It took a while for the Bears to get all the pieces to fall into place, but they pulled together in the second half to claim the 52-45 overtime victory over Texas Tech to become bowl eligible for a record three consecutive years.
The Baylor defense showed weakness early giving up three touchdowns to the Red Raiders offense during the first half – two rushing and one passing – putting the Bears at a disadvantage shortly into the game.
“[Texas Tech] is a team you can never blink an eye on or next thing you know, you’re down 14 points, or they’re making a big play on defense, or they’re having a big play on special teams…” Baylor head coach Art Briles said.
For the first half of the game, the Bears’ usually dominant offense, could not find its rhythm. It looked as if they would enter the locker room at a 14-point deficit, but in the last five seconds of the half, receiver Levi Norwood squeezed in a 39-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Nick Florence to send the team into the locker room down 21-14.
“We knew what we were doing and we were in position, we just had to make the plays,” safety Sam Holl said of the defense’s first half performance. “We went in at the half, and I don’t know if we really felt pressure because we knew we could come out the second half and play well.”
And that’s exactly what they did. The Bears shot out of the locker room with plenty of momentum, energy, and passion to carry them to a third-consecutive bowl game.
In the second half of the game, Baylor defense held Texas Tech to 219 offensive yards – a welcomed improvement from the 333 yards it gave up in the first half.
In addition, linebacker Eddie Lackey caught two interceptions, returning one for a 55-yard touchdown. The touchdown by Lackey gave the Bears their first lead of the night at 35-31, marking the turning point in the game for Baylor. Lackey made another interception late in the fourth quarter, giving him two interceptions in a night for the first time in his career.
“The thing about Eddie (Lackey) ...ever since he came on campus last spring we knew the guy was a light up guy,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “He’s going to light up your defense, he’s going to light up the people around him because he’s always pleasant and mature…He’s very coachable, Coach Gush has done a great job with him, and he paid off big time for us today in a huge, huge game.”
Lackey’s two interceptions came after safety Sam Holl’s interception in the first half to give the defense a total of three interceptions for the night. The Baylor defense now has at least one interception in five straight games, and Holl is now tied with cornerback Joe Williams for the most interceptions on the team.
With a combination of a high-paced offense – scoring five times in the second half to collect 31 points – and an effective defense, the Bears kept fighting in the second half to make the game a shootout.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game coming into this game,” receiver Lanear Sampson said. “We knew [Texas] Tech has a high-powered offense, and I think the offense just got kind of excited leading into the game and we just had to calm down and play our game. Once we calmed down and played our game, everything went well from there.”
With two seconds left on the clock, Baylor kicker Aaron Jones stepped up to the ball to kick the would-be game winning field goal. To the surprise of all Baylor fans, Jones missed the field goal and pushed the game into overtime.
“You have to stay positive,” Florence said. “That’s one thing we talk about everyday is think positive, and so yeah, we missed the field goal…we just had to keep rolling, we couldn’t think negatively, so our goal was to score and we did that.”
Overtime was no different than regulation as Briles continued to utilize the running game that has increased in strength and capability over the past three weeks. The Bears, with the first possession in overtime, scored a touchdown on a four-yard run by running back Glasco Martin.
Baylor running backs finished the game with 278 yards on 57 carries. Once again, Lache Seastrunk led the running backs in yards, recording 137, but Martin was used in the red zone to pound in two touchdowns for the Bears.
When Texas Tech got the ball, J. Williams came up with a huge play for the Bears, breaking up the pass from Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege to receiver Eric Ward to claim the Bears’ sixth win of the season and third year visit to a bowl game.
…” [Williams] has really stepped up here lately for us when we need him to and I feel like he’s done a really good job doing that, and that’s what we expect from him every time and I think he’s able to give that to us,” Holl said.
Baylor fought a tough game and showed resilience in the second half and overtime to win over Texas Tech. The Bears take on Oklahoma State next week before finding out their bowl position, but for now, they reflect on the season and the history that was made at Cowboys Stadium in front of 44,168 people tonight.
“It’s been a journey for all of us,” Florence said. “Coach Briles and his staff have done an outstanding job and we have players and we have a team that will fight. No one said we could do this. Looking a month ago, people were writing us off and this team fought hard. It means a lot…I’m proud of this team and I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else.” -- Savannah Pullin