A new era in Baylor Football has begun. For the first time since the inception of the Big 12, Baylor is bowl eligible. For the first time since the Clinton administration, Baylor football is ranked in the top 25. For the first time in this millennium, we may be on the verge of a very special season.
Baylor football has survived.
And while a tremendous amount of credit goes to this year's team and staff for achieving that elusive sixth win, we must all take a few moments this week to congratulate ourselves for staying with this program, continuing to believe, continuing to hope, to read message boards, to follow recruits and to defend this program's capabilities when fans virtually everywhere else wrote us off.
For anyone who's ever heard that Baylor doesn't belong in the Big 12, this one's for you.
For anyone that had to witness any of the countless beatings this program endured over the better part of a decade, this one's for you.
For anyone that ever said to themselves, `I would give anything just to make ANY bowl game,' this one's for you.
You can put your money where your mouth is in December.
It truly was a historic and memorable win Saturday for Baylor. A 47-42 highlight reel victory over Kansas State on homecoming that those who attended will never forget. Baylor's offense appears to be reaching Tecmo Bowl status and our defense again showed it can bend but make the plays when necessary.
How fitting was it for Robert Griffin III to take the final snap as students and alumni rushed the field and collectively lifted that giant monkey off everyone's backs?
Griffin now holds the keys to arguably America's best offense. We've said it before; with Griffin, Finley, Gordon and Wright clicking, nobody in college football can keep us out of out the end zone. Heck, Kansas State barely kept us under 700 total yards.
Chatter will continue to mount this week as Baylor now faces an unranked Texas team and prepares for a month-long stretch of games against Big 12 south rivals. The optimists will say we can win each game, the pessimists will say we'll be lucky to win once more. The rest of us should smile and enjoy the ride.
I'll never forget where I was when Baylor was revealed as the 64th team announced in the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. By making the dance, it meant Baylor basketball had survived. It meant a good connotation would finally carry our program's name. It cemented the notion that the program was finally moving in the right direction.
Saturday felt very similar. This football team has resurrected our hope, refreshed our resolve and given us reason to believe that this is, indeed, a new era.
Still unsure about Saturday's significance?
Go ask Coach Drew what that initial tourney appearance did for his program.
Home is where the Bears return Saturday. Waiting for them will be the student body who hasn't seen them in action in three weeks, the year's biggest gathering of alumni ready to celebrate the nation's largest homecoming spectacle and a fan base that can now smell the school's first bowl berth in 16 years.
It could be one heck of a party back home this weekend.
Thanks to a thrilling, nail-biting and exhausting-to-watch come-from-behind win this past weekend in Boulder, Baylor now finds itself 5-2 with a handful of chances to get that elusive sixth win that would qualify them as bowl eligible.
Should the Bears qualify for what amounts to college football's `postseason,' they'll surely look back on Saturday night as one of the season's defining wins.
For the first time in the Art Briles era, Baylor won a game after trailing at halftime. Aaron Jones banged home a field goal that nearly landed in Denver as time expired in the first half that cut the lead to five and with the Bears getting the ball first to start the second half, Baylor fans had plenty of reason to be optimistic.
For, despite only netting 10 points in the first half, this Baylor team again showed offensive fire power. It also reminded us that Baylor is perhaps Baylor's worst enemy. Penalties, dropped balls and turnovers negated one touchdown, slowed multiple scoring drives and kept CU in the game till the very last snap.
That last snap, taken at the Baylor 19 yard line provided one of the more gut-wrenching watching-from-home moments I've ever witnessed.
Baylor's Chance Casey was able to knock away the Buffs final effort in the end zone as time expired. Baylor had knocked off Colorado in what will be the two school's final meeting for many many years.
It was an emotional win for this team and this school. Coming off a heart-breaking loss against Texas Tech, the Bears reminded us that they are capable of overcoming a not-so-perfect performance on the road and having just enough to win in the end.
Had BU not turned the ball over three times and committed a series of damaging penalties, perhaps Saturday's win wouldn't have been so excruciating. Then again, perhaps it wouldn't have been so sweet.
This team is starting to figure out what it's capable of becoming this year. Our offense looks nearly unstoppable at times, our defense, particularly our tackling, improved immensely this week. The team won in a hostile environment and is now battle-tested as the season's final stretch nears.
