6:17 P.M., THURSDAY, JANUARY 3, 2013
BY JUSTIN CANGE
Bowl games can be rather unpredictable, remember?
Baylor football out did itself one last time in 2012 with a performance so decisive, so unforgettable and so out-of-the ordinary that it will undoubtedly be remembered for years to come.
They did so by absolutely handing it to UCLA in the Holiday Bowl, winning 49-19 or 49-26 depending on if you took your contact lenses out (as the refs did) before the game's final play. Baylor completely took it to the 17th-ranked PAC 12 runners up in a game that was only as one-sided as BU's other biggest win of the season, the triumph over then top-ranked Kansas State.
By doing so, Baylor finished off an improbable 8-5 season with more than authority and momentum heading into 2013. The team was able to justly write the final chapter of yet another outstanding quarterback's record-breaking season and influential career in Waco.
Adding to the improbability was how the Bears accomplished such a feat.
Sure, senior signal caller Nick Florence put together a strong showing, but by throwing the ball only 13 times this once pass-happy Tecmo Bowl-like offense was completely reinvented with the help of two running backs who also shined in the Southern California sun that night.
Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin carried the bulk of the load in the BU backfield. The thunder and lightning tandem accounted for more than 230 yards on the ground and put the game away sometime before halftime.
The second half was nearly a formality thanks in large part to the Baylor defense having an other-worldly performance of its own. They were able to make us forget about last year's Alamo Bowl tennis match by registering eight sacks and more than a handful of three and outs.
When the Baylor defense wasn't pressuring UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, they were batting down passes in the secondary, allowing the Bruins to convert just once on 17 third down attempts and completely shutting down their opponent's sound ground attack. UCLA's stud tailback ran for only 34 yards, three less than Baylor's fleet-footed Florence.
There's no telling who felt more justified with the job they did with this team this season. Briles, who, for a brief moment made us forget about the RG3 era with the grooming of Florence or the oft-maligned defensive coordinator Phil Bennett whose defense got better each week and peaked at a bowl game in hostile territory.
Either way, Baylor has more than solidified its place within the Big 12. They deserve to be in the season's final AP poll once again and there's oh so much to be excited about as the program now enters its final season at Floyd Casey Stadium.
Baylor finished off its third straight winning season last Thursday. In 2010, the bowl game drought ended with a 28 point drubbing at the hands of Illinois. Last season, Baylor's Alamo Bowl victory high was somewhat short-lived when Robert Griffin announced he was forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL. This year? Well, the Bears proved that at this moment there probably are not more than a handful teams that could hang with this team in Waco or elsewhere.
Ain't nothing wrong with that!