THIS WIN'S FOR COACH: Bears Escape With Emotional 41-38 Win Over TCUDec. 1, 2013
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
FORT WORTH, Texas - Just to make it perfectly clear, Art Briles never said one word to his team about "Win this for me."
That's just not who he is or what he does.
But with the sixth-year Baylor head coach mourning the loss of his older brother, Eddie Briles, who died Wednesday of head injuries from a fall, the ninth-ranked Bears carried a "Win One for Coach" mentality into Saturday's game at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
"It was the emphasis of the week, for sure," quarterback Bryce Petty said. "I want to say that lightly, just because I don't want Coach Briles to hear this and think that he was a distraction, because that's the last thing he was. He's part of our family, too. I guarantee you that every guy in that locker room loves him like their own dad. . . . It hurts you to see him hurt. And I thought he did an outstanding job through the week of not letting it get to him. But that stuff hurts. I just want to go up and hug him. I think this win was huge for him, and that's what we wanted to do."
Saturday's nail-biting 41-38 win was huge for the Bears, too, who kept alive their hopes for their first-ever Big 12 championship and first BCS bowl bid in program history.
"I'm just proud of our players," said Briles, whose team improved to 10-1 overall and 7-1 in league play, tied atop the Big 12 standings with seventh-ranked Oklahoma State and Texas. "It means a lot to me for our administration and our fan base, for the people that have supported us for so long. That's why I'm happy, because our players are deserving, and it's nice to see them reap the reward of their hard work. And it's nice for our fan base to be able to enjoy it with us."
Briles, the players and the fan base never felt comfortable or really enjoyed this one until those precious final seconds ticked off after a game-clinching interception by Terrell Burt with just 11 ticks left on the clock.
With the Bears' historically explosive and usually reliable offense deserting them, it took a "phenomenal" defensive performance to pull out Baylor's first win in Fort Worth in nearly two decades.
"Like I've said before, the defense is definitely the MVP of this team the way that they've turned it around, the way that they've kept us in games," Petty said.
"I think (the defensive performance) was just phenomenal, quite honestly," Briles said.
The defensive highlights included a fumble recovery by defensive tackle Beau Blackshear at the Horned Frogs' 1-yard line; and pick-six returns of 82 and 54 yards, respectively, by freshman safety Orion Stewart and senior linebacker Eddie Lackey.
But even after all that - accounting for over half of the Bears' 41 points - the defense had to come to the rescue one more time in the closing seconds.
Aided by a kick returner interference penalty on Prince Kent and a questionable pass interference call on cornerback Demetri Goodson, TCU (4-8, 2-7) drove from its own 27 down to Baylor's 23 with 18 seconds left on the clock.
The Horned Frogs could have easily tied it up with a 40-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Jaden Oberkrom, who booted a 56-yarder in a 33-31 loss to Kansas State two weeks ago.
"We could have kicked a field goal, but we thought we needed to take one shot to win it," said TCU head coach Gary Patterson. "We wouldn't have wanted to do it any other way."
But just like two years ago, when a Mike Hicks interception sealed a 50-48 win over the Frogs, a potential comeback by TCU quarterback Casey Pachall was spoiled by the Baylor defense.
Pachall tried to hit slot receiver Brandon Carter over the middle, but nickel back Sam Holl dove at the last possible second to deflect the pass away from Carter and into the waiting arms of Burt for the game-clinching interception and third of the day for the Bears.
"(Carter) actually got inside of me, and I'm not supposed to let that happen," Holl said. "So, I just rolled back and sprinted and just dove out. And luckily, I got to tip the ball and T-Burt caught it; and we won the game."
Lackey, who ran over running back Lache Seastrunk in the post-pick celebration, said the silent TCU crowd was "the best feeling." But he nearly lost his voice "yelling so loudly, because I wanted to break the silence and say, 'This is Baylor.''' Briles, dealing with the loss of his only brother and last week's 49-17 loss at Oklahoma State, threw off his hat and slung his headset to the side and celebrated what he said was "possibly the biggest win that we've experienced . . . since we've been at Baylor."
"It just shows we're a tough football team, and that's what you want," Briles said. "You want to be in a room full of fighters and believers, and that's what we have. These guys, if you say it's not going to happen, they're going to find a way to make it happen. . . . We're having to find different ways to do it because of some of the things that have happened to us throughout the season."
That included some things that happened during Saturday's game.
Already missing linebacker Bryce Hager (pulled groin) and cornerback K.J. Morton (abdominal strain), the defense lost one of its biggest pieces early in the third quarter when safety Ahmad Dixon was ejected for a targeting penalty when he hit receiver Trevone Boykin helmet-to-helmet on an overthrown pass over the middle.
"We just had to calm down," Holl said. "That was a big momentum shift for them. We've got to be smarter than that, but we didn't really freak out or anything. We had some guys who stepped in and played really well today."
With Burt also sidelined at one point, the Bears had to turn to true freshman Taion Sells at the safety spot opposite Stewart, a redshirt freshman himself. For most of the second half, the only regular still playing in the secondary was Goodson.
"When Taion came in, I was like, 'Taion, you're not a freshman anymore. Nobody's a freshman anymore. This is a big-time game,''' Stewart said. "Ahmad has been on me all year long. That's like my big brother. So it was kind of easy, just listening to him talk to me. I was kind of repeating (to Sells) what (Dixon) would say to me."
