Blinded by the Light
2:05 P.M., THURSDAY, NOV. 18, 2010
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On the season's second to final game, we saw for the first time a Baylor team have a second half lead slip through its grips, lose the game despite committing zero turnovers and had arguably the team's biggest strength, its special teams, foil the Bear's attempt at upsetting the Aggies.
A&M's 42-30 win over Baylor was certainly an unexpected wrench in the gears. Whether or not it proves to be a defeat from which Baylor is unable to recover from remains to be seen.
Sometimes a game like this can only be explained in one word: unexplainable.
After everything we discussed and digested following a sobering defeat at the hands of Oklahoma State, it seemed obvious what Baylor would need to do to beat the Ags. Limit turnovers and big plays and let our offensive playmakers take over.
What wasn't questioned then or ever was the ability of our special teams units. Aaron Jones is one of the best placekickers in the county, Derek Epperson is an elite punter, and our kick return teams have, for the most part, done everything their coaches have asked of them this season.
So after the Bears stormed out of the gates and got into the end zone four times, scoring 30 points in the games first 24 minutes, there was zero reason to foresee a second half meltdown that would result in A&M scoring the game's final 28 points.
But, that's exactly what happened Saturday night as A&M took advantage of an unforeseen myriad of Baylor special team blunders that cost the Bears control, momentum and ultimately the 107th Battle of the Brazos.
You can't tell me you saw any of that coming.
The offense can't be blamed for the loss, they produced eight drives that ended either in the endzone or deep into enemy territory.
I would argue that the defense played well enough to win. The sloppy tackling and big plays that doomed us in losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were nowhere limited.
For the Bears, the loss is just another sobering reminder that, while this season has been highlighted by tremendous growth, improvement in several key aspects of the game must continue.
And for a season that demanded such resolve and perseverance from this group, the notion that our last game comes against the vaunted Oklahoma Sooners almost seems comforting.
Senior night Saturday in Waco on ESPN2 again presents this squad with a tremendous opportunity to notch one last accolade to the 2010 season. There is no better time than now for the Bears to beat OU for the first time in school history.
As unpredictable as this season has been, I wouldn't rule out one last upset this weekend.
Thankfully, Baylor will be an underdog.
9:35 A.M., THURSDAY, NOV. 11, 2010
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I still remember where I was during my sophomore year at Baylor when our men's basketball schedule was released. We were coming off a modest season my freshmen year and thought we had a pair of pretty good athletes in the front court. Optimism, like usual, reigned supreme as our hoops team was handed the roll of making up for what had been a second consecutive abysmal football season.
That team was given one chance and one chance only that year to show the nation what we had as BU hosted Kansas on a legendary nationally televised Big Monday. The date is so infamous now that I can already pencil the ten year anniversary column that will land here next February 12.
Baylor, of course, capitalized on their one chance that one night they had on center stage. That victory over the Jayhawks is something anyone in attendance that night will remember the rest of their lives.
Fast forward ten years later and the visibility, notoriety and national perception of our entire athletic department has changed in ways even I still have a hard time coming to grips with.
Looking for Baylor hoops on national TV this year? The Bears play 23 times on TV this season and at least a dozen games will air on the ESPN family of networks. That's worth re-reading. Baylor plays all-but FIVE games on TV this year.
Not to be overlooked are the number two nationally-ranked women who are about to take on perennial powerhouses UConn and Tennessee (both nationally televised showdowns) this season before starting conference play.
(As always, CIL will slowly dip its feet into hoops season as we approach the holiday season.)
And then there's our beloved football program which will play more times on national TV this year then we have since the inception of the Big 12 Conference.
The light has never shined more bright on Baylor athletics than it does right now.
This week, the tip off of what should be two wildly fun hoops seasons at Baylor coincides with our annual clash with Texas A&M.
It should be a heck of a weekend in Waco.
The Bears and Ags meet for the 107th time, and for the first time since 1995 both teams have clinched bowl eligibility prior to the matchup. A&M has a restored sense of confidence fresh off consecutive victories over previous Aggie-beaters Texas Tech and OU. Baylor returns home for just its second home game in six weeks. Most fans will tell you that having already achieved seven wins makes this season a rousing success.
But those same fans will tell you there is no bigger game and no bigger satisfaction than beating our rivals from College Station.
In what will undoubtedly be the season's biggest crowd (to date), Baylor has a tremendous opportunity to notch another program-defining win in front of a national audience in primetime in what has already been a program-defining season.
With only two games left and a ton of bowl `scenarios' to still play for, the time is certainly now, for Baylor to take a page out of the 2001 men's basketball book and shine under the year's brightest lights.
We're Not Going to Take It
4:05 P.M., TUESDAY, NOV. 2, 2010
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Robert Griffin III took the final snap in victory formation Saturday night in Austin, quickly hit a knee and sent Baylor fans everyone into complete delirium.
The text messages started filtering in about six seconds later.
9:42: `Baylor just beat Texas.'
9:43: `In football.'
9:44: `In Austin.'
Truthfully, I still can't believe it.
Griffin was great when he needed to be, the defense played undoubtedly their best game of the year and coach Briles got his team to finish strong as the Bears upset UT 30-22.
The season that was promoted as Baylor's time to `Rise Up' just got its signature win. It's the victory Baylor fans had waited 13 years for. It's the game that clinched BU's first winning season since joining the Big 12.
And it's the most fitting way for this school to prove they belong in the same conference as those oh so mighty Longhorns.
Anyone else starting to think this team might be on the verge of a special season?
What Saturday night's box score won't show is how Baylor not only overcame the odds, but also a series of questionable calls and mistakes that surely would have buried Baylor teams in the past.
A Baylor fumble that should have been nullified by a tripping penalty wasn't called. A goal line fumble that surely looked like a safety or Baylor touchdown got, instead, called a UT touchback. Another fumble in the game's waning moments was overturned and gave the Horns one last shot to tie the game.
But it wasn't enough for Texas.
Perhaps this is a team of destiny, because it was Baylor, not Texas, making the plays when it counted most. It was Baylor, not Texas, missing key tackles and converting crucial third downs. It was Baylor, not Texas, with the better team at Darryl K Royal Stadium.
And it was Baylor, not Texas that walked off that field victorious for the first time in 19 years.
By winning their third straight conference game, BU is the hottest team in the conference. Sure they have three remaining games against teams that are all capable of providing a setback, just don't tell that to this Baylor team.
They don't know any better anyway.
This team was formed by a collection of players and coaches who were exposed to nothing but losing football when they committed to playing for Baylor. They took the challenge of working as a unit for a program that had suffered countless consecutive losing seasons, unspeakable performances against virtually every school in the Big 12 and winning back a fan base that had been alienated by unmet expectations.
It didn't simply take good football players to turn this thing around. It took a fearless and ambitious coach that could not be convinced he couldn't win here. It took a cast of dozens and dozens of student athletes that were willing to take the challenge of being the Baylor team that will be remembered for years to come.
When the clock hit triple zeros Saturday night, this moment was for them. They earned it and they deserved it.
The message has been sent to Texas and the rest of the Big 12 Conference: `We're not gonna take it anymore!'