WACO, Texas -- TC-Who?
Weren't you the guys who stuck it to Wisconsin defensively in the Rose Bowl? No. 2 only to Auburn in 2010? The purple BCS eaters? College football's new Frogs on the block so accomplished that you lent the Steelers your facilities during Super Bowl week?
Used to be. Something like that.
Even a giant killer is allowed a night off. That still doesn't begin to explain the depth and breadth of TCU's opening-night fall from grace, 50-48 loss to Baylor. When we last left the best defense in America, it was ... the best defense in America. Three years running.
Then Robert Griffin III happened. Make that RG3, which is as jiggy a nickname as you'll get at this private Southern Baptist institution. At one point early in the third quarter, the fourth-year junior quarterback had more touchdown passes (a career-high five) than incompletions (three).
That's how good it was. But Baylor being Baylor, there always seems to be a dark side. The Bears blew a 24-point fourth-quarter lead after Griffin fumbled in his own territory with 6:54 left. Seconds later a TCU team that gave up 564 yards and its most points in six years kicked the go-ahead field goal to make the score 48-47.
|More on TCU at Baylor|
"He felt like if we lost, it was going to be on him," teammate Kendall Wright said of Griffin.
How would they remember the straight-arrow son of two retired Army sergeants -- those five touchdown passes or that one fumble?
"You don't want to fumble and then lose the game," Griffin said. "You do anything to win."
So he did, leading a 60-yard drive that ended in the winning field goal with 64 seconds left. Thank you, Baylor, for giving us, really, the first good game and first upset of the season. We can now move on, faith restored, that there will be more games like this and more players like No. 10.
"Any great player is thinking that he doesn’t want to be the reason his team lost," Griffin said amid a rare Baylor field bum-rush. "So I'm over there on the sideline throwing a pity party for myself and the guys are over there are telling me I need to pick my head up."
His head, his team and the entire university. On a night where pretty much no one played defense, Griffin was pretty much unstoppable. He accounted for 50 of those 60 yards on that that final drive that ended with Aaron Jones' 37-yard field goal.
|Robert Griffin III finishes the game with more TD passes (a career-high five) than incompletions (three). (Getty Images)|
Now that Rose Bowl seems so long ago. The loss broke the nation's longest-active regular-season winning streak at 25 and second-longest overall streak at 13 (behind Auburn). Even the great Patterson seems to be in full rebuilding mode this season. He's never played more than five true freshmen in any of his 10 previous seasons. On Friday he played six and it showed.
Baylor rebounded from an ignominious 45-10 loss last season in Fort Worth, where they were heckled as they came off the field. Bears players and coaches got into a verbal altercation with a fan but that's as far as it got until Friday. Paybacks are a, well, you know.
"We waited 11 long months just to play them again," senior receiver Kendall Wright said. "Last year was bad. It hurt our coaches. It hurt us as a team."
Baylor hadn't beaten a higher-ranked team since 1991. Fifty points is the most Patterson's program has given up in six years. The coach couldn't hide three inexperienced players in the secondary. Unleashed upon them, Wright, Baylor's all-time leading receiver, caught 12 Griffin for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
"With our offense we feel like we can score as many points as he lets us," Wright said of coach Art Briles. "If he lets us score 50, that's what we're going to do is score 50. If they're the No. 1 defense why can't we have the No. 1 offense in the country?"
Call Griffin a Terrelle Pryor with touch ... and brains. Same body type, much more going on upstairs. He missed on only 6 of 27 throws. Four of his five scoring passes went for at least 28 yards. The only issue involving his jersey will be how big a profit Baylor's bookstore now stands to gain after Friday night. There will be no character issues.
As a freshman he was FBS' youngest starter (18), gladly accepting comparisons to Vince Young, Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb. Also as a freshman he was the Big 12 400-meter hurdles champion (third in the NCAAs). Those who watched him throw for 3,500 yards last season and lead the Bears to their first bowl game in 16 years knew they had seen something special.
Until Friday, Griffin was one the best quarterbacks in the country not on the lips of the sport's sound-bite hipsters. The nation forgot about him, if they knew him all, after Griffin blew out his knee in the third game of the 2009 season.
"Robert Griffin is the best quarterback in the nation," Baylor tailback Terrance Ganaway said. "In that last huddle he didn't say nothing. We all knew what he was going to do."
Overall, TCU looked helpless defensively for the first time in about forever. Junior college transfer cornerback Jason Verrett, making his first start, was twice beaten badly by Wright for touchdowns. The secondary veteran, senior corner Greg McCoy, whiffed so bad on a couple of Griffin's touchdown throws in the third quarter that he laid face down on the turf -- shamed as Baylor receivers scored.
"We felt like the corners that they had, we could take advantage of them," Wright said. "I [played in] 37 straight games and they have two that haven't even played. I've got to take advantage of that."
There was one amazed Bear in the post-game mosh pit who had nothing to do with the upset. You should remember the name Lache Seastrunk. He recently transferred here from Oregon. That's the same Oregon which is being investigated for its dealings with the tailback's mentor/talent scout Will Lyles.
If he hadn't left Oregon he'd be 90 miles or so up the road with the Ducks for Saturday night's game against LSU. Given the magic of Friday, can he even wait until next season in Waco?
"If the good man calls upon me," Seastrunk said.
Would that be Griffin or God?