When Casey Pachall’s final pass as a Horned Frog was intercepted by Terrell Burt at the goal line, it was an ending that was eerily familiar to the senior quarterback.
TCU (4-8, 2-7 Big 12) had driven to the 23-yard line and trailed No. 9 Baylor (11-1, 7-1 Big 12) by just three points. The Frogs had a chance to tie or take the lead with 18 seconds remaining in regulation when Pachall fired the ball to wide receiver Brandon Carter. The ball was tipped in the air and fell to Burt, clinching a 41-38 win for the Bears.
“We could have kicked a field goal, but we felt we needed to take one shot to win it,” said TCU head coach Gary Patterson. “Wouldn’t want to do it any other way.”
The interception ended not only TCU’s season, but also a surreal career for Pachall, which started with a loss very similar to Saturday’s.
In his first career start in 2011, TCU had fallen behind to a Robert Griffin-led Baylor team in Waco, but Pachall led the Frogs back to within two points. Driving late with a chance to kick a game-winning field goal, Pachall was picked off, and the Bears won 50-48.
Saturday’s game followed a parallel script. TCU trailed 34-17 in the third quarter, after the Bears turned three TCU turnovers into 21 points in less than six minutes of game time.
Quarterback Bryce Petty scored a one-yard touchdown run after Baylor recovered a fumble by running back B.J. Catalon to give the Bears a 20-17 lead. The Bears then returned two Pachall interceptions for touchdowns in the second and third quarters to make it a 17-point lead.
TCU’s defense kept the Frogs in the game, however, holding the Baylor offense to 370 yards, its lowest output this season. After giving up 13 points on the Bears’ first three drives, TCU forced punts on five of Baylor’s next six offensive possessions. The Frogs sacked Petty three times in the game and intercepted him once, just the sophomore’s second pick of the year. He was 19-of-38 for 206 yards and three total touchdowns in the game.
One player who was key for the defense’s success was cornerback Jason Verrett. The senior matched up against Baylor’s leading receiver, Antwan Goodley, and held him to only one catch for 12 yards. In his last game in TCU purple, Patterson said Verrett lived up to his All-American honors.
“Verrett was ready to play,” the coach said. “And Verrett, so everybody understands, played basically the last half of the season with a banged up shoulder. Basically he didn’t practice most of the week, most of the weeks [we had games]…And to play against as good of competition [as Baylor] and not really practice that much, it shows you the kind of competitor he is,” Patterson said.
The efforts of Verrett and the defense helped the Frogs outscore the Bears 21-7 in the final 25 minutes of the game. Pachall accounted for all three of TCU’s touchdowns during that stretch. The senior finished completing 20 of 45 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score.
Pachall said his three interceptions were the difference in the game, and that the Frogs were frustrated because they felt like the better team.
“They weren’t a better team than us,” he said. “We hands-down kicked their [expletive] on the field, no doubt about it. But my mistakes are what took us down at the end.”
Defensive end Jon Koontz had a similar sentiment.
“I thought we outplayed them tonight,” Koontz said. “A couple of things here and there, that was the difference.”
“We just took a top-10 program and should have beat them,” Patterson said. “Simple as that. With everything that could have gone wrong, [and] went wrong, and we still should have beat them. Give Baylor credit. They’re having a great season. Bottom line is we should have beat them,” he said.
Some of that frustration was evident during the game. Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon was ejected for targeting in the third quarter after a helmet-to-helmet hit on TCU’s Trevone Boykin. After the play, Patterson and Baylor head coach Art Briles were seen yelling at each other from across the field.
Patterson said he was angry because his assistants in the press box told him that Dixon was still on the sideline after being ejected and was laughing about the play. He said Briles should have gone and reprimanded Dixon and made sure that he left the game.
“Number six [Dixon] beats a guy up at the beginning of the season and doesn’t get suspended,” Patterson said. “He takes a shot and I want him kicked out. The head coach came across the field to me. I’ve got a guy who’s laughing into the camera on the sideline…That’s not what I call class,” Patterson said.
Boykin would leave the field a few plays later and was held out until the fourth qurter. He had two catches for 14 yards and also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver LaDarius Brown in the second quarter. The play gave new motivation to a TCU squad that already was playing with anger.
“When you see one of your teammates go down like that, especially after what I would consider to be a pretty dirty play, it definitely lights a fire under you,” Koontz said.
It was an upsetting ending to the 2013 campaign for the Frogs. A season riddled with injuries and bizarre situations finally has come to a close before the calendar has even flipped to December. TCU hopes that next season this rivalry game, and the season as a whole, end quite differently.