Commentary

TCU defense put in unfamiliar territory

Baylor lights up unit that finished No. 1 in the nation in total defense the last 3 seasons

Updated: September 3, 2011, 8:31 PM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

WACO, Texas -- Gary Patterson probably hasn't had nightmares this bad.

Friday night's carnage resulting from the slicing and dicing of the Robert Griffin-led Baylor Bears offense, especially in Patterson's beaten secondary, was that gruesome, that shocking.

[+] EnlargeKendall Wright
Jerome Miron/US PresswireKendall Wright gave the TCU defense fits all night, catching 12 balls for 189 yards and two TDs and also throwing for a score on a trick play.

Yet, somehow No. 14 TCU battled back from a 47-23 deficit with 15 minutes on the clock and led 48-47 less than nine minutes later. Suddenly, the puckering Bears stood four minutes away from blowing it big-time in front of a packed house of 43,753 fans and a national television audience.

"We thought we could stop them one more time, and we didn't do it," Patterson said. "And so, the bottom line to it is that I as a coach still didn't make enough plays myself. I didn't get good enough calls on defense to put people in situations where we could make plays."

TCU's 50-48 loss to Baylor was its first in the regular season since 2008 and ended the Frogs' 13-game overall win streak and a nation-best 11-game road win streak. The loss will sting Patterson -- who also is defensive coordinator -- at least up until kickoff next week at Air Force, and perhaps for an entire season. While the Bears played for respect and to measure their incremental progress under coach Art Briles, the Frogs, No. 2 in the land a season ago, were playing for their BCS lives.

For their final season in the Mountain West Conference -- even in a brilliantly entertaining game, a two-point loss so riveting that it will give Saturday night's fop-five Oregon-LSU matchup at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington a run for its money -- the Frogs know well, there is no mercy.

In the end, a revamped TCU team on both sides of the football will have to lick its wounds from two massive trick plays, on Baylor's opening touchdown drive and on its game-winning one. Both came from the arm of highlight-reel receiver Kendall Wright, who tortured the Frogs all night. The latter gem had Wright completing a 15-yard pass to Griffin on third-and-10 from the Bears' 20.

On Baylor's impressive opening drive, Wright took the backward pass from Griffin and lobbed an easy pass over a confused defense to a wide-open Terrance Williams for a 40-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
Jerome Miron/US PresswireGary Patterson's Horned Frogs hadn't allowed 40 or more points in a game since an overtime win against BYU in 2005.

"We actually saw it. We actually worked on it on Thursday. We saw it against Kansas [last season]," Patterson said. "But Jason [Verrett], again, a young corner, a new corner was in man coverage, and he was supposed to stay with the guy going vertical and he jumped the bubble and he was supposed to be on the guy. The last thing I said before we went out to the ballgame was, 'Do your jobs,' because when they go quick they get easy touchdowns, and they got an easy touchdown."

Not just one ... but, two, three, four, five and six. More touchdown passes than the Frogs have allowed since Houston's David Klinger tossed six in 1990.

Griffin threw a career-high five of them for 35 yards, 28, 14, 64 and 42 yards. The last two came on the first two drives of the third quarter for the 24-point bulge. On Friday, Baylor launched a website lauding the junior as a Heisman candidate. After the game, Baylor students rushed the field, surrounded him and chanted, "Heisman!"

Griffin finished 21-of-27 for 359 yards. He and Wright combined to throw as many touchdowns as the Bears had incompletions. The Bears racked up 564 total yards, 360 in the first half for 34 points, against a defense that finished No. 1 in the nation in total defense the past three seasons.

The only Baylor scoring drive that required more than two minutes, 44 seconds was the final one for the 37-yard field goal by Coppell's Aaron Jones with 1:04 to play. It elapsed 3:23.

It ruined a valiant comeback attempt and an overall impressive first start by TCU sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall. After completing just 6-of-13 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown in the first half, he finished 25-of-39 for 251 yards, four touchdowns and one interception thrown under the pressure of the Frogs' final drive just inside Baylor territory with the clock excruciatingly close to running out.

Patterson said that Pachall has a ways to go and points were left on the field. But this one falls on Patterson's defense.

Senior cornerback and returning starter Greg McCoy, who set a school record with 200 return yards in the first half, was burned on the last two scores. On the latter, he was left lying flat on his stomach, limbs sprawled, face mask buried in the turf as Williams scored his second touchdown of the night and joined Wright with more than 100 receiving yards.

Verrett, a sophomore juco transfer, was beaten for two touchdowns and a third big gainer that led to another TD. Redshirt freshman Kevin White couldn't stop Wright from separating enough to make a sensational catch at the sideline for a 35-yard gain to the 2. One play later, Baylor scored again.

"That's what Baylor does," Patterson said. "We came into this week, the last seven days: Don't get the ball thrown over your head because they'll lose their patience, and don't let them run the football. And we let them throw it over our head. So it wasn't like it was a surprise to them."

The surprise was the wreckage.

The last time TCU allowed 40 or more points in a game was a 51-50 overtime win at BYU in 2005. The Frogs gave up more than 27 points just once in each of the past three seasons. Baylor had 27 in the first 18:18 of the game.

It's been a long time since a TCU defense had been so badly beaten. And a long time since the Frogs felt the pain of a loss.

The goal swiftly turns to a third consecutive MWC championship while letting the national picture play itself out.

Air Force will quickly devour this version of "Friday Night Lights."

Jeff Caplan covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com.

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