SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Baylor coach Art Briles threw his hat and his headset in a rare display of emotion on the interception that ended TCU’s upset bid in the final seconds.
The No. 9 Bears had persevered and recovered from a blowout loss to Oklahoma State that ended their hopes for a national title a week earlier. They also won for a coach whose older brother, Eddie, died from an apparent head injury after a fall just three days before the tense 41-38 victory on Saturday.
Briles didn’t bring up his brother when asked how he felt after the game. His players did it for him.
“You’ve got to understand that coach Briles, he never shows anything,” said running back Lache Seastrunk, who had 94 yards rushing after missing two games with a groin injury. “When he’s around us, I think it takes away the pain. Before the game even started, I said, ‘Coach Briles, I know you lost somebody but you gained 99 of us.'”
Briles attended his brother’s funeral Sunday, safe in knowing that Baylor (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) — while needing help — still has a shot at the outright conference title and a BCS bid, likely the Fiesta Bowl.
The Bears will know what they’re playing for early in Saturday’s game against Texas, which re-entered the rankings at No. 23 on Sunday. The last game in the 64th and final season at Floyd Casey Stadium will be starting when Oklahoma’s Bedlam battle is ending in Stillwater.
Baylor, which is moving to a campus stadium on the banks of the Brazos River next year, needs the seventh-ranked Cowboys to lose to No. 20 Oklahoma. Otherwise, the Bears and Longhorns are likely playing for a spot in the Cotton Bowl.
Either way, Baylor has a lot more at stake than it would have if the defense hadn’t returned two interceptions for touchdowns and picked off TCU’s Casey Pachall at the goal line with 11 seconds left when the Horned Frogs were in position to send the game to overtime.
“Just to have a Big 12 win is big,” said Bryce Petty, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another the first play after Baylor recovered a fumble at the TCU 1. “To do it in that fashion is big. And it keeps us in the race.”
The Baylor offense was racing early before bogging down against the Big 12’s best run defense. The Bears had just 169 yards after the first quarter, when they ran an astounding 40 plays for 201 yards.
The Bears finished with 370 yards, ending their nation-best streak of 37 straight games with at least 400 yards dating to the regular-season finale against Oklahoma in 2010.
As a result, Baylor’s scoring average of 55.4 points is now slightly behind Army’s NCAA record of 56.0 in 1944. The Bears will need 119 points combined against Texas and in their bowl game to match Army.
The good news? Baylor’s still on pace for record in yards per game at 635.1 — ahead of Houston’s mark of 624.9 in 1989. And that’s after the average dropped more than 25 yards against TCU.
Baylor won by turning away four TCU possessions in the fourth quarter. Plus, one could argue that the defense outscored the high-powered offense 21-20 because of interception returns for scores by Orion Stewart and Eddie Lackey and Beau Blackshear’s fumble recovery before the Petty TD.
“They made every play they needed to to get us the win,” said receiver Levi Norwood, who had 83 yards receiving and a touchdown. “And that’s what we’ve come to expect of them on offense. When we weren’t on offense doing what we needed to be doing to get the win, we could count on them and that’s what a team is.”
Perhaps caught up in the emotion, Briles called it “one of the biggest wins” in his six years at Baylor, which now include two of the three 10-win seasons and a chance for the first 11-win campaign in school history. Briles could certainly be excused for getting caught up in the emotion.
“I can guarantee that every guy in that locker room loves him like their own dad,” Petty said. “When you’ve got a guy that you can play for like that, it hurts you to see him hurt. I just wanted to go up and hug him.”
Petty probably did a little more for him by helping him get the win.