It is a strange feeling, but for the unusual occasion there are a couple of brand-new teams in the playoff. One of those teams is the Texas Christian Horned Frogs.
From the Big 12, TCU put together its best season of the playoff era. Winning out until the conference championship game, the Horned Frogs used their high-powered offense to get to the playoff.
One game, however, highlighted everything that this season has been for the Horned Frogs.
Week 12's 29-28 Last-Second Victory Over Baylor
The Frogs won five one score games over the course of the 2022 season, losing their first in the conference championship game against No. 11 Kansas State by just a field goal.
With several close calls, the Frogs needed a lot of things to go right in some of the tightest situations. Against the Bears, TCU struggled. Still, the Frogs walked out with a victory at the end of the day, the only thing that matters.
Up against a solid Baylor team, TCU went down early and late in the game. Scoring with a 10-yard run courtesy of Qualan Jones in the first quarter, Baylor took a 7-0 lead. In the second quarter, Baylor again took the lead 14-7 after tight end Kelsey Johnson punched in a 2-yard run with 12 minutes and 5 seconds left on the clock.
Fighting back and forth, Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan led a huge drive down the field down to give TCU a 28-20 lead in the fourth quarter.
Then, from its own 10-yard line, TCU orchestrated an 11 play, 90-yard touchdown drive to make it 28-26 with 2 minutes and 7 seconds left on the game clock. Senior halfback Emari Demercado punched it in from the Baylor 3-yard line.
Adversity would soon strike the Frogs. The needed two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving TCU's defense with the task of making a stop.
With so much on the line, what has been an average unit stepped up to an elite level in a massive moment. TCU's defense is ranked No. 58 in the country, allowing 25 points per game. Only fourth in the Big 12, the defense has often been less reliable, especially considering the Frogs offense is ranked first in the conference (40.3 points per game).
Somehow, the unit stood their ground. Allowing just eight yards in three plays, Baylor's offense failed to move the ball and didn't convert on fourth-and-2 from its own 26-yard line.
After forcing a punt, Duggan was left with a little over a minute and a half of game clock, no timeouts, and he needed to get into field goal range from his own 31-yard line. Duggan proceeded to complete two passes for 27 yards on the drive, then used his legs to pick up a first down and 12 yards on a big 3rd-and-1.
After a run by Demercado was downed with 17 seconds left, TCU scrambled the special teams unit onto the field. Just barely beating the clock, kicker Griffin Kell split the uprights on a 40-yard field goal attempt to win the game for the Frogs, 29-28.
For Duggan, the drive was symbolic of the incredible season he has had. Finishing 24 of 35 for 327 yards, the Iowa native put his team in position to win against Baylor. A big part of the reason head coach Sonny Dykes was able to succeed in his first season, Duggan finished his year with a 64.9% completion percentage, 30 touchdowns, four interceptions, and 3321 passing yards.
The moment perfectly captured everything TCU has done this season. Play above expectations, use the offense to win the game and work a few miracles to make sure the game is clinched in the waning moments.
With such a formula, it isn't a surprise that TCU is the biggest underdog in the playoff. Sure, they played very sharp but didn't exactly roll their way to the stage as did the Georgia Bulldogs. The Horned Frogs look to ride the wave they arrived on, and underdog America will be rooting for them as they do so.
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