Scoreless on the opening drive in each of its previous five games, the Baylor offense got cranked up early by scoring on each of its first three possessions. In the first quarter alone, the Bears gained 201 yards on 40 plays, but only had a 10-3 lead to show for it.
They settled for a 30-yard field goal by Aaron Jones at the end of an opening 17-play, 67-yard drive - the longest scoring drive of the season by number of plays. And then after Clay Fuller made a diving snag of an 18-yard TD strike from Petty, Jones kicked a 47-yarder on the first play of the second quarter for a 13-3 lead.
"We couldn't ever maintain any continuity," Briles said. "Some of that's got to do with TCU. And some of that's got to do with when we get down there and get field goals instead of touchdowns. That's something we never want to do. We felt like we had a couple plays with chances to score. We got an illegal procedure on one, and felt like we had a play that was going to be a touchdown, and it didn't work out. That nullifies a little bit of your momentum. You can run a lot of plays, but if you're not scoring a lot of points, it doesn't do any good. The bottom line is to score touchdowns when you get in the red zone. We didn't do that tonight."
With Baylor's offense seemingly hitting a wall, TCU scored on a one-yard TD run by converted linebacker Jordan Moore and then took its first lead of the game, 17-13, on a 21-yard pass from Boykin to a wide-open LaDarius Brown after a 41-yard punt return Cameron Echols-Luper.
But that's when the defense decided to turn it up and get back into its early-season scoring mode.
On a flanker reverse that was designed as a pass, Carter backtracked all the way to his own 11-yard line before flinging a pass out of bounds under duress from a blitzing Lackey. With Carter flagged for intentional grounding, the Frogs faced second-and-31.
Taking a handoff from Pachall on the very next play, running back B.J. Catalon had the ball deflect off the backside of left tackle James Dunbar and roll all the way back inside the 5. After Palmer tried to scoop it up, Blackshear pounced on the loose ball at the 1.
Petty scored on the next play, running an option to the right side and waltzing into the end zone to give the Bears the lead back, 20-17.
With a chance to regain the lead in the final minute of the half, TCU drove from its own 30 down to the Bears' 27. But pressured on a blitz by Holl and Lackey, Pachall was picked off by Stewart, who sprinted 82 yards for the score and a 27-17 lead at the break.
"I just had a feeling he was going to run an out route. And when he did, I just jumped it," said Stewart, who had the ninth-longest interception return in school history. "I started getting tired a little, but I saw some people blocking for me, and I was like, 'I can't let them down.'''
Pachall was burned again on another pass to Boykin, when Lackey read the slant route perfectly, stepped in front of it and raced 54 yards untouched for another pick-six and seemingly safe 34-17 lead.
"It was just kind of a feel for it," said Lackey, who notched his sixth career interception and third returned for a touchdown. "The quarterback gave a little signal that gave me a little key. It gave me a little sense that he was trying to get the slant. And then I just undercut the slant. That's really all I had to do, just catch the ball and run down the sideline."
In the blink of an eye, though, that seemingly safe 17-point lead was gone.
Reprieved by the targeting penalty on Dixon, when they would have had to punt on fourth-and-13 from their own 20, the Horned Frogs drove 77 yards in seven plays and scored on a four-yard keeper by Pachall.
And then, after another three-and-out by the Bears, Pachall made it a three-point game when he hit Josh Doctson for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 4:40 left in the third quarter.
A Baylor offense that had gone nowhere for most of two quarters finally caught life when Petty hit Fuller for a 26-yard pass on third-and-nine, jumpstarting a seven-play, 70-yard drive.
Seastrunk, who returned from a groin injury to rush for 94 yards on 24 carries, picked up another first down with a four-yard run. And then Petty hooked up with Levi Norwood for a 33-yard touchdown pass that pushed the lead back to double digits, 41-31.
"We separated a little bit, but we just couldn't get away from them," Briles said.
Petty, who broke Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III's school record (209) for consecutive pass attempts without an interception (229), was picked off for just the second time this season. Hurried by defensive tackle Jon Lewis, Petty tried to hit Norwood in the left flat, but it was picked off by Sam Carter at the Bears' 25.
Two plays later, Pachall fooled Stewart with a pump fanke and hit David Porter wide open for a 22-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 41-38.
Baylor had a chance to extend the lead, taking over at the Horned Frogs' 46 following a defensive stop. But Jones was wide left on a 32-yard field-goal attempt that left it a three-point game.
After the Bears twice failed to run the clock and pick up first downs to clinch the game, TCU had one final chance from its own 27 with 1:34 left and no timeouts. And they were poised to at least tie it and send the game into overtime before the interception by Burt.
"It was a rough week, just in the sense that we feel for Coach Briles; we feel for his family," Lackey said. "Obviously, we come off a loss like that (49-17 at Oklahoma State), it made things hard. But as you go through the week, you've just got to put that behind you and focus on the next game. And that's what we were able to do. That's the best thing you can do is win the next game."
Baylor will play Texas (8-3, 7-1) for at least a share of the Big 12 title in Saturday's 2:30 p.m. grand finale at The Case, which will be televised by FOX.
"It's all about controlling what we can control," said Petty, who was 19-of-38 for 206 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. "This is what we've been working for - just to have a shot is all we wanted. So, now it's time to go take it."
Here is a link to the boxscore from Saturday's Baylor-TCU football game.
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