There have been two fourth-quarter 20-point comebacks in college football this season, and now Baylor, who was involved in both, knows what’s it’s like to be on the wrong side.
The Bears coughed up a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter of the Cotton Bowl as Michigan State used a blocked field goal and a touchdown with 17 seconds remaining to secure a 42-41 victory.
Michigan State actually came back from two different 20-point deficits in the second half behind the gritty play of quarterback Connor Cook. Cook, who threw two key interceptions at inopportune moments, rallied his team in the final 12 minutes to an improbable victory.
He started the fourth-quarterback comeback with an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Josiah Price to cut the score to 41-28. The Spartans then recovered an onside kick to start their next drive on the Michigan State 47 and Cook quickly got the Spartans moving with a 39-yard pass to Aaron Burbridge. On the next play, Cook was pressured and as he was falling down, tried to heave the ball toward one of his receivers only to have it intercepted and run back 37 yards.
Michigan State’s defense held and Cook was able to regroup and lead the Spartans to a score on the next drive that was capped off with a 1-yard run by Jeremy Langford.
But on the next Baylor possession, things appeared to be swinging back in the Bears favor. Quarterback Bryce Petty, who threw for a Cotton Bowl-record 550 yards, got into a rhythm and started finding his receivers on slants. Petty’s best pass of the drive came on a 26-yard strike to Corey Coleman, who went all the way down to the Michigan State 7-yard line. However, a rare offensive facemask penalty was assessed on Coleman’s stiff arm. The drive stalled and the Bears were forced to try a 43-yard field goal.
RJ Williamson blocked the field goal try and it was returned 36 yards to the Baylor 46, setting up what would be the eventual game-winning drive.
Cook was not especially accurate throughout the game, but when his team needed a big play, he made it. He extended the game-winning drive with a 17-yard pass on fourth down. It took Cook three tries, but he found Keith Humphrey in the end zone for the winning score. On that final drive, Cook completed only 3-of-8 passes, but the three were all big.
Michigan State sealed the win by sacking Petty twice on the Bears' next possession and then intercepting his final pass.
The combined 83 points marked a Cotton Bowl record as did the combined 1,140 yards. Petty did have a stellar game, but what hampered the Bears was a lack of diversity. They rushed for minus-19 yards.
Four months ago, Baylor erased a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit against TCU to win 61-58 and hand the Horned Frogs their only loss of the season. The victory became one of the hottest talking points at the end of the regular season when the Big 12’s top two teams were jockeying for position in the College Football Playoff standings. That win ultimately propelled the Bears ahead of the Horned Frogs in the final College Football Playoff rankings, but both teams were on the outside of the playoff looking in.
The Big 12 is 1-4 in bowl games so far this season with Kansas State and Oklahoma State yet to play. TCU has the conference’s only victory with a 42-3 thrashing of Ole Miss in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
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