Thursday’s opening to the college football season was dull. Friday night was different.
Baylor’s dramatic win over Texas Christian University (TCU) was a reminder of why we love college football. Dramatic games with passionate fans—fans who aren’t afraid to storm the field after a win—that is the heart of what college football was and in some places still is. It is magical when you focus on the game and not the nuttiness of NCAA flunkies attacking columnists for telling the truth about renegade programs run amok and the NCAA’s lack of leadership in solving the problem. (See how the NCAA launched a misguided twitter war against a SI.com columnist.)
It is a game where an underdog can snap a 25-game losing streak to ranked opponents. It is a game where the underdog always has a chance. The underdog still has a chance, even after squandering a 24-point lead.
It is a game where defense wins championships, but you need some offense too for those nights the vaunted defense forgets to take the bus to the game. TCU showed it could mount a comeback when its defense put it into a hole. TCU scored 25 points in the fourth quarter to take the lead 48-47 with 4:27 left.
It is a game where big men determine everything. If you want to win then you better control the line of scrimmage. Of course, it is a game where the little guys matter too. The kickers for TCU and Baylor made clutch kicks in the fourth quarter, but it was Baylor’s Aaron Jones who won the game on a 37-yard field goal with 1:04 left. This was followed by outstanding kick coverage from Baylor’s special teams. This came at just the right moment to help preserve the 50-48 margin.
The passion of the fans could be seen on so many faces. ESPN did a good job showing the range of emotions in the stands. Girls chewing on their fingernails, and boys clutching their heads in disbelief were just a few of the scenes. The magic of Baylor fans storming the field in exaltation is a vivid reminder of the bygone days of college football—those days when schools and conferences did not look down on such behavior. The days before college football was a billion dollar business.
This was a look at the roots of college football. It was college football in its purity.
It was atonement for an offseason of wickedness.