It was September 2, 2011, and the Baylor Bears were set to open up their most anticipated season in recent memory against the 14th ranked and defending Rose Bowl champion TCU Horned Frogs. ESPN was in town for this Friday night affair, a rare national TV spotlight game for Baylor at the time. The Frogs were riding a 25 game regular season winning streak with consecutive undefeated regular seasons in the Mountain West Conference under their belts. TCU had also dumptrucked Baylor 45-10 the year prior in Fort Worth. Art Briles made a point to his team that this was a chance to right a wrong from the embarrassing loss to TCU in 2010.
All the while, realignment turmoil was in the air. Texas A&M had announced 2 days prior that it intended to leave the Big 12 to join the SEC. Rumor was also abound that Texas, Oklahoma and two other schools (likely Texas Tech and Oklahoma State) were looking at possibly moving to join the Pac-12. Oklahoma president David Boren stated: "I don't think OU is going to be a wallflower when all is said and done." It appeared that the Big 12 was ripping apart at the seems just as the 2011 college football season was about to commence.
It was a brutally hot night at Floyd Casey Stadium with temperatures in the triple digits at kickoff and both offenses came out blazing as well. Baylor had the ball first and scored quickly off a double pass from Kendall Wright to Terrance Williams. TCU would respond with a pair of touchdown drives led by new quarterback Casey Pachall but then the Robert Griffin show began later in the 1st quarter when RG3 hit Wright for a 35 yard TD to put Baylor back in front. The Frogs led 16-14 at the end of 15 minutes.
Baylor was able to establish a strong running game with Terrance Ganaway early in the 2nd quarter which opened up the play-action pass for Griffin and he repeatedly went to Wright who was matched up against new TCU cornerback Jason Verrett. After RG3 threw TD passes to Wright and Jordan Najvar, a short TD run by Ganaway gave the Bears a double digit lead with 5 minutes to go in the 1st half. A combination of bend but don't break defense from BU and the help of some Horned Frog mistakes allowed Baylor to take that 34-23 lead into the halftime locker room.
Baylor came out in the 3rd quarter and kept pressing the pedal to the floor, continuing a furious aerial assault that included two more long touchdown passes as Griffin found Williams and Lanear Sampson on consecutive scoring drives and with 6:10 to go in the 3rd quarter, the Bears found themselves up 47-23. TCU hadn't given up 47 points in a regulation game since 2004, not to mention that there was still over 20 minutes of game time to be played. Floyd Casey was in a frenzy not seen since the Grant Teaff days. This was going to be a laugher the rest of the way. And then...
The Frogs scored on a 4th down play to start the 4th quarter and converted on a 2 point conversion to make it a two possession game at 47-31. Baylor's offense began to look extremely conservative and had a quick 3 and out. After a big TCU punt return (BU's special teams were horrific for most of the game), Pachall hit Josh Boyce with a TD pass and 2 point conversion and suddenly the festive atmosphere at the Case turned into a tense 8 point game with 11 minutes to go. The Baylor offense sputtered once again. TCU drove down and scored again. Although the Frogs missed this 2 point conversion, it was now 47-45 and it was truly anyone's game. It would be up to Robert Griffin and the Baylor offense to recapture the form that got them a 24 point lead.
Except on the first play of the next series, Griffin was clobbered by Stansley Maponga, forcing a fumble that was recovered by TCU. The Frogs would have to settle for a field goal but that kick gave them a 48-47 lead, completing an incredible comeback that had stunned the Baylor faithful. But you see, there was still 4 minutes left for RG3 to write a defining chapter of what would turn into a historic year. Griffin had key runs, throws, and even one reception on the game winning drive that was capped off by a clutch 37 yard field goal from Aaron Jones to give the Bears the lead back at 50-48 with just over a minute to play.
TCU had one last chance and moved the ball into Baylor territory needing just a field goal to win the game. But with the clock ticking down, Pachall was intercepted by Mike Hicks and the party was on in Waco. The crowd stormed the field as Baylor fans celebrated the highest ranked opponent that they had beaten since entering the Big 12 Conference in 1996.
For those who were in attendance, it was an incredible night at Floyd Casey Stadium. Since then, it has been lost among other great moments that have taken place over the last four seasons. From RG3's Heisman moment in the final seconds against OU to Lache Seastrunk's run capping off a rout of #1 K-State. From beating Texas to close out Floyd Casey in the freezing fog to a game known by nothing more than simply 61-58. But the 2011 season opener was the first night that really allowed Baylor fans to dream big. Bigger than just being satisfied with making a bowl game every year. Bigger than just proving that you could hang with the top dogs in the conference. Bigger than anyone could've imagined when Art Briles took over the program after the 2007 season. Plain and simple, Baylor 50 TCU 48 kicked off the greatest era that Baylor football has ever known.
If you'd like to relive it, the game is posted in it's entirety on Youtube.