Baylor's Mikail Baker, left, jumps in air with teammate Trent Shelton after Baker scored a first-half touchdown against TCU. Looking on for Baylor is Carl Sims.
Sept. 3, 2006
WACO, Texas (AP) - With undefeated TCU starting quarterback Jeff Ballard woozy on the sideline and unable to play, coach Gary Patterson only had one real option.
Freshman Marcus Jackson filled in nicely, and made sure the No. 22 Horned Frogs avoided being on the wrong side of a season-opening upset with a 17-7 victory at Baylor on Sunday.
"He was the only person we had left," Patterson said. "It was either going to be him or me throwing."
Jeff Ballard wasn't feeling right after taking some hard hits in the first meeting between the old Southwest Conference rivals in 11 years. Jackson found out just before the second half that he was replacing the senior starter, then threw for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
"It was crazy. I had a couple of warmup throws, maybe three or four," Jackson said. "I mainly snapped with the center."
Jackson finally put the Horned Frogs ahead with an 84-yard TD pass to tailback Aaron Brown after Baylor's second turnover in the third quarter. He threw a 4-yard score to Quinton Cunigan in the fourth quarter.
TCU, unranked when it beat No. 7 Oklahoma 17-10 in last year's season opener, stretched its winning streak to 11 games -- the second-longest in Division I-A behind the 21 in a row of defending national champion Texas.
Baylor, playing only its third opener at home since 1997, was hoping for a big upset in its first game since switching to a pass-oriented offense with returning senior quarterback Shawn Bell.
Instead, the Bears dropped to 2-31 against ranked teams since moving to the Big 12 in 1996 -- the year after the SWC disbanded and they last played TCU.
"I'm getting tired of these kind of games," fourth-year Baylor coach Guy Morriss said. "A loss is still a loss. We had opportunities and didn't get it done."
Ballard improved to 9-0 as TCU's starter, but never returned after completing 7-of-14 passes for 85 yards and an interception in the first half. Patterson said Ballard should be ready to play the home opener Saturday against UC-Davis.
With Ballard out and senior running backs Lonta Hobbs (foot) and Robert Merrill (back) not playing at all, Jackson (11-of-13 passing) and Brown (15 rushes for 49 yards and four catches for 107 yards) led the comeback offensively.
Jackson moved up on the depth chart during the summer after expected senior backup Chad Huffman was a second-round draft pick by the San Diego Padres and signed a pro baseball contract. With TCU's history of injured quarterbacks, including Ballard taking over for Tye Gunn last year, Jackson was told to be ready.
"Coach told me in the summer I had a good chance to play, and in two-a-days needed to practice like I would play," Jackson said. "I took his word, and I was ready."
Bell completed 31 of 47 passes for 286 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, All-Mountain West Conference defensive ends last season, both caused turnovers deep in TCU territory and helped limit Baylor to 333 total yards -- 70 on the final drive that ran out the clock.
"All in all, they did what we expected. The plays were there for us," Bell said. "Without a couple of mishaps, it would have been a different outcome."
When Baylor had fourth-and-1 near midfield with seven minutes left, Paul Mosley was stuffed for no gain. TCU then burned five minutes off the clock before punting.
Baylor drove to the TCU 19 late in the third quarter before Ortiz intercepted a pass deflected by defensive tackle Jarrarcea Williams. On third-and-15, Jackson hit Brown for the game-turning play.
Brown caught the ball on the run at the 35 and outran cornerback C.J. Wilson down the left sideline to the end zone to make it 10-7.
"We had a miscommunication ... I couldn't even hear the call," Wilson said. "One side was playing one thing, and the other one wasn't."
On its first possession after halftime, Baylor made it to the 16 before Blake stripped Mosley and recovered the fumble. The play was reviewed, and though it appeared Mosley's knee may have been down before the ball came loose, the turnover was upheld.
Wilson's interception and 46-yard return in the second quarter set up Baylor's only touchdown. All that prevented Wilson from scoring was being tripped up by Ballard at the 20.
Four plays later, Bell rolled right and hit Mikail Baker in the front corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Donald Massey returned the second-half kickoff 69 yards to the Baylor 27, but the Frogs had to settle for Chris Manfredini's 27-yard field goal.