Late Score Takes Down Baylor In Cotton Bowl
ARLINGTON, Texas – A win is a win. A loss is a loss. Pretty simple and succinct.
But some victories are more uplifting and some defeats are more devastating. Baylor, which a year ago had the best season in school history end with an upset loss to Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl, suffered a New Year's Day gut-punch setback that will long haunt the dreams of the participants.
Baylor, a chance to make a national statement well within its grasp, left AT&T Stadium with a stunning 42-41 loss to Michigan State in the 79th Cotton Bowl.
The Spartans (11-2) trailed by 20 points with less than 20 minutes remaining but scored the game's final 21 points. Keith Mumphrey ran a slant pattern and caught a 10-yard pass from Connor Cook with 17 seconds remaining to complete the comeback.
"We let some things get away from us," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "It's, quite honestly, an embarrassment to me as a coach. … This is one of the tougher non-wins that I've ever experienced."
Well, "non-win" is one way to describe the loss.
"Everybody's disappointed," Baylor senior receiver Clay Fuller said. "Personally, it's the lowest of lows. Last year's bowl loss was tough but UCF dominated us in that game. This game … it's like it got stolen from us."
Michigan State had given up 300 yards passing just once – 318 yards to Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who will play for the national championship. The Spartans' seventh-ranked defense loaded the box to stop Baylor's running game so Bryce Petty attempted 51 passes, completing 36 and his 550 yards passing obliterated the Cotton Bowl record.
"It's all for naught when you lose," said Petty, who embraced former Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III in the Baylor locker room as members of the media filtered out. "The whole going into this was finishing."
Michigan State started by taking a 14-7 lead but Baylor responded with 27 consecutive points. Chris Callahan's 46-yard field goal with 11:23 remaining in the third quarter. Freshman receiver K.D. Cannon started the scoring by catching a 49-yard TD pass from Petty and on the second play of the second half the duo hooked up on a 74-yard bomb.
Baylor's zenith came late in the third quarter. The Bears countered a Michigan State touchdown with a 75-yard drive capped by Petty's 18-yard touchdown pass to LaQuan McGowan. A backup offensive linemen, McGowan is 6-7, 390 pounds and lined up as a tackle eligible on the play.
Over the last 20 minutes, Baylor came agonizingly close to sealing the deal.
Cook's ill-advised flip was intercepted by Taylor Young but his long interception return for an apparent touchdown was wiped out by an unnecessary block in the back penalty by Andrew Billings. That possession ended with Callahan's 46-yard field goal doinking off the right upright.
Leading by six with 4:55 remaining, the Bears put together a clutch drive. Petty found Corey Coleman on a short slant and raced to the Michigan State 7-yard line but Coleman was flagged for a facemask penalty as he stiff-armed the Spartans' Tony Lippett. Pushed back to the 22, Baylor's drive stalled and resulted in a field goal attempt that was blocked and returned 36 yards to set up Michigan State's game-winning drive.
"You hate to 'if' it," Briles said, "but if you don't hit the upright, if you don't get a field goal blocked, if you don't have an offensive facemask, if you don't get a penalty on an interception return, then I think we feel a lot different right now," Briles said.
"Those are points off the board in the fourth quarter that would have given us a chance to extend the lead. That's the reality of it. It has nothing to do with a lead evaporating. It's about playing cleaner football. Play a little cleaner football and you win."
The college football gods have a warped sense of humor/irony. One of Baylor's high points of the season was a 61-58 victory over TCU that saw the Bears overcome a 21-point fourth quarter deficit.
"It's just sort of crazy," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said of his team's rally to follow up last season's Rose Bowl victory. "I really probably can't put it into words. We just kept pace. We didn't panic."
|Baylor Bowl Record: 10-11|
|Jan. 1, 2015||Cotton Bowl-Michigan State 42, Baylor 41|
|Jan. 1, 2014||Fiesta Bowl-UCF 52, Baylor 42|
|Dec. 27, 2012||Holiday Bowl-Baylor 49, UCLA 26|
|Dec. 29, 2011||Alamo Bowl-Baylor 67, Washington 56|
|Dec. 29, 2010||Texas Bowl-Illinois 38, Baylor 14|
|Dec. 31, 1994||Alamo Bowl-Washington St. 10, Baylor 3|
|Dec. 31, 1992||John Hancock Bowl-Baylor 20, Arizona 15|
|Dec. 31, 1991||Copper Bowl-Indiana 24, Baylor 0|
|Dec. 31, 1986||Bluebonnet Bowl-Baylor 21, Colorado 9|
|Dec. 27, 1985||Liberty Bowl-Baylor 21, LSU. 7|
|Dec. 31, 1983||Bluebonnet Bowl-Oklahoma St. 24, Baylor 14|
|Jan. 1, 1981||Cotton Bowl-Alabama 30, Baylor 2|
|Dec. 31, 1979||Peach Bowl-Baylor 24, Clemson 18|
|Jan. 1, 1975||Cotton Bowl-Penn St. 41, Baylor 20|
|Dec. 21, 1963||Bluebonnet Bowl-Baylor 14, LSU 7|
|Dec. 9, 1961||Gotham Bowl-Baylor 24, Utah St. 9|
|Dec. 31, 1960||Gator Bowl-Florida 13, Baylor 12|
|Jan. 1, 1957||Sugar Bowl-Baylor 13, Tennessee 7|
|Dec. 31, 1954||Gator Bowl-Auburn 33, Baylor 13|
|Jan. 1, 1952||Orange Bowl-Georgia Tech 17, Baylor 14|
|Jan. 1, 1949||Dixie Bowl-Baylor 20, Wake Forest 7|