WACO – Apparently, Horned Frogs also receive nine lives.
Survive-and-advance is the name of the game, and the fourth-ranked TCU squad (11-0) continues to win. The latest magic trick by Sonny Dykes’ crew was a 29-28 victory over Baylor (6-5) on a 40-yard field goal by Griffin Kell, whose missed extra point in the third quarter put the Horned Frogs in danger of losing its first game of the year. TCU is now 5-0 in games this season when trailing in the second half. This was the 118th meeting between the two rivals, which tied Texas and Texas A&M for most played in-state rivalry in the Lone Star State.
Max Duggan hit Gunnar Henderson on a 26-yard touchdown pass with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter to provide the Horned Frogs with a 20-14 lead – their first of the game. The point after attempt hit the left crossbar. Baylor scored the next two touchdowns to hold a 28-20 advantage with 9:47 left in the game. TCU scored to bring it within a two-point conversion, but the attempt failed when Emari Demercado dropped a pass from Duggan in the flat that looked like a sure conversion.
After another defensive stop, Duggan and the TCU offense marched down the field to set up the 40-yard field goal attempt. Kell and the rest of the field goal unit hurried onto the field and snapped the ball with two seconds remaining. Duggan finished 24 of 35 for 327 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball eight times for a team-high 50 yards.
TCU played the final quarter and a half without star receiver Quentin Johnston and the final part of the game without running back Kendre Miller. TCU looked like a tired, beat-up squad a week removed from besting Texas in Austin in a physical defensive battle. The Horned Frogs had their off-week way back in Week 3 and played for the ninth-straight week. For comparison, Baylor was on its sixth-straight game after an open date in Week 6.
All they do is win, win no matter what: The one-point win over Baylor was the seventh-straight victory by 10 points or fewer by the Horned Frogs. They don’t need to impress anyone, even if the suits in charge of picking the four teams in the national invitational tournament say that they do. An undefeated record for a Power Five team is enough to crack the CFP, and TCU is currently two wins away from punching its ticket to the four-team playoff.
Five of the team’s 11 wins are by single digits. Only three are by more than 10 points, and one of those was against an FCS team. Wins over Oklahoma, Kansas, and Kansas State included injuries to the opponents’ starting quarterback. The three non-conference victories were against Colorado, Tarleton, and SMU. But none of it matters. The qualifiers aren’t important. Only the zero in the loss column.
Two wins separate TCU and history. No team in Texas has made the four-team playoff. It is amazing to think that this same team was 5-7 a year ago. The only regular season game remaining is Saturday at home against Iowa State. After that is the Big 12 championship game against Kansas State or Texas. Two wins put Dykes’ crew in rarified air. The only other Big 12 team to qualify for the playoffs is Oklahoma.
Duggan time: Ends of games are determined by leadership and poise. Duggan didn’t start the season as the starter, but he’s racked up plenty of experience in his time in Fort Worth. There was no panic on the sideline when the Horned Frogs trailed by eight halfway through the quarter. And none snuck in after the failed two-point conversion attempt with 2:07 left in the game, according to Dykes. Duggan was the main reason why. He calmly led TCU into field position, making plays with his arm and legs down the stretch despite not having his two best receivers or the starting running back. Players win games, and Duggan continues to prove that he was destined to lead this group for one more season.
Another heartbreak for Baylor: College football is about fine margins, especially in an evenly matched Big 12. The Bears did almost everything right in the loss to TCU, except have the ball last. They outgained TCU, 501-442. They accounted for 25 first downs and were eight of 14 on third and fourth down conversions. Baylor ran the ball 46 times for 232 yards and three touchdowns against a TCU defense that only allowed 28 yards on 22 carries last week against Texas and Bijan Robinson. But it wasn’t enough, as has been the case for Dave Aranda’s team in 2022.
Baylor was 4-1 in one-possession games in 2021 on the way to a 12-2 record and a conference championship. The only loss was by two points to TCU. The Bears are 2-3 in one-possession games this season following the one-point loss to TCU. They’d be in Big 12 title contention again this season if that one-possession record was 4-1 rather than 2-3. Those extra two losses are the difference between an impressive or disappointing season. Fine margins.
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