WACO, Texas – Fourth-ranked TCU had players shuffling on and off the field as the final seconds were ticking off the clock. Kicker Griffin Kell was the last one to get into place.
“That looked like chaos, but we practice it every Thursday exactly like that,” Frogs coach Sonny Dykes said.
And the Horned Frogs executed it perfectly to stay undefeated in what was no practice situation.
Kell kicked a 40-yard field goal on the game’s final play, and TCU beat Baylor 29-28 on Saturday, scoring nine points in the final 2:07 to avoid another potential playoff-busting loss on the banks of the Brazos River.
Emari Demercardo scored on a 3-yard TD run to cap a 90-yard drive with 2:07 left to get the Frogs (11-0, 8-0 Big 12, No. 4 CFP) within 28-26, but he was unable to pull in a pass on the 2-point conversion attempt.
After kicking deep, TCU used all three of its timeouts while forcing a three-and-out, and it got the ball back at its 31 with 1:34 left. Max Duggan had two completions before converting one third down with a 12-yard run on a quarterback draw.
Demercardo was short of a clock-stopping first down on a run to the Baylor 23, going down in the center of the field with about 16 seconds left before the offensive and special teams units ran by each other. The ball was snapped at 3 seconds, and the kick by Kell, who earlier had an extra-point attempt clank off the upright, went through as time ran out.
“The great thing about that last drive, we were throwing all of our day one concepts,” Duggan said. “We were throwing easy stuff that we practice and we can do with our eyes closed, and stuff that you believe in. … So just going out there, being confident, believing it was going to happen, and Griff makes a huge kick for us.”
TCU, which already had clinched a spot in the Big 12 championship game, hasn’t been undefeated this deep in a season since 2010, when it finished 13-0 with a Rose Bowl victory and No. 2 national ranking.
When the Frogs played at McLane Stadium for the first time in 2014, after it first opened, they lost 61-58. That was their only loss that season, and they went on to share the Big 12 title with Baylor. They were the first two teams left out of the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.
Baylor (6-5, 4-4) was coming off a 31-3 home loss to Kansas State a week earlier, but last year’s Big 12 champions took a 28-20 lead after a pair of true freshmen scored TDs early in the fourth quarter: tight end Kelsey Johnson‘s 12-yard catch and Richard Reese‘s 1-yard run.
“It’s a tough locker room,” Baylor coach Dave Aranda said. “I told them that I wish that we, that I, could take the pain away.”
Duggan was 24-of-35 passing for 327 yards and a touchdown, and he also ran for a score while leading the Frogs with 50 yards rushing on eight carries. Kendre Miller had a rushing TD in his 12th consecutive game, a 2-yarder early in the second quarter that tied it at 14 before he got hurt early in the second half.
TCU didn’t lead until Duggan hit a wide-open Gunnar Henderson for a 26-yard touchdown with 5 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, one play after the two had connected for 20 yards. It was 20-14 after Kell’s missed PAT.
Baylor’s Blake Shapen was 21-of-30 passing for 269 yards and a score, while Craig “Sqwirl” Williams ran for 112 yards. Monaray Baldwin had six catches for 123 yards, including a 74-yard gain on third-and-11 that set up Reese’s TD with 9:47 left.
“For it to end that way really hurt,” Williams said.
TCU: Another comeback for the Frogs, who last month overcame double-digit deficits in the second half against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. They never faltered after several players dealt with flu-like symptoms during the week, and they finished the game without leading receiver Quentin Johnston and Miller.
Baylor: The Bears never really had much trouble moving the ball, piling up 501 total yards, 232 on the ground. On their opening drive, they had 56 yards rushing – twice as much Texas had the whole game against TCU a week earlier. But they missed a chance to take a halftime lead when Shapen’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Bud Clark with 4 seconds left.
TCU will stay in the top four of the AP poll on Sunday, and should still be in the all-important top four of the new CFP rankings on Tuesday.
TCU ends the regular season at home against Iowa State next Saturday.
Baylor is at Texas on Friday.