11:37 A.M., WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2012
BY JUSTIN CANGE
For Baylor fans, Saturday was another reminder why we dig being a part of the Big 12 family, having a seat at the big boy table on Thanksgiving and getting together with our friends from other Texas schools in an annual holiday weekend grudge match.
Beating Texas Tech is the best kind of desert any season.
Wasn't Saturday's game a blast? BU and Tech may have aided to your post-Thanksgiving indigestion and heart burn, but also put on a heck of a show. The teams again rolled out an offensive spectacle at Jerry World in Arlington. The Bears and Red Raiders traded leads four times in the fourth quarter and Aaron Jones' missed 48 yard field goal as time expired meant the Art Briles bowl would head to a never-before-reached climax, overtime.
When Joe Williams helped swat away a fourth down pass from Tech's Seth Doege, a wild celebration that included our program's prodigal son ensued on the Cowboys Stadium turf as the Bears had defeated the Red Raiders 52-45, their second consecutive victory over their rivals from Lubbock.
The win was also Baylor's sixth of the season, meaning BU had become bowl eligible for a third straight season, a program first.
Once again, it should be noted: Baylor football has answered the call since the first dominoes of realignment began falling nearly three years ago. What started in the summer of 2010 with Colorado and Nebraska leaving the conference altered the entire college sports landscape. The Big 12 was nearly left for dead with threats of Texas and Oklahoma soon jumping ship, the conference was saved on the 11th hour, then lost two more members the following season and now, amazingly with just 10 teams appears more sound than ever with a noticeably improved TV deal this season. The Big 12 Conference affords the university unprecedented national television exposure, funding for cross-curricular scholarships and the ability to keep up in the arms race across all avenues of collegiate athletics.
What is also affords is a weekend like this previous one where Baylor and Texas Tech fans were able to assemble in a neutral cite (albeit America's largest stadium) and see their teams in a big stage shootout with bowl implications. We should all be thankful.
Thanks to linebacker Eddie Lackey for forcing a fumble and intercepting two second half passes, thanks to Nick Florence for a mistake-free game coupled with nearly 400 yards of passing to boot, thanks to Glasco Martin for scoring the game's final touchdown and thanks for Art Briles for not leaving Baylor for Texas Tech and for leading the Bears to a third straight season to be remembered.
ROCK THIS TOWN
10:40 A.M., TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2012
BY JUSTIN CANGE
Apparently lightning can strike twice in Waco.
On the very same weekend as last season's Heisman-catalyzing victory against fifth-ranked Oklahoma, Baylor football did one better last Saturday by absolutely pummeling the nation's top-ranked team 52-24.
All BCS ramifications aside, it's pretty clear to me that the Bears' win proves the magic of RG3's senior season isn't necessarily an isolated incident. Baylor football has their guy in Art Briles and BU is likely going to be as talented as any team in the conference as the program begins the transition to its new stadium.
Added to that, with Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin running the ball as effectively as they have the last three weeks, we're not likely to see the Bears on the short-end of the stick anymore this season.
But, for now, let's get back to Saturday.
I hate to even reflect on this, but it wasn't long ago that even the biggest optimist would gulp when Baylor would play at home on national TV. Anxieties about the crowd showing up, those that would attend even giving us a distinctive home field advantage and our team not embarrassing its fans with another blowout resonated season after season.
After all, it's natural to be scarred after so many disappointing and, let's be honest, horrifying football seasons. Some of us are still adjusting to the fact that while we may not win every week, we will absolutely have a legitimate chance to win.
I told myself this of course on Saturday morning, as many of you likely did. We had proven to be decent against the run, we had played well in each of the two previous weeks, (I still contend that we may have beaten OU had we not played in a wind tunnel in Norman) and most importantly, Baylor had shown us that they are a very dangerous team at home.
In other words, who cares that Kansas State was number one?
The culture has changed in Waco, that's what a season like last year provides. The fans show up, they are loud, they believe. As for the players, well, they made it pretty clear that they were not going to be pushed around.
In fact, just the opposite occurred. The Bears punched K State in the mouth, were relentless on both sides of the ball and established the run so decisively that when their lead ballooned to 28 points, they were able to run out the clock. A shocking upset that rocked Waco, South Bend and Tuscaloosa and altered the national championship picture was made even more unbelievable by being anticlimactic.
Baylor is now 5-5. They could win twice more, avenge another loss from last season by upending Oklahoma State in two weeks and achieve a third straight winning season and head to a bowl game with a ton of momentum.
The cliché that the next game is always the biggest rings true for Baylor this week. Not only can BU clinch bowl eligibility for a third straight season, but they can, for all intent, stay `ahead' of Texas Tech in the state's arm race.
If last Saturday's performance was any indication, Baylor fans are in for a delightful thanksgiving feast this weekend in Dallas.
IF THIS IS IT
4:12 P.M., WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2012
BY JUSTIN CANGE
Cuttin' in Line returns this week after an inexplicable, unforeseeable and regrettable absence through the better part of last month. Just as the Bears found their winning ways last weekend, I intend to do the same.
The Bears are fresh off a third straight Homecoming win as Baylor throttled Kansas last Saturday, winning 41-14. BU held the Jayhawks without a point in the second half; a miracle by any stretch of the imagination, and Nick Florence threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns.
The Baylor running game may have stolen the show as, amazingly, the Bears were just three feet shy of amassing 300 yards on the ground (in addition to the 300-plus yards that Florence accounted for through the air.)
All in all, it was just another ho-hum near-700 yards of total offense day for Baylor, right?
Not necessarily, I would argue.
Baylor's ability to show some real offensive balance (49 rush attempts, 42 pass attempts) along with, of course, winning the turnover battle, seems paramount to its needs as BU enters the final month of the season. By the way, Baylor had not won the turnover battle since its last win against UL-Monroe. Since that Friday night ping-pong match in Louisiana, Baylor had lost the turnover battle 13-2 in four straight conference losses.
So while it's important to note that, yes, Baylor beat the conference doormat in Kansas, the Bears may have found a new ingredient to victory (a balanced attack) while simultaneously being reminded the importance of simply holding on to the ball.
If Baylor is able to continue to do these two things consistently in its final four games, the Bears' best football is ahead of them, undoubtedly.
For now, however, we move our attention to the hardwood!
The love affair with Baylor basketball will officially be rekindled Friday night as the Bears open their season against Lehigh, a team many of us last saw shocking the basketball universe by ending Duke's season in the big dance.
The balance of power within the program shifts from front to back court this year as gone are two forwards to the NBA, but standouts Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip remain as key shooting guards this year. Decorated senior AJ Walton adds even more stability and experience to a strong core.
New to the fold this year is perhaps the biggest talent land in all of Scott Drew's 10-year tenure, led by five-star freshman sensation Isaiah Austin, who was basically proclaimed starting center upon arrival in Waco. Steadily improving junior Corey Jefferson will likely see another huge increase in playing time in his fourth year with the program.
Much like we've grown accustomed to during the past several years, there will be no shortage of talent on the floor at any given time this year. In fact, Baylor is likely to have three four-star players all battling for a starting role if the current depth chart holds.
If playing a scheduled 30-plus times on national TV didn't serve as notice, Baylor basketball is big time. The Bears will once again be one of America's most visible teams right from the opening whistle as the team plays its most challenging non-conference schedule in program history.
There's a time to be excited about the opportunities that lie ahead on both the gridiron and the hardwood for Baylor, and this is it.