Campbell: TCU, Baylor clash one for the ages

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Yes, it was a football game. A very important  nationally-televised football game. 

But it also was a Baylor-TCU game that started late because of nearby lightning strikes, a game played in a steady rain, a game played with a wet football on a football field that also was slick and mushy, a game that featured a TCU quarterback, highly talented but not fully recovered from a recent injury, and a Baylor quarterback who was a third-teamer until recent injuries knocked both of his more experienced predecessors out of action.

In other words, it was a game that matched experience against inexperience and because of injuries and the adverse weather conditions, neither team was able to put its best product on the field of play.

It also was a game that featured 23 punts by two teams that on a dry field and at full strength seldom saw even the need to punt; a game that saw the Bears sabotage their own best efforts with five turnovers (four lost fumbles and a pass interception while TCU had only two turnovers); a fatal end zone pass interference call against Baylor (it was the right call); and finally, the Bears’ usually high-octane offense being unable to gain 36 inches of real estate on a make-or-break fourth down plunge against TCU’s tightly-bunched defensive line in the game’s second overtime.

So the Bears lost, 28-21, and exuberant TCU fans got to storm the field, exuberant because TCU fans and coach have  craved revenge mightedly for that last-second 61-58 loss to the Bears at McLane Stadium last season.

Thus, because those two ancient rivals, Texas and Texas A&M, are now in two different conferences and refuse to play each other in football, this state now has what Oklahoma has long had: a Rivalry (Bedlam) game. And that’s not all bad as long as they keep their tempers under control (Baylor and A&M students did not do so back in 1926 and as a result a fight broke out, an Aggie was killed and the two teams did not play each other again until 1931).

TCU and SMU used to have sort of a “bedlam game,” didn’t they? Yes, back in the old Southwest Conference, they did. In 1935 that was the case when both teams were undefeated at kickoff time (SMU’s Bobby Wilson vs. TCU’s Sammy Baugh) and they played for the national championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl. That time, SMU won the game, 20-14, and then lost in the bowl game to Stanford, 7-0. TCU went to the Sugar Bowl and beat LSU, 3-2. So they both wound up with 10-1 records.

As a result of last Friday night’s game in Cowtown, both teams are going to wind up with 7-2 records, assuming the Bears can win their game this coming Saturday (11 a.m. kickoff and the long-range forecast says it will be a sunny day) against the Texas Longhorns. That, of course, is a huge assumption. The Bears still will play with soph Chris Johnson, a third team QB who moved up after No. 1 Seth Russell and then No. 2 Jarrett Stidham went down and out with injuries. So Chris presumably will start at the position that ignites everything. And let us not forget that UT was the team that handed Oklahoma its only defeat of this 2015 football season, and now OU appears to be a cinch to make it to college football’s Final Four.

OU, of course, is the team that handed Baylor its first defeat of the season, and TCU its second defeat. TCU lost its first game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Baylor went to Stillwater and beat Oklahoma State decisively. But barring an upset in Waco this Saturday, Big 12 Conference champion Oklahoma is going to college football’s new Final Four and Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State are all going to wind up with 7-2 records.

If Baylor beats Texas, all three of those 7-2 teams should wind up in attractive bowl games because all three play wide-open, high-scoring games that bowl promoters like to feature. Incidentally, the latest AP poll ranks Oklahoma No. 3 behind Clemson and Alabama (with Iowa No. 4 and No. 5 Michigan State hoping to defeat Iowa in the Big Ten’s championship game and move up to No. 4). Clemson, which must beat North Carolina, and Alabama, ditto against Florida, also have to win, and should.

The Big 12’s top three also-rans were ranked like this in both the AP and coaches’ polls this week: TCU is No. 11, Baylor No. 12 and Oklahoma State No. 14. The University of Houston, 7-1 for this season as are Temple and Navy, is ranked No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 18 in the coaches’ voting.

As for that showdown at Amon Carter Stadium last Friday night, watched by 47,675 well-soaked spectators and a high-and-dry TV audience of millions, the visiting Bears actually scored first, saw the Frogs tie it up, then went ahead before the first quarter ended. But TCU added its touchdown in the second quarter by recovering a Baylor fumble and racing to the end zone with it, so it was 14-14 at halftime and still 14-14 when the last second had ticked off the clock at the 60-minute mark. So in the game’s first 60 minutes of play the TCU offense only scored one touchdown – and hat’s off to the Baylor defense. That definitely was a surprise.

But in football’s overtime, there is precious room for error.

