NCF Nation: Bryce Petty

How the Baylor Bears were built

February, 16, 2015
Feb 16
11:00
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The Baylor Bears are amidst one of the great program turnarounds in college football history. After two decades of complete futility, the Bears were on the cusp of qualifying for the inaugural College Football Playoff last season. They joined Oklahoma as the only other program to capture back-to-back Big 12 titles. And with 17 starters returning, they'll be gunning for a third in 2015.

How have they done it?

Here's a look at how exactly Baylor became a powerhouse (also, coming Tuesday -- how TCU turned into a powerhouse):

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
AP Photo/Eric GayHow did Baylor emerge as one of the country's top football programs? Look no further than Art Briles.
1. Tapping Art Briles as coach

It seems crazy now, but Briles wasn't the automatic choice after Guy Morriss was fired in 2007. Many boosters clamored for athletic director Ian McCaw to hire former Baylor great Mike Singletary, who was coaching linebackers for the 49ers at the time.

McCaw, however, was intrigued with the revival jobs Briles had produced at Stephenville High School and at Houston. Briles also knew his way around Texas high school football like no one McCaw had ever met.

McCaw had the foresight to recognize that Briles' offensive ingenuity and recruiting connections would make him the perfect fit in Waco.

2. Signing RG III

By snagging Briles, Baylor also snagged Robert Griffin III, who had been committed to Briles at Houston. Coming out of high school, Griffin was viewed as a track star who could also play a little bit of football. But he became the transformational quarterback for Baylor in the same way Johnny Manziel more recently was for Texas A&M.

With RG III behind center, the Bears went from conference doormat to bowl qualifier.

As Briles has noted, RG III's success, both in college and initially in the NFL also gave Baylor "instant name recognition" with recruits who previously wouldn't have given the Bears a second thought.

The hiring of Briles and signing of RG III were the first two building blocks in Baylor's resurrection.

3. Surviving realignment

Conference realignment, however, nearly derailed Baylor's resurgence before it began. Had Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State bolted for the Pac-10, Baylor would have been left to find a new league, which would have severely damaged the football program.

Texas politics saved the Big 12 during the first round of realignment. During the second wave, Baylor reportedly threatened legal action as Texas A&M mulled its move to the SEC. Many called Baylor petulant at the time. But its proactive stance helped cultivate a sense of Big 12 unity among the remaining committed members, which ultimately helped preserve the league. And in turn, Baylor's standing in a major conference.

4. Building McLane Stadium

On the heels of RG III's magical Heisman-winning season in 2011, Baylor didn't rest on its laurels. Instead, it was able to capitalize on the momentum and secure funding for a new $264 million stadium.

The "Jewel on the Brazos" has given Baylor a home-field advantage and season-ticket base it never enjoyed at Floyd Casey. And, it has elevated Baylor to another level in the eyes of would-be recruits.

5. Nailing WR evaluations

In just the past five years, Baylor has been able to lay claim as Wide Receiver U., thanks to successful evaluations on receiving prospects, both high profile and under the radar. Future All-American Kendall Wright was part of Briles' first recruiting class, and was one of the high profile prospects. But in the same class, Baylor also landed two-star Terrance Williams, who would finish with 1,800 receiving yards in 2012. The following year, Baylor found another lightly recruited receiver in Tevin Reese, who also developed into a 1,000-yard wideout. Those early triumphs set the foundation and turned Baylor into an attractive destination for blue-chip receivers such as Corey Coleman and KD Cannon.

6. Finding other hidden gems

Baylor has made hay unearthing other diamonds in the rough that would become all-conference performers. Linebacker Eddie Lackey's only other offers out of junior college were from Hawaii and New Mexico State. Fellow linebacker Bryce Hager was down to Baylor and Air Force. Running back Shock Linwood's full offer list was Arkansas State, North Texas, UTSA and TCU. Linebacker Taylor Young's only other visit was to Louisiana Monroe. All four have become home run signings. Lackey received votes for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2013; Hager was a three-time second-team All-Big 12 selection. And this past season, Linwood was All-Big 12, while Young was the AP's Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year.