With a ranked Kansas State team set to arrive in Waco, the stage is set for not only a season and program-defining moment.
The Baylor football program is moving in the right direction. Art Briles has supplied the team with a bevy of talent that has helped engineer an explosive offensive, an opportunistic defense and exceptional special teams.
Saturday was another reminder that we're simply just not there yet.
`There,' for now, being where Texas Tech is.
The Red Raiders were just enough better than Baylor in key stretches, just a bit better at exposing the opponent's weaknesses and just a bit better at some fundamentals.
The end result was a 45-38 Baylor loss on Saturday at the Cotton Bowl in one of the best-played and most entertaining games in the series' history.
It was, however, a loss and that's all that matters for where this team is now.
Truth be told, Briles likely inherited a program two years ago that would be satisfied or perhaps even proud about the team's performance on Saturday. Coaching for a team that hasn't beaten their in-state rivals in quite some time, makes that sentiment only seem natural.
But Briles had been oh-so-close to knocking off his Alma Mater as BU's coach in each of his first two seasons that a win over Tech last week just seemed inevitable.
The difference between the previous two series meetings and Saturday was clear, however. Tech had to play great to beat Baylor. Unfortunately, they did.
Sure, Baylor was afforded a few breaks by dropped passes, a sleepy defense on a fourth down fake punt and one of the most outrageous onside kicks you or I have ever seen, but Tech deserves a ton of credit.
The Red Raiders stuck with what worked, managed the game and their lead just well enough and finally caught a massive break of their own when BU's Kendall Wright couldn't come down with what would have been the tying score late in fourth quarter.
The Bears now move to week seven still needing two more wins to truly make this a successful season.
Waiting in the wings is Colorado.
As motivated and anxious as the Bears were to square off against Tech last week, this week's matchup with the Buffs could be bigger for Baylor.
It's the schools final meeting as Big 12 counterparts. CU will leave the conference at season's end for the Pac 10, a slot that the two schools had some (ahem) disagreements about who would be getting that invitation.
Looming larger for the Bears is the clear and present danger that they can no longer afford to lose games like the one they dropped last week.
We've seen this team respond well after getting slugged in the mouth in Fort Worth, now it's time to see how they respond to a different kind of adversity. A winnable game got away last weekend in Dallas.
Baylor began conference play Saturday with authority and put on a sixty minute sales pitch to the program's fan base while giving other Big 12 coaches reason for acid reflux.
In front of a national TV audience, Baylor produced a record-breaking performance, dominated both sides of the ball and came away with the school's largest margin of victory in a conference game since prior to the invention of the toaster.
We'll be talking about this one for years to come.
In their fifth game of the season, BU has already notched as many wins as the team totaled last year. It was the fourth time the defense has yielded one touchdown or less this season and quarterback Robert Griffin III threw for a career high 380 yards.
Not bad for a team whose last meeting against the Jayhawks resulted in a 58-10 pummeling...in defeat.
Make no mistake, this Bears team is massively talented at many skill positions (Kendall Wright's creativity shines after the catch). They're as fast as any team in the conference, they have play makers that can strike in any down and distance (as evidence by Josh Gordon's 94 yard dash to the endzone). Added to that is a defense that has proven opportunistic, capable of tightening on third down and, as shown repeatedly on Saturday, can hit with the best of `em.
It all came together on Saturday as BU looked as good as any Baylor team you or I have ever seen.
The Bears picked a great team to finally play to their potential. Yes, the win can set the tone for conference play and should restore confidence in the team and energy amongst the fans that was lost in Fort Worth two weeks ago.
However, given the fact the Bears next opponent is Texas Tech, I'd say the momentum Baylor will carry into the Cotton Bowl on Saturday is immeasurable.
In his first two years as Baylor's head coach, Art Briles has come dangerously close to two monumental upsets of the Red Raiders. Baylor hasn't beaten Tech in quite some time, we can't help but feel that the pieces are starting to fall in place.
It's time for Baylor to stop reading the news stories gushing over this team's performance over Kansas. It's time for them to stop believing the hype that this team is destined to win again and again this year.
It's time for Baylor to focus on one thing and one thing only:
Beating Texas Tech.
It just so happens the very team that this program appears ready to leapfrog next is the one standing directly in front of us now.