Coach Gary Patterson lamented in a press conference last week that he believes other teams have cracked his defensive signal code. Fans, pundits, and Baylor boasters dismissed the claims, accusing Patterson of diverting attention from his team’s dismal season. Maybe Patterson wasn’t so paranoid after all. Baylor pieced together only nine points this week against a stifling purple-clad defense. The Horned Frogs entered McLane Stadium in Waco and won. Applicable adjectives escape me. The Revivalry game wasn’t flashy. TCU needed everything to go its way, which happened, but not really. It’s complicated.
First and Down
Offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie attacked the Baylor game differently than any other this season. The Frogs came out running the ball and continued to feed starting running back Darius Anderson on early downs. The formations included tight ends and blocking backs. The offensive line energetically shoved defenders. Patterson and Cumbie came to kill … time. The ball was rarely snapped with more than five seconds left on the play clock. The coaches have acknowledged this offense is a wounded animal, and the less they ask of it, the better. Then things got worse. A Baylor defensive lineman took quarterback Michael Collins to the ground on the third offensive series. Collins left the game with a foot injury, and Cumbie was left with the third-string quarterback for the majority of the game.
For non-farmers: A mule is the spawn of a horse (fast and flashy) and a donkey (sturdy and steady) that cannot create offspring. The result is an animal intended to efficiently haul heavy loads through treacherous terrain. Grayson Muehlstein does the name proud. Cumbie hitched this cumbersome offense to the senior QB and let him slowly and steadily drive them to victory. No one waiting in the wings had ever taken a collegiate snap. Muehlstein managed the game beautifully, with the play calling centered around draws and handoffs with the occasional short pass. Muehlstein is now the starting pigskin tosser. Collins stood in street clothes and on crutches during the remainder of the game and is doubtful for next week.
I Am Third
Not a reference to the religious campaign in the early 2000s: God first. Others second. Myself third. It is the startling reality of the Frog backfield. Anderson quietly disappeared from the lineup after halftime. Second-string bruising back Sewo Olonilua left with an injury during the third quarter. That left Muehlstein and sophomore running back Emari Demercado handling the ball for most snaps.
In Reagor, We Trust
Wide receiver Jalen Reagor doesn’t care if the Frogs have 40 scholarship players injured. Reagor doesn’t care if TCU may not reach bowl eligibility. Reagor doesn’t care if nothing was going Purple’s way in this game. He made sure they won. The sophomore receiver touched the ball on only six offensive snaps but managed to score 12 of their 16 points. He turned a short screen pass into a miraculous 65-yard touchdown in the second quarter that Baylor coaches must have watched with mouths agape. He carved and spun through what seemed like the entire Bear defense on his way to the end zone. His other touchdown resulted from coaching and play-calling perfection by Cumbie, who duped Baylor with a reverse to the stud receiver on a 4th-and-1 that went for an easy 37-yard stroll.
The defense gets the game ball. They stymied what had been an efficient Bear offense the entire game. Defensive end Ben Banogu saved his best performance of the season for this bitter rivalry. The secondary suffocated Baylor receivers and allowed Brewer no windows in which to throw. The Frog defense forced two critical fumbles and came down with an interception. Sixteen points is not an overpowering score but does the job when the opponent is held to single digits. Both teams gained approximately 300 yards on the day. Turnovers made the difference.
One Last Chance
TCU wraps up the regular season on Saturday as they host the Cowboys from Oklahoma State. Bowl eligibility remains in the realm of possibility. Nobody knows who the Cowboys are this season. The Stillwater Silverados lost to Kansas State and Baylor but beat Texas and West Virginia. All you need to know is that head coach Mike Gundy is still a man, but now he’s 51.