7. Hiring defensive coordinator Phil Bennett

After the 2010 season, the Bears added Bennett, who brought credibility to the other side of the ball. Bennett's tent of forcing turnovers and three-and-outs have been a perfect mesh with Briles' high-octane offenses. The last two years, Bennett's units have also ranked in the top four of the Big 12 in total defense, transforming Baylor from a program with merely an exciting offense to one capable of competing for conference titles.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThanks to QB Bryce Petty and his 29 touchdowns in 2014, the Bears finished 11-2 and 8-1 in the Big 12.
8. Bringing Lache Seastrunk back home

When the former ESPN 300 Temple, Texas, running back washed out at Oregon following a controversial recruitment, Baylor was able to funnel him to Waco. Seastrunk fueled Baylor's torrid finish in 2012, which set the stage for the Bears' Big 12 title run the following year during which he led the conference in rushing.

9. Jazzing up the uniforms

A big part of Baylor's emergence has been the establishment of an identity. That cutting edge persona has been enhanced with its brazen uniform combinations. Uniforms haven't won games. But they have contributed to Baylor's distinctiveness as the modern alternative for recruits to traditional powers like Texas and Oklahoma.

10. Developing quarterbacks

RG III has been gone from Baylor four years now. But the Bears have still maintained a level of quarterbacking excellence. Nick Florence led the league in passing in 2012, and Bryce Petty led it in 2013 and 2014. Both Florence and Petty had years in the system before becoming full-time starters, which allowed for such seamless transitions. Like them, the next heir apparent, Seth Russell, will be entering his fourth year on campus.
This week, we’ve been counting down the Big 12's top 25 players of 2014.

Our countdown concludes below with Nos. 1-5:

1. Trevone Boykin, TCU (preseason rank: NR): Boykin put together one of the most stunning one-year turnarounds in Big 12 history. After finishing 2013 as a wide receiver, Boykin transformed himself into one of the top quarterbacks in the country in 2014. He threw for more than 3,900 yards and totaled 41 touchdowns while leading TCU to a 12-1 record. Boykin also finished fourth in the Heisman voting and figures to enter 2015 on the short list of Heisman favorites, especially with nine other offensive starters back for the Horned Frogs.

2. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State (2): Lockett was absolutely tremendous in his final season in a K-State uniform. He topped the Big 12 with 1,515 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns while also leading the country in punt returns. Lockett finished with a flurry too, as he racked up 57 receptions and seven touchdowns in K-State’s final five games to pass his father, Kevin, as K-State’s all-time leading receiver.

3. Bryce Petty, Baylor (1): A back injury in the opener prevented Petty from becoming a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy. But even though his numbers were slightly down from his junior season, Petty was still lethal in his second year operating the Baylor offense. He finished sixth in the country with 321 passing yards per game to go with 29 touchdown passes. Petty was especially magical in Baylor’s stunning, come-from-behind win over TCU, in which he threw 510 yards and six touchdowns to erase TCU’s 21-point fourth-quarter lead. Petty finished his Baylor career by setting a Cotton Bowl Classic record with a career-high 550 yards passing against Michigan State.

4. Malcom Brown, Texas (15): Brown was the tone-setter for Texas’ stout defense and one of the most dominant interior defensive linemen in the country. With 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss, Brown became the first defensive tackle to lead the Longhorns in both categories since Lombardi Award winner Tony Degrate in 1984. As a result, Brown was a consensus first-team All-American and finalist for the Outland (best interior lineman) and Nagurski (top defensive player) awards. Brown, who is married with children, is leaving Texas early for the NFL draft, where Mel Kiper Jr. projects Insiderhim to be a first-round pick.

5. Paul Dawson, TCU (NR): Dawson, who was a former high school receiver, spearheaded the TCU defense with a speculator senior season. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year teamed with Marcus Mallet to give the Horned Frogs the best linebacker tandem in the Big 12 and one of the finest in the country. Dawson led the conference with 136 tackles and tied for third in the league with four interceptions. One of those picks resulted in a game-winning touchdown return in the fourth quarter of TCU’s 37-33 win over Oklahoma. All year, Dawson was the heart and soul of a Horned Frogs unit that led the Big 12 in both total defense and scoring defense.

