Aug 31, 2013
Editor's Note: In each home game program this fall, legendary Texas sportswriter and Baylor treasure Dave Campbell will reminisce about his most-memorable games of the decade being honored at Floyd Casey Stadium, starting with the 2000s and culminating with the 1950s when the Bears' 64-year-old home den opened its doors as Baylor Stadium. We hope you will enjoy this trip down memory lane each week as we relive some Baylor's greatest wins at The Case.
By Dave Campbell
Times change, eras change. A wise man once told me we should not even try to compare eras, and he was right. What happened in the 1930s when I first started watching the Bears play at home (in 1937 at Waco's old Muny Stadium, before crowds that often fell well below 12,000), can hardly be compared to what we see today. The best Baylor home game I saw in the Decade of the 1930s was Billy Patterson's-superbly-engineered 6-0 victory over Davey O'Brien and the TCU Frogs, a victory that lifted the undefeated Bears to a No. 4 ranking in the Associated Press national poll. Baylor was upset by underdog Texas the next week, then by SMU and that was that (TCU was national champion the following season and O'Brien won the Heisman Trophy).
Baylor's most meaningful home "victory" in the 1940s was really a 7-7 tie with No. 1 ranked Texas (exuberant Baylor fans, remembering Texas' upset victory over the Bears in 1937, certainly considered it a victory), but the most spectacular home victory of that decade, in my opinion, was the 40-14 victory over TCU, a victory that lifted the undefeated Bears to a No. 6 ranking in the AP poll. All that led to a final season record of 8-2 and certainly it should have led to a berth in a major bowl. But, there weren't as many bowls in those days so the very good Baylor football team stayed home.
The point is, some decades provide us with a multitude of Baylor victories at home (now Floyd Casey Stadium, originally just Baylor Stadium) and some provide us with slim pickings.
This current decade is about to give us only its third season and already we have a multitude of games to consider -- five games as a matter of fact. Each of the five was meaningful, each was spectacular and each led the Bears to an important rendezvous with history. All of that is enough to ask the question: what hath Art Briles already wrought, and what lies ahead?
In my memory book, these are the five top games of this current decade and in the order in which they unfolded: Oct. 23, 2010, and a 47-42 victory over Kansas State that sent the Bears to their first bowl game (against Illinois in the Texas Bowl in Houston) in 16 seasons.
Then came three sensational victories in the Bears' home stadium in 2011: a season-opening 50-48 decision over No. 14 TCU before a crowd of 43,753; later a 45-38 triumph over No. 5 Oklahoma before 40,281; and a regular season-ending 48-24 victory over No. 22 Texas before 46,843. And if you want to be picky, that season's 42-39 triumph over Missouri before 40,194 was no run-of-the-mill affair.
But, of the three games that stand foremost in my memory, consider this:
The victory over TCU was Baylor's first over a ranked opponent since 2004 (TCU was ranked No. 14 at kickoff time), the Bears' first victory over TCU since the two ancient foes resumed their rivalry in football in 2006, the Bears had to stage a 60-yard drive culminated by a 37-yard field goal kicked by Aaron Jones with 64 seconds remaining to forge ahead to stay, and Mike Hicks had to intercept a pass in the final seconds to nail down the victory. Yes, and RG3 opened what turned out to be a Heisman Trophy-winning season by completing 21 of 27 passes for 359 yards and five touchdowns. And by the way, the crowd of 43,753 was the second-largest ever to see a Baylor home opener and the Bears had to score the most points they had ever scored in history against a ranked opponent. Thousands of wildly-excited Baylor fans rushed onto the playing field after the final whistle.
But Baylor fans leaving the stadium that night had probably put all of that out of mind after seeing the Baylor-Oklahoma pulse-pounder on Nov. 19. Personally, I would rank it right up there with Baylor's unforgettable and famine-breaking victory over Texas in 1974, not as important maybe (that 1974 victory became the springboard for Baylor's first Southwest Conference championship in 50 years), but certainly as unforgettable.
Right now I rank it No. 1 for Baylor's football victories at Floyd Casey Stadium for this decade.
First of all, it was Baylor's first-ever victory over Oklahoma in football, at home or away. It came against an Oklahoma team ranked No. 5 in the country at the time. And the way it unfolded, before a national television audience, it probably won the Heisman for Robert Griffin III, making him the first Baylor player ever to win that highly-coveted award.
It was a Baylor victory people will long talk about -- Griffin throwing for an at-the-time school-record 479 yards and four touchdowns, and one of them you had to see to believe, a bullet-pass that deflected off the primary receiver's helmet and into Kendall Wright's hands and Wright turned the deflection into an 87-yard touchdown pass. Even if you saw it you didn't believe it. And finally, after Griffin had scrambled for a 22-yard gain on Baylor's winning TD drive, and with only 8 seconds remaining, RG3 found Terrance Williams open in Oklahoma end zone for the touchdown that removed all doubt.
Baylor's 48-24 victory over Texas in the Bears' last game of the regular season was sort of anti-climactic, as if ANY victory over Texas could be anti-climactic. Griffin threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Wright on the second play of the game to give the Bears an early lead but Baylor was only ahead by three points at halftime. Texas kicked a field goal early in the third quarter to tie it but Baylor did all the scoring the rest of the way (TD runs by Terrance Ganaway and Griffin, a field goal by Jones and a 39-yard touchdown pass to Williams) to leave the Bears with their first 9-victory season since 1986. It quickly brought them an invitation to play Washington in the Alamo Bowl. (They won that one, too, 67-56).
The Bears' fifth victory that begs for best-of-the-decade consideration came last Nov. 17. Although Baylor was the underdog by gobs of points when the Bears took the field that night against the undefeated and No. 1-ranked Kansas State Wildcats, it really was no contest. The Bears won the game, 52-24, recording their first victory in history over a No. 1-ranked opponent (heretofore, their best had been a Sugar Bowl victory over No. 2-ranked Tennessee). Baylor's victory over Tennessee was a hard-fought affair. The Briles-coached Bears' trouncing of K-State was all wrapped up by the end of the third quarter. By then outstanding quarterback Nick Florence had run for a touchdown and thrown for one, Glasco Martin had run for three TDs and Lache Seastrunk had run 80 yards for another, Aaron Jones had kicked a 50-yard field goal and the fired-up Baylor defense had held Heisman candidate Collin Klein to 39 yards running and 286-yards overhead.
All those who were there (38,029) certainly had plenty to remember. And remember, for all practical purposes the decade has only just begun.
Honorable Mention: Prior to 2010, I would have narrowed my choices to these three as the best of the 2000s: the 2004 overtime victory (35-34) victory over Texas A&M, ending Baylor's long losing streak in that ancient rivalry; the last-gasp 36-35 victory over Kansas in 2006; and Robert Griffin's engineered 41-21 victory over A&M in 2009 (it really wasn't that close; the Bears led, 41-7, at the end of the third quarter).