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WACO, Texas – Good defense can be hard to find in the Big 12, where potent spread offenses dominate.
It was even harder to spot in 61-58 between TCU and Baylor, the highest-scoring game between two top-10 teams.
But there it was in the fourth quarter Saturday. As Bryce Petty and the Bears' offense revved up their scoring machine to wipe out a 21-point deficit against TCU, the Baylor defense locked down the Horned Frogs on their last three drives.
"I really think we stepped up tonight especially toward the end of the game after having that real rough first half," Baylor defensive lineman Beau Blackshear said.
"It wasn't a great defensive game tonight but it was an ugly win. But we still got the W so it worked out for us."
The Bears (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) came into Saturday's game with some sterling defensive numbers. They were fourth in the nation in total defense (267 yards per game) and yards per play (3.91) and fifth in scoring defense (12.4 points per game).
It was hard to take those stats too seriously. The Bears first five games did not include an FBS team that currently has a winning record.
TCU changed that. The Horned Frogs slipped nicely in to their new spread offense, and played well again on Saturday. TCU passed for 346 yards and had 485 total yards. But when the Frogs needed some plays to respond to Baylor's three quick-strike touchdowns in the fourth quarter that made it 58-all, Baylor allowed only 53 yards on 18 plays in three drives, including a key fourth down stop at the Baylor 45 with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter.
"We know our offense can do that at any time, one of the best in the nation if not the best," said Blackshear, who had two tackles for loss, including a sack. "It's a big-time booster and it makes you want to go out there and get a quick stop so you can get the ball to them so they can do it again."
The last stop on downs led to Chris Callahan's 28-yard winning field goal as time expired.
Middle linebacker Bryce Hager made most of Baylor's big plays on defense, with 13 tackles, a sacks and a forced fumble. Shawn Oakman, the imposing 6-foot-9 defensive end, was relatively quiet though he drew a lot of attention.
Blackshear said Baylor's defensive coaches made adjustments that helped them contain Boykin and the Frogs.
"It really helps us that we believe in our coaches," he said.
TCU has consistently been among the best defensive teams in the country under coach Gary Patterson, but the Horned Frogs were ripped to shreds by Petty for 510 yards passing and six touchdown passes.
With their array of speed receivers, the Bears attacked TCU deep over and over.
"You're not going to win many games when you let people throw it over your head," Patterson said. "Well, I had two corners learn that tonight."
The game was the second-highest scoring between two teams with any ranking. Baylor fans no doubt remember the highest-scoring game.
In 2012, the Bears went to West Virginia and the Mountaineers won 70-63.