Baylor Bears Keep Rolling With Come-From-Behind Win Over Texas
Finally Saturday, the proof beyond a doubt was provided when 25th-ranked Baylor rallied from nine points down in the third quarter to stun the Texas Longhorns, 30-22, in their own Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Baylor is no longer the doormat of the Big 12 South.
In fact, the Bears (7-2, 4-1 Big 12) are enjoying the view from the top after coming into Memorial Stadium on Saturday and beating Texas (4-4, 2-3) for the first time since 1997 and for the first time in Austin since 1991. As unbelievable as it is to imagine, the Bears are three wins away from claiming their first Big 12 South title, although that will be a huge challenge with a tough game at Oklahoma State next week followed by back-to-back home games against Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
A program that had never won four games in a Big 12 season is now part of the conversation.
"Times have changed," said Baylor sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin (pictured above), who finished the day with 219 yards passing and two touchdown passes third-and-long. "There has been that big bear that Baylor never beats this team or Baylor never beats that team. That bear is gone. We beat Texas and we can beat Oklahoma State and that's all that matters right now because that's the next team we've got on our slate."
In the past Baylor didn't play meaningful games this late in the season. But last week Bears became bowl-eligible for the first time in 15 years by defeating Kansas State to get to six wins. Now they've won three in a row and five of their last six games. Suddenly people outside of the Bears' locker room see their chance to win the South as a reality.
"I think maybe it seems more realistic to the media," Griffin said. "I think the guys in the locker room and myself, we have always felt the sky is the limit. Once you get on a roll and you are playing at a high level with a lot of momentum the sky is the limit for this team."
For a long while Saturday, it seemed that the Bears had hit their glass ceiling as a mediocre Texas team still seemed better than them on a bad day. The Longhorns held a 19-10 advantage over Baylor early in the third quarter when the Bears strung together a few big plays -- as good teams are known to do -- to completely turn the tide.
There was the 69-yard touchdown run by running back Jay Finley that came on the opening play. A couple plays later, free safety Tim Atchison blew up UT tight end Greg Smith on a pass play to allow linebacker Antonio Johnson to come up with a huge interception on the play.
That set up Griffin's one-yard touchdown plunge that swung a nine-point deficit into a 23-19 lead with 14:49 remaining in the game. Griffin added a 30-yard pass to Kendall Wright on the next offensive possession to all but seal it.
But even still, the Bears had to show a lot of resolve as it appeared on occasion that the victory they had worked to achieve just might be taken away from them.
There was the bizarre muffed punt by UT returnman Curtis Brown early in the first quarter where he appeared to turn the ball over at the Longhorns 1. But instant replay not only overturned the ruling on the field but said it was indeed a touchback, thus giving Texas the ball on its own 20 instead.
Then in the final minutes of the game, Brown again mishandled a punt deep in the Longhorns territory and it appeared Baylor would be able to ice the game from the 8. But instant replay showed the ball was actually recovered at the 8, giving Texas the ball and one last chance for a comeback.
Maybe appropriately, the game ended on that drive when UT receiver Marquise Goodwin fumbled away the ball after a crisp pass from Garrett Gilbert, giving the Bears the ball back with 2:01 to effectively end the game.
But it's moments like those where Baylor never seems to get a break that has given the Bears almost a chip on their shoulders as they go through what is proving to be one special season.
"We've been the underdogs for a long time in the Big 12 so we are always fighting that uphill battle," said safety Byron Landor, who finished the game with 15 tackles and two pass breakups. "We are always picked to lose and teams don't expect us to come out and fight and try to win. Our goal this summer was to turn this program around and that's what we are going to do, we are going to fight every game."