the show in the fourth quarter, rushing for 106 of his 178 yards in the final minutes of the game. Bryce Petty (516 yards, 6 TD) was equally impressive during this stretch, connecting on six straight passes after his ill-fated pick, including TD strikes to Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman to knot the game at 58.
However, as well as the offense played, the Baylor defense deserves the game ball for how it played this afternoon. Yes, it gave up 485 yards, but the defense came up big when it needed to. In fact, Baylor’s defense managed to get the TCU offense off the field very quickly after the Horned Frogs took a 58-37 and (later) a 58-44 lead following a BU touchdown. On a more specific level, let’s not forget that the Bear defense refused to let TCU run the clock out at the end of regulation, stopping the Horned Frogs on fourth and three on Baylor’s side of the field with 1:11 left in regulation. Had TCU converted that fourth and three, it would have moved near field goal range and would have been able to drain the entirety of the clock. Baylor’s defense really did contribute to a game in which TCU scored 58 points.
Of course, the biggest stand of the game was actually early in the third quarter. After an interception gave TCU the ball at the Bear 23, the Horned Frog offense had a chance to open up a 10-point lead. Despite having six cracks at the end zone inside the Baylor 10 (three additional shots after a pass interference penalty gave them first and goal at the 2), TCU settled for three points.
Had they converted, the Horned Frogs win the game.
That stop – more than any call or non-call – decided this contest.
It will also propel the Bears into the top four, which means that if the College Football Playoff started today, they’d be in the field.
That’s got to be the most defining moment of the 2014 season so far.