Big 12 all-bowl team

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
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Below, we recognize the best individual performances of the 2014-15 bowl season with our Big 12 all-bowl team:

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
AP Photo/LM OteroBryce Petty had a huge game in his college finale.
QB: Bryce Petty, Baylor. Petty didn’t go out with a win, but he did go out with a monster performance, as he threw for a Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic-record 550 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for another score.

RB: Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State. Roland ran for more than 100 yards for the first time all season and finished with 123 yards on 32 carries in Oklahoma State’s TicketCity Cactus Bowl win.

RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. Perine was about the Sooners’ only positive in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Playing on a bum ankle, he ran for 134 yards to finish his true freshman season with a Big 12-best 1,713 rushing yards.

WR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State. Lockett fueled a furious second-half comeback in the Valero Alamo Bowl with 164 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The rally came up short, but Lockett was fabulous in his final game at K-State.

WR: Kevin White, West Virginia. White was unstoppable yet again in his last college game. He finished with 129 yards receiving and a touchdown in West Virginia’s loss to Texas A&M in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

WR: K.D. Cannon, Baylor. By hauling in eight caches for 197 yards and two touchdowns, Cannon became just the seventh receiver and first underclassman in Baylor history to finish with more than 1,000 yards receiving.

AP: Aaron Green, TCU. Green ignited a 42-3 onslaught of Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl by hauling in a 31-yard pass on a trick play for TCU's first touchdown. He scored the Horned Frogs’ second touchdown too and finished with 114 yards rushing and receiving.

OT: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU: With “Big V” locking up one of the edges, the Horned Frogs dominated the line of scrimmage and finished with 177 yards on the ground.

OG: LaQuan McGowan, Baylor. The 400-pound backup guard delivered one of the most unforgettable plays of the bowl season, when he lined up as an eligible receiver then snagged an 18-yard touchdown pass to give Baylor a 20-point lead.

C: B.J. Finney, Kansas State. With K-State struggling to protect quarterback Jake Waters through the first half, Finney swung from center to right tackle after halftime. The Wildcats had no trouble moving the ball the rest of the way.

OG: Brady Foltz, TCU: Foltz had one of the best games of his TCU career as the Horned Frogs rolled up 423 total yards against Ole Miss’ talented defense.

OT: Zach Crabtree, Oklahoma State. Crabtree’s return to the lineup late in the year helped stabilize the line. With Crabtree, the Cowboys controlled a Washington front seven that featured three All-Americans.

DEFENSE

DE: Ryan Mueller, Kansas State. Mueller finished with seven tackles and produced a huge forced fumble of the Bruins in the third quarter that sparked K-State’s rally.

DT: James Castleman, Oklahoma State. Castleman’s biggest contributions actually came on offense. In Oklahoma State’s heavy set, Castleman rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, then late in the game hauled in a 48-yard yard reception off play-action that helped propel the Cowboys to victory.

DT: Malcom Brown, Texas. Brown did what he could in a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl by leading Texas with eight tackles, a tackle for loss and a pair of QB hurries.

DE: James McFarland, TCU. McFarland essentially ended the game when he came up with an acrobatic, diving interception of Bo Wallace in the Ole Miss end zone that put the Frogs ahead 28-0 just before halftime.

LB: K.J. Dillon, West Virginia. Dillon had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave West Virginia a 10-point lead over the Aggies and early command of the game. Neither the lead nor the command lasted, however.

LB: Marcus Mallet, TCU. The Horned Frogs brutalized Ole Miss’ offense, and Mallet was a big reason for that. He put up a game-high 10 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble, as the Rebels finished with just 9 yards rushing.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State, Deric Robertson, Kevin Peterson
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriKevin Peterson (1) and the Oklahoma State defense made plenty of stops against Washington.
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor. Young had a game-high 15 tackles and very nearly produced the game-clinching play. His 84-yard fourth-quarter interception return, however, was called back by a penalty.

