Saturday, September 18, 2010
Potent TCU takes Baylor down a peg
By Jeff Caplan ESPNDallas.com
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Baylor Bears bounced into TCU's purple-packed stadium with a big-game confidence they seemingly haven't possessed since the Reagan administration, or at least in coach Art Briles' two-plus seasons in Waco.
After all, the Bears have their highly touted, elusive and electric signal caller, Robert Griffin III, back under center and a defense feeling good and stingy after giving up just three field goals in the first 120 minutes played this season.
Andy Dalton's 91.3 completion percentage against Baylor on Saturday set a TCU record.
And then this one started.
TCU, as if offended that some gave Baylor a chance, dropped the sledgehammer from the opening kickoff. After Saturday's 45-10 demolition that was over before some of the stragglers filled in sold-out Amon G. Carter Stadium, Baylor won't quibble with the Horned Frogs' No. 4 ranking.
It's one TCU continues to justify with efficient and physically imposing performances each week.
"We got down so quick that it became a Catch-22," Briles said. "We didn't really get set with our game plan. We lost it about halfway through the first quarter."
Under a searing, late summer afternoon sun, it took TCU's diversified offense all of two minutes and 20 seconds -- 80 yards in a crisp six plays -- to end the Baylor defense's streak of not allowing a touchdown.
Griffin's first play, an option left that died in his arms 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, ushered a three-and-out. Two minutes, 51 seconds later, the Frogs led 14-0.
It was 21-3 after 15 minutes. TCU racked up 211 yards, rushing for 102. Senior quarterback Andy Dalton completed all eight of his pass attempts on his way to going 13-of-14 in the first half. He finished 21-of-23 (91.3 percent) to set a school record for completion percentage.
Barely five minutes into the second quarter, the lead swelled to 28-3. All four drives were earned the old-fashioned way, by punching the Bears in the mouth and going at least 73 yards. The latter drive went 90 yards in 3:50.
It wasn't until the Frogs' fifth consecutive touchdown that the offense got the ball in prime field position thanks to Jeremy Kerley's 46-yard punt return to the Baylor 25-yard line. Four plays later, TCU led 35-3.
And on the sixth drive, TCU punted.
"We came out fired up and ready to play," said Dalton, who threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. "We set the tempo really well. We came out really moving the ball well. We were able to execute and we scored."
TCU moved to 3-0 as it seeks a second consecutive undefeated regular season and BCS berth. Baylor dropped to 2-1.
To think TCU coach Gary Patterson chastised his team for three lackluster practices during the week. So much for a lack of focus. It took the Frogs longer to put away Tennessee Tech, 62-7 victims a week ago.
Style points? Uh-uh. This wreck was all business.
"I wasn't surprised," Patterson said of his team's instant precision. "I mean, we've got a senior quarterback. We've got a bunch of guys coming back. It's one of those things where they scored 62 points on a [Division] I-AA team and they scored 30 points on a Top 25 team [then-No. 24 Oregon State] and really controlled the ballgame two weeks ago against Oregon State. I really think you've got to give them a little bit of credit."
Baylor's hope rested with the dynamic Griffin. But, as a growing list of talented offensive players have discovered, the TCU defense is fast -- its line, linebackers and secondary are strong, fast, instinctual and punishing.
Griffin was sacked twice in the first half and held to two net yards rushing. TCU cut off every lane, gap and angle on option plays. He had 51 passing yards on seven completions as Baylor was outgained 335-87 -- barely averaging three yards a play -- in the opening 30 minutes.
The Bears failed on all six third-down attempts in the first half and their three rushers -- Griffin, Jay Finley and Terrance Ganaway -- combined for 36 yards, 13 fewer than TCU Ed Wesley's first of two first-half touchdown runs. The powerful sophomore tailback finished with a career-high 165 yards.
"If you want me to be typical," Patterson deadpanned, "we gave up a 66-yard pass."
But that was in the second half when it just didn't matter. For hopeful Baylor, this one, played just 90 miles from campus and against an old foe, stings. But, truth be told, it probably was not terribly unexpected by its fandom.
"The thing that bothers me is that we never really challenged them much," Briles said. "We never really put ourselves in a position to put pressure on them."
The Frogs won't waste much time celebrating yet another win over an automatic qualifier, their 15th in their last 18 such games. This is their third win over the Bears in the last five years by an 89-17 count, and Patterson is already dialing in on the short week ahead.
Next up is a game at SMU on Friday night on ESPN. Although it is TCU's first game of the season on enemy turf, the Mustangs, another non-AQ winner Saturday over the Pac-10's Washington State, will have to be prepared for a purple Mack truck that appears only to be gaining speed.
"They asked for this Friday game, them and ESPN," Patterson said. "So we're going to give them a Friday game and we've got to get ready."
Jeff Caplan covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.