WACO, Texas -- Baylor has never seen a season like this. The Bears have talked about it, they’ve envisioned it, but they didn’t truly know what a dream season looks like until Saturday night.
Here’s what it looks like: Players and coaches storming the field, fans descending into the fog and fun. The starting quarterback bawling. The defensive coordinator roaring. The tortilla chips flying in the locker room.
No. 9 Baylor finally pulled away in the second half to defeat Texas 30-10, finishing one of the final chapters of a remarkable 11-1 season, clinching a Big 12 championship and, thanks to an Oklahoma State loss in Bedlam, a trip to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
It was cold and wet and windy and difficult, and Baylor didn’t want it any other way.
“I think that’s a defining moment for our program,” Baylor coach Art Briles said, “and hopefully it’s one that we’ll be able to repeat multiple times.”
A slow start, in which this team gave Texas too many chances to pull ahead in the first half, didn’t doom Baylor. A game tied 3-3 at the half, no big deal. Bryce Petty came back out and led three third-quarter scoring drives, the first capped by a one-handed, 11-yard touchdown catch by Antwan Goodley on a third-and-9.
That was the game-changer, Petty said. Baylor needed just seven plays to find the end zone again on its next drive, and an Aaron Jones field goal with 2 minutes, 47 seconds left in the third made it 20-3. That’s all it really took to swing this game.
Baylor has won by far bigger margins this season. But 20 points, in front of the largest crowd in school history, and on the Bears' final game in this stadium, was more than plenty. The fun didn’t really begin, though, until Petty took a knee in the final minute.
The moment was better than anything he and his teammates could've envisioned, that’s for sure. For Petty, it was all so overwhelming.
“I just started crying uncontrollably,” he said through tears. “I don’t normally do that much.”
Ahmad Dixon and Demetri Goodson lapped Floyd Casey Stadium one final time. Players and coaches were mobbed by the Baylor Line student section. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett triumphantly bellowed: “What do you think about that?! Baylor!” And Briles honored the stadium’s finale by ceremonially turning off the lights one last time while the party raged on.
“It was like a dream,” Dixon said. “The dream became reality.”
Briles, the mastermind behind it all, enjoyed the finest night of his career but said he won’t do much celebrating. He’s a quiet celebrator. The locker-room frenzy was about all he needed.
He did find some time to reflect on what has been built. He’s not one to wax poetic, either, but there was plenty to be proud of on this night.
“It’s a great accomplishment. When I first came to Baylor, I didn’t look at it as a great opportunity,” Briles said. “I looked at it as a great place for accomplishment. To me, there’s a huge difference. You can find opportunity anywhere. It’s hard to find places where you can accomplish something. That’s what our players have done.”
He found it in a place that has never seen football this good. Those loyal fans who came to Floyd Casey Stadium every Saturday, year after year, loss after loss, had never seen a Baylor team win 11 games.
When Briles arrived in 2008, a night like this was always the distant vision. He promised his players and recruits nothing. But he always believed a night like this would eventually arrive.
“The problem with people, it’s not that they aim too high and miss,” Briles said. “It’s that they aim too low and they hit. That’s kind of the way that you have to think and feel.”
Baylor aimed high, and the stage is about to get loftier. A Fiesta Bowl berth, most likely opposite Central Florida. And then the Bears intend to start over and do this again, to devote everything to making sure 2014 ends with another night like this one.
“We’re here. We’re serious,” Goodley said. “We’re at the top now and we’re going to continue to stay there. I feel like we got the guys and the talent to do it.
“I always dreamed of going to Texas. I’m glad I went to Baylor. We’re taking over, man.”