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Baylor vs. Michigan State -- THE MORNING AFTER -- Highlights, Links, Notes, Tweets

Yesterday, the unthinkable happened. Today, we regroup for the future.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

(11-2, 7-1) 7/7/8
14 0 7 21 42
14 10 17 0 41

Box ScoreQuotesNotesPhoto Gallery USA Today

| Quotes

Arlington, Texas • Attendance: 71,464

(11-2, 8-1) 4/5/5

Players of the Game:

QB Bryce Petty -- 36/51 for 550 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
WR K.D. Cannon -- 8 catches for 197 yards and 2 TDs
WR Corey Coleman -- 7 catches for 150 yards and 1 TD

LB Taylor Young -- 15 tackles, 1 INT
LB Bryce Hager -- 13 tackles, 1 TFL
S Orion Stewart -- 10 tackles

Play of the Game:

6-7, 400-pound OL LaQuan McGowan caught a TD pass.  It put Baylor up 41-21 with around 4 minutes to go in the third quarter.

Shocking Stat of the Game:

Michigan State had 10 tackles for loss in this game.  We had 2.  That's not good.

Quick Thoughts:

The most succinct way I can describe yesterday's game is that the play above should have been the lasting image of the game with Baylor leading by 20 and in seemingly complete control, but it won't be.  And that's because from that point on, we were outscored 21-0, becoming only the second team this season to lose a game in which it led by 20 in the fourth quarter.  The other, obviously, is TCU.

There are so many aspects of this game worthy of discussion that it's extremely sad the outcome will overshadow them.  Kendal Briles' play-calling mastery leading to a Cotton Bowl record in passing for Petty (who was simply phenomenal in his final game as a Bear); Cannon burning an All-American safety twice for touchdowns as a true freshman; freshman All-American LB Taylor Young returning what should have been the clinching interception for a touchdown to make it 48-28 only to have it called back due to penalty; the offense putting up 600 passing yards against the best defense in the B1G ...

None of that really matters, or at least doesn't matter as much as it should, because Michigan State figured out in the fourth quarter that we couldn't stop the pass, we were unable to establish the running game throughout and then took our foot off the gas passing, and everything that needed to happen in order for us to lose (or, rather, needed to not happen) did.  And we lost.

In looking back at the fourth quarter, I feel like I now have a perfect understanding of what TCU fans went through on October 11.  Had any one of a number of different things happened differently, Baylor probably wins yesterday's game.  If Collin Brence and Bryce Hager can corral a RB four yards behind the line on third down, we probably win.  If Corey Coleman isn't called for an offensive facemask at the seven, we probably win.  If Andrew Billings doesn't push that kid in the back on the interception return that would have put us back up 48-28, we probably win.  If the second-to-last FG was two inches to the left; the holder hadn't lined up 6 yards deep on the last field goal instead of 7, leading to the block and Chris Callahan's near-decapitation; that kick had just been missed but not blocked and returned; we had taken virtually any time off the clock at all on our penultimate possession... I could keep going.  But those things did happen and I don't want to spend the next nine months saying "The better team didn't win" or "We had them for three quarters" because we've destroyed people for doing that the last two.

Baylor lost yesterday to a really good team with a really good offense that took advantage of our mistakes to stage an incredible comeback that would have seemed impossible had we not done it ourselves.  They deserve credit for pulling that off in the face of tremendous adversity, and I don't want to take anything away from their outstanding effort.  As I talked about in the post-game, we had a number of opportunities to make a statement and do what we'd set out to do, establishing all those firsts we've talked about for nearly a month, and we just didn't.  That's on us and nobody else.

Elsewhere in College Football:

All-told, I watched over 12 hours of college football yesterday with our game, the Rose Bowl of Oregon vs. Florida State, and the Sugar Bowl of Ohio State vs. Alabama.  One of those games went pretty much as expected, while the other two surprised.  The National Championship is now set after Ohio State's upset of Alabama and Oregon's beatdown of Florida State ... and I can't really argue that point any longer.  The media narratives will be all about the SEC's disappointment and the B1G's exultation, something we obviously contributed to directly, and I guess I'm ok with that.  If I had to choose a way for things to go, ok.

