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A Game of Inches: TCU Football falls 29-23 to Baylor in Triple OT

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Tevailance Hunt and Max Duggan made big plays down the stretch, but an impressive performance by the defense went by the wayside in the 3OT loss.

TCU quarterback Max Duggan was ***this close*** to tying things up in the third overtime.
Melissa Triebwasser

Gary Patterson’s two favorite quotes are “win by one” and “you have to make one more play than the other guy.”

On Saturday, his team had several opportunities to do both, but couldn’t close the deal in losing to Baylor for the first time since the game that shall not be named.

The TCU defense put together one of their best performances of the last several years in shutting out the Bears through the first 30 minutes of play, only to see the offense go dormant in the second.

The Horned Frogs struck first, driving for a field goal on their opening possession after the Bears won the toss and deferred. But it was a very disappointing three points, as freshman QB Max Duggan dropped an absolute dime in the breadbasket of tight end Pro Wells, only to see the ball slip through his fingers in the end zone. It was a sign of things to come.

TCU’s defense came to play though. Aggressive from the start, the Frogs bullied Charlie Brewer and the Bears early and often, holding them to eight yards in the first quarter and under 100 for the half. Baylor had two turnovers in the first two frames, a Brewer pick into the hands of safety La’Kendrick Van Zandt and an inexplicable fumble on a kick-off return with just 25 seconds remaining that turned into three more TCU points.

But those were the last points the Frog offense would put on the board in regulation.

Baylor finally got something going in the third, taking the opening kickoff 56 yards on a ten play drive that ended with a 36 yard John Mayers field goal. After the teams traded punts, the Bears got the ball back on a Max Duggan interception, returning it all the way to the eight yard line. Once again, the D bowed up, holding the Bears to a field goal and maintaining the shrinking lead.

The first five drives of the final frame ended in punts, as neither team did much in the way of moving the football. But with 3:23 remaining, BU got the ball back on their own 12, and with the help of a 26 yard Brewer scramble, gave their kicker a chance to tie it from 51.

Mayers delivered.

TCU had one last chance in regulation, getting the ball back with 36 seconds remaining and all three timeouts. But they elected to run the ball behind Sewo Olonilua and run out the clock. When asked why they didn’t at least try and move the ball into field goal position, Patterson acknowledged that he hears the boos, but “you throw a pick, you get beat. You’re on your own 25 yard line or whatever it was. That’s not smart football, to be honest with you. You’ve held them to nine points. Why wouldn’t you think that you could hold them again?”

For fans, it was less about whether or not the defense could hold them again, it was about trusting the offense to keep up in OT.

And those concerns were validated.

TCU won the toss and deferred, electing to go one defense first. The Bears needed eight plays to do it, but Charlie Brewer found the end zone to put Baylor on top for the first time all game. The Frog offense answered, thanks to a miracle of a catch by Tevailance Hunt, who scored literally by his fingertips:

Had the Frogs held on, it would have been an all-timer.

Both teams scored with ease in the second OT, as Sewo scored from the two on the ground and Brewer found Denzel Mims on a slant and watched him break a tackle on his way to pay dirt. Baylor struck first in the third OT, but a stop on the two point conversion gave TCU a chance to complete the upset win. They were confident they would. “I thought, once we stopped them on the two-point, I thought we’d win,” Patterson said. “I thought we’d go in and do it.” Jeff Gladney agreed. “Yeah, I thought we were going to win. I just knew we were going to go down and score and punch the 2-pt conversion in. We just got to make the plays we need to make.”

Making the plays they needed to make was ultimately their undoing, but they sure made it interesting.

The final drive started with a six yard Jalen Reagor run on a reverse. But Darius Anderson lost a yard on second and short to make it third and seven. Duggan stepped up though, as we have so often seen him do, scrambling for 17 yards and appearing to find the pylon. But, after a lengthy review, he was ruled out at the three, though many felt that there was not conclusive evidence to overturn the play.

Had that call not been overturned, this game probably ends a different way.

At the end of the day, though, TCU had the ball, first and goal from three.

There’s no way they shouldn’t have punched it in, in that moment, with that crowd, at home.

Instead, they did this:

Rush for no gain.

Rush for no gain (penalty!).

Rush for a three yard loss.

Fade route to Reagor.

Two yard rush with a hold!

One yard run for your life QB scramble.

Interception in the end zone.

I mean... that’s pretty boring, bad, vanilla play-calling and some poor execution.

And it ended in TCU’s first loss to Baylor since 2014.

This one truly seemed to hurt Patterson, who opened his press conference by saying “at the end of the day you have to finish. The kids played a great game today. You got to finish. They made the last play, we didn’t. That pretty much sums it up” He later admitted how much it hurt. “This is probably the most disappointed that I’ve ever been, but I’m also really proud of our kids, because it hurts more when you have a ballgame like this. That’s a tough ball game. Your kids play their tails off and you get beat in a triple overtime ball game, I mean, that’s a tough ballgame.”

It was a tough ball game indeed.

Other than the final drive in OT, though, this was a super fun ball game. Duggan balled out down the stretch, hurt finger and all, and had his score not been overturned, probably stands here victorious with a chapter in the history books. T Hunt too, who showed off some of the special talent that has given us so much hope since he signed. The TCU defense, who held the Bears to less than 300 yards, turned them over twice, and finally had signs of life from the defensive line (three sacks). Plus, five new starters — Colt Ellison at DE, Tre’Vious Hodges-Tomlinson at CB, Nook Bradford at safety, Ben Wilson at LB, and Ar’Darius Washington at safety — that showed they could compete at a high level, even as freshmen/redshirt freshmen.

It’s frustrating to always be on the precipice of getting over the mountaintop and seeing the opponent come out on top time and time again in those spots. But Cordel Iwagwu and his teammates aren’t giving up. “I feel like we’re really close. I feel like we just have to take that one little step and, it’s like, we keep hesitating to take that step every time we get really close. It’s really weird, but I feel like we can do it.”

They’ll get another chance next week in Lubbock against the Red Raiders.