The Bears scored first in the first overtime, moving the required 25 yards in 8 plays with bullish Devin Chafin rushing for 4 yards and Chris Johnson running for 6 and a first down. Then it was Johnny Jefferson running for 4, 2 and then 7 yards to the 1-yard stripe and another first down. And then Johnson hit Chafin on a jump pass in the end zone for a touchdown, Chris Callahan added the extra point and the Bears had the game won IF they could keep the Frogs from scoring.

They couldn’t. TCU had stalled at the 21-yard line in three plays. Hold the Frogs outside the 15 for one more play and the game would be over. But at that point came one of the game’s decisive plays. TCU’s talented QB Trevone Boykin threw a pass to end Kolby Listenbee and a defender was there to knock down the pass. But alas, BU sophomore safety Chance Waz, rushing over, collided with the Frog receiver, the yellow flag fell, BU was penalized to the 1-yard line and TCU scored on the next play. Jaden Oberkrom kicked the extra point and the game remained tied.

Second overtime: TCU scored that time in 5 plays to go ahead, 28-21. Again the Bears were in position to stop the Frogs after yielding a first down at the BU 10 in 2 plays. However, the Bears then held TCU to 8 yards in 2 plays; and here came another crucial third down. And again the Frogs delivered. Boykin found KaVontae Turpin uncovered in the end zone to make it TCU 28, Baylor 21.

So again the Bears turned to Chafin, and again he put them in position to win, picking up 9 yards on 3 carries. But when they turned to him one more time, the Frogs were massed and ready. They stopped Chafin cold. The game was over. And the TCU celebration began.

As for what happened in regulation play, mainly it was a puntfest. Baylor’s Drew Galitz punted 10 times for a 40.1-yard average; TCU’s Ethan Perry punted 12 times for a 37.8-yard average.

Baylor earned 21 first downs, TCU only 15. The Bears rushed for a net of 273 yards, TCU only 154. But Baylor could manage only 61 yards overhead (7 of 24 with one interception) while the Frogs netted 148 yards overhead (18 of 33 with one interception). So the Bears led in total yards, 335 to 302, but as Baylor coach Art Briles noted, turnovers decided the game. And TCU was the winner there.

All turnovers hurt but some hurt more than others. The Baylor late turnover that really hurt Baylor’s chances of winning in regulation time came in the third quarter. TCU’s Perry put the Bears in quite a predicament when he punted dead to the BU 3-yard line. But the Bears fought back gamely, and after a Galitz punt that was killed at the TCU 6, the BU defense tightened and forced still another Frog punt. And that one was partially blocked by Terence Williams, enabling the Bears to take over at the TCU 35.

Here was Baylor’s big chance to break the 14-14 deadlock. And in 3 plays the Bears had a first down at the TCU 20, thanks mainly to a 14-yard run by Chafin. Now it was maybe touchdown time or surely field goal time, and an upper hand in the game.

Alas, after Chafin had pushed the Bears to the TCU 19, Johnson swung out to pass, was sacked by TCU’s Josh Carraway, fumbled and Davion Pierson recovered for the Frogs. End of Baylor’s last great threat before overtime. Carraway had a fine game despite a roughing-the-passer penalty that earlier nullified a TCU interception. He was all over the place. He caused the fumble that wiped out Baylor’s red zone threat early in the fourth quarter, and earlier he had scooped up a Johnson fumble and raced 56 yards for TCU’s second touchdown.

As for the specifics, Chafin led Baylor’s ground attack with 119 yards and 2 TDs on 28 carries. Jefferson had 82 steps on 12 tries, Shock Linwood (limited by a foot injury) had 83 on 12. KD Cannon had 3 catches for 28 yards, Baylor’s most dynamic receiver, Corey Coleman, had only one catch for 8 yards, and Chafin had one for 4 yards and a score. The bad weather and TCU’s tight defense did what no other team has managed to do this season: together they choked off Baylor’s dynamic aerial attack.

Boykin completed 18 throws for 148 yards and 2 TDs. Kyle Hicks caught 4 for 14, Emanuel Porter 3 for 48, Turpin 3 for 15 and Stewart for 39 and a score.

Baylor’s defense was led by junior safety Taion Sells who had 7 solo tackles and a hand in a whopping 23 stops in all. As far as I can remember, that was Sells’ best game ever at Baylor and, yes, he will be back next year. Linebacker Grant Campbell was credited with 10 tackles (5 solo), weakside backer Taylor Young with 8 (6 solo), nickelback Travon Blanchard with 7 (also 6 solo) and all three of those BU defenders had tackles behind the TCU line, as did Shawn Oakman, Jamal Palmer, Aiavion Edwards and Andrew Billings. Billings and Palmer also had quarterbacks sacks. 

Under such formidable weather conditions, it was not a good day for either team’s offense, and not a bad day  for the BU defense. Just not quite good enough.

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