With only one win heading into the final game of the season, Baylor will be a heavy underdog when it faces No. 10 TCU at 11 a.m. Friday at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
But that doesn’t matter to Baylor’s seniors. They want to end their careers with a good memory. Even if the 1-10 Bears don’t win, they want to leave with the knowledge that they gave it their all and set an example the younger players can follow.
“Other people see us as underdogs, but we’re going to go out there and battle,” said Baylor senior defensive end Brian Nance. “We don’t pay attention to the scoreboard. We just go out there and go hard. As long as you go hard for your brother and you left it on the field, that’s all we care for.”
The Bears missed an opportunity to send the seniors out with a win in their final home game at McLane Stadium when two fourth quarter turnovers sealed a 23-13 loss to Iowa State last weekend.
But a win over the powerful Horned Frogs (9-2, 6-2) would mean a lot since they’re one of the Bears’ fiercest rivals. TCU has won the last two games in the series, taking a 28-21 double overtime win in a deluge in Fort Worth in 2015 before romping to a 62-22 win last year at McLane Stadium.
“Winning any game is huge, but when you’re talking about the last football game you’ll probably actually ever play in, that would be nice to be able to say that,” said Baylor senior tight end Jordan Feuerbacher. “The year’s been tough on us guys, coaches, players, and we’ve stuck together and we’ve really come close and we’ve worked hard. We’ve been through so much, I think it would be a perfect ending for the seniors.”
The Baylor-TCU rivalry has been fierce and competitive since the first time they met in 1899…
After such a difficult season, Baylor’s younger players believe better things are on the horizon in upcoming seasons. But they know how much the seniors have meant to the program since they’ve stuck it out through three head coaches and a sexual assault scandal that rocked the university.
“We just want to send the seniors out right and play as hard as we can and get the win,” said Baylor junior defensive lineman Ira Lewis. “Right now the pressure is off, so we just got to go out and play to the ability we know we all can that will put us in the best position to win the game.”
Baylor freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer will start his fourth straight game while TCU’s quarterback situation is unclear. Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson said senior Kenny Hill and freshman Shawn Robinson are both questionable for the game with injuries, which would leave junior Grayson Muehlstein as the starter if they can’t play.
Facing the Big 12’s best defense, Baylor will try to find ways to sustain drives and score enough points to give themselves a shot at the upset.
The Horned Frogs have allowed just 310.6 yards and 15.1 points per game, and have been particularly strong against the run as opponents have averaged 91 yards and 2.7 yards per carry.
“What they do is they just play football, there is no gimmick,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “They have really good players at every level of the defense – the D-line, the linebackers, the secondary. They line up and they play man-on-man football. Their defensive line is stout and strong. They’ve got pass rushers. It’s beautiful to watch. “
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While the Bears have relied a great deal on freshmen and sophomores, the Horned Frogs have a veteran team that includes 13 starting seniors. TCU’s defense features seniors like defensive tackle Chris Bradley, end Mat Boesen, linebacker Travin Howard, safety Nick Orr and cornerback Ranthony Texada.
Howard leads the Horned Frogs with 83 tackles while Boesen has been a force up front by recording six sacks and forcing two fumbles. Texada has broken up 12 passes and has an interception while recording a pair of sacks.
“They are good at every position on defense,” Rhule said. “They have wrinkles and they attack what you do. Their guys get off blocks, very similar to Iowa State. When I look at how they play, it’s fun to watch as a coach that respects that type of football.”
Baylor hopes to limit its turnovers after committing six in the last two losses to Texas Tech and Iowa State. Brewer has thrown an interception in each of the last two games and fumbled twice against the Red Raiders.
While Baylor’s defense has performed well in the last four games, turnovers have been costly.
“That’s what’s hurting us right now is turnovers,” said Baylor offensive tackle Patrick Lawrence. “We’ve been good enough to put ourselves in position to win the games, but we haven’t been good enough to finish yet. It hurts to see that the turnovers are what kills you in the end, especially for the individual that did it.”
Nance will switch from No. 5 to No. 1 for his final game in honor of Baylor senior linebacker Taylor Young, who went down with a season ending quadriceps injury against Iowa State.
“It crushed me,” Nance said. “It crushed the whole team. It got emotional in the locker room. Coach said I could wear his number this week, so I’ll wear No. 1. We’ve been through a lot in five years, so it hurt us, it hurt us bad. We’ll go out and play for him.”
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Baylor sophomore receiver Denzel Mims is among 10 semifinalists for the Earl Campbell Award which honors the top NCAA Division I offensive player with Texas ties. Mims has made 59 catches for 1,061 yards and eight touchdowns this season.