FORT WORTH, Texas — The Baylor Bears put a game in their defense’s hands and the defenders came through.
Baylor returned two interceptions for touchdowns and set up another score with a fumble recovery on the way to defeating the TCU Horned Frogs 41-38 on Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
No. 9-ranked Baylor entered averaging 661.6 yards total offense, but the Bears stopped and started most of the night against a stingy TCU defense. Instead, Baylor proved it is more than a one-dimensional offensive machine.
Bears safety Terrell Burt made the final crucial defensive play as he intercepted a Casey Pachall pass in the Bears’ end zone with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
“When you play on the road, if the home team gets momentum it gets tough to overcome,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “Our guys did a great job of fighting all the way through. That’s the thing I was most proud of.”
The Horned Frogs (4-8, 2-7 Big 12) out-gained Baylor 410 total yards to 370. Pachall passed for 267 yards and two touchdowns, while Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty passed for 206 with two scores.
But Baylor (10-1, 7-1) won the turnover battle 4-1, which went a long way toward winning the game. Baylor safety Orion Stewart returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown and
linebacker Eddie Lackey took another one back 51 yards for a score.
“Just phenomenal, quite honestly,” Briles said when asked to assess his defense.
In the fourth quarter, after Baylor failed to score despite driving inside the TCU 15, the Baylor defense was up to the task of preserving the lead.
The Horned Frogs gained possession trailing by three at their own 20 with 7:31 left. But Baylor forced TCU to go three-and-out in the crucial possession. The Bears’ defense notched another stop when Pachall’s pass to sophomore wide receiver Josh Doctson picked up 13 yards on fourth-and-15 from the TCU 34.
Burt intercepted Pachall’s pass in the Bears’ end zone to turn away the Horned Frogs’ final chance with 13 seconds left. The interception came with TCU in field goal range for kicker Jaden Oberkrom, who was poised to send the game to overtime.
“Could have kicked a field goal,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “But we wanted to take one shot to win it. Wouldn’t do it any other way.”
Petty threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Levi Norwood for Baylor’s only offensive score of the second half.
“Everyone was a little bit nervous,” Norwood said. “But the defense was able to step up and make plays when we needed to. They made some huge plays. Eddie, Orion, Burt and everyone made huge plays.”
While the Baylor offense mostly sputtered in the second quarter, gaining just 30 yards and one first down, the defense swung the momentum by creating two turnovers.
Bears nose tackle Beau Blackshear recovered sophomore running back B.J. Catalon’s fumble at the Horned Frogs’ 1, setting up Petty’s 1-yard touchdown run that put Baylor ahead 20-17.
With less than a minute remaining and TCU driving inside the Baylor 30, Stewart intercepted Pachall’s pass at the Baylor 18. Stewart eluded the TCU offense for an 82-yard return for a touchdown that gave the Bears a 27-17 lead with 31 seconds left in the half.
“They like to isolate us and run out routes,” Stewart said. “I just kind of had a feeling that he was going to run an out route and when he did I just jumped it.”
Baylor added another interception return touchdown when Lackey picked off Pachall’s pass on TCU’s first possession of the second half. Lackey took the interception back 54 yards for the score.
“I saw the quarterback give kind of a little symbol that gave me a little sense that he was trying to get the slant,” Lackey said. “I just undercut the slant and that’s really all I had to do. Just catch the ball and go down the sideline.”
Baylor’s takeaways negated TCU’s offensive and special teams momentum in the first half. The Horned Frogs produced a 63-yard touchdown drive, capped by sophomore running back Jordan Moore’s 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
Horned Frogs punt returner Cameron Echols-Luper brought back a Baylor punt 41 yards to the Bears’ 21. On the next play, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin hit sophomore wide receiver LaDarius Brown for a 21-yard touchdown to give the Horned Frogs the lead, 17-13, with 6:18 left in the first half.