In Baylor’s last regular season game of the year, the seniors gave themselves a nice going away present with a 45-34 win over the No. 23 Oklahoma State Cowboys.
“We owe it to them (the seniors),” safety Mike Hicks said. “We’ve been through thick and thin and we’ve made history this past year with three straight bowls. It’s been fun.”
After starting the season with three non-conference wins, the Bears hit a huge drought in the middle of the season. They did not claim their first conference victory until the Homecoming game win over Kansas in week 9.
“We are in the now business,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said about the lackluster in the middle of the season. “What was doesn’t matter anymore. We are in the business of the now and what’s happening right now is that Baylor has a really good brand nationally, and we have a very good image as a university…”
Ironically, this season carried a similar momentum as last season – a quick start, rocky middle, and strong finish – and after a win at the Alamo Bowl last year, the Bears are hoping to use that same end-of-season energy to carry them to a bowl win again this year.
“Anytime we can get a win there is momentum for us,” Hicks said. “Winning the last four out of five has been really good and gives us the momentum we need going into the bowl season.”
With the bowl season approaching, the improvement of the defense gives fans more to hope for; especially when it comes to linebacker Eddie Lackey, who accounted for two interceptions against Texas Tech last week, and grabbed another tonight.
“It was a tough play,” Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf said about the interception. “Their linebacker (Lackey) made a good play. I underthrew it a did not get it out far enough in front of Josh [Stewart], and that is what is going to happen when you make bad throws.”
After picking the ball off at the Oklahoma State 26-yard line, Lackey ran the ball back for a touchdown to give the Bears their first touchdown of the day and put them up 10-3.
“[Oklahoma State] can put up a lot of points on you if you sit back and let them,” Baylor nickelback Ahmad Dixon said. “But to hold them to 34 points was outstanding, and the way our defense has been playing since the Kansas game, and with the play of Eddie Lackey, it makes the rest of it easy on the defense.”
The defense finished against Oklahoma State with two interceptions of Chelf, with the second coming from Mike Hicks.
In addition to the defense, the Baylor running game has shown vast improvement throughout the season. Although Briles is known for running a pass heavy offense, his top rushers, Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, rushed for a combined 230 yards and a touchdown each today. Quarterback Nick Florence also contributed 71 yards and a touchdown to the rushing game.
In the fourth quarter, after Oklahoma State had crept back to within a touchdown of the Bears, Seastrunk had what was definitely one of the strongest runs by a Bear all season.
Seastrunk broke free up the middle from the Baylor 24-yard line. After outrunning three Cowboys defenders, it seemed like an easy run to the end zone for Seastrunk. However, on the 50-yard line a cramp hit Seastrunk. He stumbled down the other half of the field, still outpacing the Oklahoma State defense, and fell into the end zone after recording a 76-yard touchdown. He limped off the field after remaining on the ground for a few minutes.
“We really needed it,” receiver Tevin Reese said about the run. “It was a great play…When he pulled up, by the way he ran, it looked like he pulled a muscle. I started running faster after him to see if I could get him into the end zone. Then he started running again and I thought ‘This is ridiculous.’ That guy is something else. It was an inspiring play.”
The Bears recorded 615 total offensive yards – 296 from passing and 319 from rushing. Reese led the Bears in receiving with 108 yards, including his 75-yard touchdown catch from Florence.
Baylor and its seniors, who beat the Cowboys for the first time since 2005, have a lot to celebrate tonight – leaving the season with a win, continuing the success of last year, and clenching a third straight bowl berth.
“Yeah, we wish things had been going this way at the beginning of the year, but you can’t change the past,” Dixon said. “Honestly, I am grateful that things turned out the way [they] have.” We have built a strong bond amongst each other as a whole team. There were times when guys were down, but now guys just focus on wanting to be better. I wouldn’t trade this season for the world.” -- Savannah Pullin