The Horned Frogs seemingly had put a vise on the Big 12 race. And placed themselves at the top of the playoff conversation.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Baylor and Petty roared back with 24 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes to stun TCU with a 61-58 victory.
“I felt really bad for them,” coach Gary Patterson said this week. “We didn't get done what we wanted to do.”
That, however, doesn't mean the Horned Frogs still can't win the Big 12. Or even make the playoff.
Sure, TCU needs a little help now. And the margin for error is gone. But in Fort Worth, there is life after an improbable one-game demise.
“Everyone is disappointed,” said TCU running back B.J. Catalon. “We left that game on the field. We didn't take it.
“But even though we have a loss, if we get out and play hard through this next stretch, we'll be fine. We'll have the opportunity to compete to get a Big 12 championship and get to a big bowl game.”
But that will hinge on whether No. 12 TCU can ditch any Baylor hangover in time for Oklahoma State this weekend. The No. 15 Cowboys are 5-1, with five straight wins since taking defending national champion Florida State to the wire in the opener. Oklahoma State has also defeated TCU by double digits in two meetings as Big 12 foes.
Of course, this isn't the same TCU.
The Horned Frogs knocked off Big 12 preseason favorite Oklahoma two weeks ago, then had the defending Big 12 champion Bears on the ropes in their own stadium.
“One thing I didn't see last year, I didn't see tears. And I did the other night,” Patterson said of the locker room at Baylor. “This group is a lot more invested in what we want to get accomplished and where we're trying to get.”
These Horned Frogs have already shown they're capable of getting to the top of the Big 12 standings.
Thriving in TCU's new up-tempo attack, quarterback Trevone Boykin has been as improved as any player in the league. He's thrown for 1,463 yards and 11 touchdowns with just two picks. He's also rushed for another 305 yards and three scores.
“Trevone has been delivering the ball,” Kolby Listenbee, who had 146 receiving yards and a touchdown against Baylor, told reporters Tuesday. “Making plays.”
Catalon has been making plays, too, ranking seventh in the league in all-purpose yards while tying for second with eight touchdowns. And save for the fourth-quarter collapse in Waco, the defense has been stout, too, shutting out Oklahoma in the fourth quarter of a 37-33 win.
The key for the Horned Frogs now is preventing the Baylor loss from defeating them twice.
“The same thing I said in the locker room after the Oklahoma game is basically the way I treated them after the loss in the Baylor game -- you can't get too high or too low, especially playing the level of competition we're playing,” Patterson said. “It was a better practice on Sunday for Oklahoma State than it was for Baylor on Sunday the week before. I think people handle failure a lot better than they handle success sometimes.”
If the Horned Frogs can handle failure, they could set themselves up for plenty of success.
Baylor is now in the driver's seat of the Big 12 race. But the Bears have the more difficult remaining schedule, including a Nov. 8 road trip to Oklahoma. Both Baylor and TCU still have to go to West Virginia. But TCU's only two remaining games against ranked opponents both come at home, including the Cowboys this weekend and No. 14 Kansas State on that pivotal Nov. 8 Saturday in the Big 12.
“The loss (to Baylor) hurt,” Catalon said. “But if it was going to happen, it's better it happened now rather than later. We can learn from this. We can't get comfortable no matter what the score is. We can fix how we lost and make sure we don't lose that way again. We know now we have to finish every game.”
The Horned Frogs didn't finish in Waco. But they can still finish this season strong -- while keeping their Big 12 and playoff hopes alive.
“That (Baylor) game hurt pretty bad,” Listenbee said. “But we're putting it behind us and getting ready for the rest of the season.”