College football's overhauled New Year's Day lives up to the hype -
Oregon and Ohio State used huge runs to reach the College Football Playoff final, Melvin Gordon gave fans one final memory, and Michigan State pulled off a three-touchdown comeback in the fourth quarter. It was a hell of a New Year's Day.

The awesome, unexpected, and meaningful of the Playoff + New Year's bowls -
Raise your hand if you had Oregon and Ohio State rolling AND the SEC falling through a trap door. Liar.

13 notes on the shocking first day of the College Football Playoff -
All of the following things just happened in a very short span of time.

The Southeast's 8-year college football championship streak is done -
Either the Midwest or the West Coast will claim the golden trophy.


No. 5 Football Falls to No. 8 Michigan State, 42-41 - Baylor Bears Official Athletic Site -
Petty completed 36 of 51 passes for a Cotton Bowl-record 550 yards and three touchdowns, two to speedy freshman KD Cannon and the other to 390-pount backup guard LaQuan McGowan that put Baylor up 41-21 late in the third quarter.

NCAA College Football Recap - Michigan State Spartans at Baylor Bears - Jan 01, 2015 -
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Connor Cook and the Michigan State Spartans want to have a different role in the playoff talk next season.

One true collapse: Spartans stun Baylor in Cotton Bowl, 42-41 - Baylor Bears Football
ARLINGTON — Making its first Cotton Bowl appearance in 34 years, Baylor was relishing the moment and writing a book on offensive creativity.

One True Collapse is a strong headline.

Baylor shocked and silent in locker room after Cotton Bowl meltdown | FOX Sports
There were two white boards that took up an entire wall in Baylor's locker room at AT&T Stadium. Both read, in big, black capital letters: "BE A FINISHER!"

For Baylor fans, being humbled in Cotton Bowl doesn’t mean losing their pride | Dallas Morning News
A fourth-quarter collapse in Thursday's Cotton Bowl Classic hurt, but the faithful still relish a season that raised the Bears’ national profile.

Bowl Bits: Michigan State 42, Baylor 41 (Cotton Bowl) -
Michigan State overcame a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Baylor.

Baylor football loses in heartbreaking fashion to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl | The Baylor Lariat

Michigan State Spartans knock out Baylor Bears late in Cotton Bowl - ESPN
Michigan State avoided Baylor's knockout punch long enough to come up with a haymaker of its own late.

Michigan State beats Baylor 42-41 after stunning Cotton Bowl comeback - College Football -
Michigan State beats Baylor 42-41 after stunning Cotton Bowl comeback.

Gosselin: Baylor proved it did not belong in College Football Playoff with Cotton Bowl collapse | Dallas Morning News

I'm including this last link from Gosselin not because I think his take worthwhile or even accurate.  I include it because I know it will be one of the dominant themes of the game because sportswriters are lazy and prone to hot take-style analysis.

This game does not prove that Baylor didn't belong in the conversation for the CFB Playoff.  That's called revisionist history, and it's stupid.  It doesn't really prove anything that we didn't already know (like that we have a problem against the pass on defense, for example).  These games don't have to be referendums on programs or conferences, but they inevitably are because that's the way things work.  Again, Baylor lost yesterday to a really good team that took advantage of our mistakes.  That's it.  It doesn't necessarily mean that every other game involving a similarly-skilled team would finish the same way.   If it did, the people saying today that TCU definitely belonged because of what they did to Ole Miss (which was incredibly impressive, no doubt about it) would have to answer for why our stunning comeback two months ago doesn't immediately discredit them.

A Couple of Tweets:

I was so ready during yesterday's game when things were looking so good to write the post-game about Baylor's 12-1 season and then get up this morning to flag down all the articles I could find about the win.  That obviously didn't happen.  But even though we're all disappointed and frustrated about finishing another season 11-2 with a bowl loss, I don't want the contributions of these seniors to yet another amazing season to be lost.  We owe them so much for what they've given this program, and we will never be able to repay them.  I just hope they're keeping their heads high knowing how proud of them we are.