The 115th meeting of the Baylor Bears and the TCU Horned Frogs more than lived up to the expectations of a great college football rivalry.
And that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The game coined the Revivalry had become a lot less about what happened off the field than on it since that fateful October night in 2014, the last time Baylor had bested the Frogs before Saturday’s triple overtime thriller in Fort Worth. Off the field issues plagued both programs, and Art Briles’ tenure and the CAB supporters gave TCU fans plenty of ammunition to consistently go after their rivals down I35.
The Frogs dominated the last four games, winning the rain-soaked rematch in Fort Worth in 2015 (the last time Art Briles and Gary Patterson faced off), embarrassing the Bears in Waco by a 62-22 margin, whipping them again in Fort Worth in the first year of the Matt Rhule era, and hanging on for an ugly 16-9 victory in Waco with their fourth string quarterback.
On Saturday, the best Bears’ team since 2014 rolled into Funky Town, toting an 8-0 record and a clear path to the conference title game with them. They faced a TCU team struggling mightily to find not only an identity but also healthy players on both sides of the field, mired in a 4-4 rut with their bowl hopes slipping away. Baylor had everything to lose, while the Frogs had nothing to lose.
It was the perfect recipe for an upset.
For four quarters, it felt like one was imminent. Hell, before the Bears lined up for what ended up being the game-tying kick, security was going over procedures on how to handle field rushers. We all just KNEW that kick was going to miss.
Until it didn’t.
But, overtime seemed almost destined by the football gods. For two programs that are basically a spiderman pointing at spiderman meme, this one had to go to extras. And it took three overtimes to release a catharsis amongst both fanbases that allowed this annual game to get back to being about football.
Leading up to Saturday, there were plenty of “Fatterson” jokes and comments about T”c”U from Baylor fans, as well as CAB responses and poor-taste jokes from TCU fans. It was a pretty typical week of back and forth between rivals; some nasty, some funny, some shared respect. But, as Max Duggan’s final pass was picked off on fourth down in the end zone, I saw very little ugliness from either fan base. It was more a mutual admiration — for the 9-0 team that keeps finding ways to win and the scrappy Patterson-led squad that fought like hell and came up literally an inch on the sideline short. It was an exceptional football game that featured impossible plays from both sides, whether it was T Hunt’s insane catch or Max Duggan’s tiptoe down the sideline that almost put the Frogs in position to win, or the 51 yard field goal near the end of regulation that send the game to extras by John Mayers — who is a walk-on freshman, by the way.
It was really entertaining college football.
It sucks to come out on the wrong end of a game like that, to see the team you love to hate the most run their undefeated record to one more win, earning an appearance from College GameDay the following week in the process. But, it sure felt good to bring this rivalry back on the field. Baylor Football players talked about how into the game the fans were, how much (relatively) good-natured hatred was spewed their way, how LOUD it was in overtime. Matt Rhule credited the TCU Student Section for making it near impossible to get their signals in. Chants of “Baylor Sucks” echoed throughout the stadium often, a beautiful soundtrack to a beautiful game. Gary Patterson talked about how physical it was between these two teams, who gave their all on every snap because of how much THIS game means to both teams, saying “that’s a tough ballgame. Anybody that doesn’t know, you should come out of the press box and come down to the sidelines and see how physical a ballgame like that is. You don’t understand it. Those that have never played the game have no idea. They just have an opinion of it. But I can tell you right now, that was a physical ballgame. That was a team that was trying to get to 9-0 and a team trying to get to 5-4 and prove they’re a good football team. And both of them got that accomplished.”
I hadn’t looked forward to this game since 2015... it hasn’t been fun, it’s just been ugly. But Saturday may have changed all that. Matt Rhule is a legitimately good human being, a coach who does things the right way, who really loves his players and develops them well. The kind of coach we all really want out of Waco (please hire him any NFL team) but that seems to love coaching college players and is committed to continuing to develop a championship caliber program. The Baylor team has a lot of high character guys who you would gladly root for on your own team, but hate having to root against. Patterson seems to enjoy coaching against Rhule and rooting for him 11 weeks a year; he spoke of a shared moment after the game between the two, saying “you can ask their head coach what he said to me after the ballgame. It’s not my place to say that. I think there’s a respect of understanding what we do.” Those words likely echoed Patterson’s a year prior, when TCU’s coach couldn’t say enough good things about his rival.
These two programs would probably really like each other if they weren’t so busy hating each other, but for our sakes, I hope they keep the hate flowing.
I think I will be (quietly) rooting for Baylor next week. As much as it would pain me to see the Bears win a Big 12 title, or, God-forbid, finish the season undefeated and go to the playoffs, they’re a really good story and a really good team
Never mind. I can’t say that. I take it back ;).
For the first time in a long time, I enjoyed nearly every second of a football game between TCU and Baylor, up until the final play. It was a ton of fun, and for the most part, that spirit carried over between the fan bases in the comments and on social media. The response from both sides was good, fun, sports hate. And both programs are better for it.
See you next year, Bears. We are coming for you.