CB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State. In addition to providing solid coverage all night, Peterson came up with the game-clinching interception of Washington in the final seconds.

CB: Ramon Richards, Oklahoma State. The sure-tackling true freshman had perhaps the best performance in his young career and finished with six tackles, a tackle for loss and two pass breakups.

S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia. Joseph led the Mountaineers with 10 tackles and delivered yet another devastating hit that resulted in a forced fumble.

S: Derrick Kindred, TCU. Kindred picked off the Rebels in the first quarter and finished with five tackles and a tackle for loss as the TCU secondary swarmed Ole Miss' receivers all game.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Matthew McCrane, Kansas State. McCrane nailed 47-yard and 29-yard field goals and nearly pulled off a remarkable onside kick using the “Rabona” soccer technique. Honorable mention honors here go to West Virginia’s Josh Lambert, who broke the FBS season record with 39 made field goals.

P: Kip Smith, Oklahoma State. Smith placed all four of his punts inside the Washington 20 to help the Cowboys control the field-position battle.

Returner: Mario Alford, West Virginia: The electric Alford had two big kick returns, as well as a 45-yard touchdown reception off a quick pass in his final game as a Mountaineer.

Here’s what you need to know when Baylor and Michigan State square off Thursday at 12:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) in Arlington, Texas:

1. Motivation: The more motivated team usually has the edge during bowl season, so who will be more motivated in Arlington? Baylor was not happy about being left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff despite going 11-1 and landing the best win of any playoff contender by defeating sixth-ranked TCU. Coach Art Briles even called for a reallocation of playoff committee members to include more “Southerners.” Will the Bears still be reeling from that playoff snub? Or will they be determined to show they were deserving of a spot? Baylor should be motivated alone by the egg the team laid during a 52-42 loss to UCF in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. The Spartans, meanwhile, also have plenty to prove after getting routed by playoff participants Oregon and Ohio State during the regular season.

2. Strength on strength: This matchup has given us one of the best offenses in the country against one of the best defenses. Baylor leads the nation in scoring with 48.8 points per game. The Bears also topped the FBS with 61 touchdown drives in two minutes or less, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Michigan State, meanwhile, ranks fifth nationally in total defense, and is averaging 12 pressures (sacks, hurries or knockdowns) per game, which ranks second among Power 5 schools. The key in this game will be whether the Spartans can get to quarterback Bryce Petty, and prevent him from getting off the deep ball, which the Bears excel at completing. In its two losses, Michigan State allowed the Ducks and Buckeyes to complete 67 percent of their passes of 15 yards or more. The rest of the season, Michigan State allowed just 25 percent on such throws.

3. 2015 springboards: Though neither of these teams made the playoff this year, both could be factors in the national championship chase next season. The Spartans expect to return quarterback Connor Cook and a host of starters on both sides of the ball. The Bears will graduate Petty, but All-America offensive tackle Spencer Drango and All-Big 12 defensive end Shawn Oakman announced this week they’re returning for their senior years. All told, Baylor could return up to 17 starters. Neither team can win the 2015 national championship by winning this game. But a bowl victory would give either a significant springboard heading into next season.

Since the start of the 2013 season, Baylor ranks No. 1 in the nation in total offense. Michigan State ranks No. 1 in total defense since 2013. AT&T Stadium is in for one heck of a best vs. best battle on New Year's Day when the Bears and Spartans face off in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Thursday (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

ESPN.com's Brian Bennett and Max Olson break down the matchup:

How Michigan State can control the game: Baylor is going to score and put up big plays; that's pretty much a given. Michigan State's defense got gashed by the two other high-octane offenses it played this year, Oregon and Ohio State, so it's unrealistic to think the Spartans will shut down this one. But Michigan State's best defense might be its own high-powered offense, which can give the Bears problems with the power running game behind Jeremy Langford and the arm of quarterback Connor Cook. Michigan State might have to beat Baylor at its own game by lighting up the scoreboard. -- Bennett

How Baylor can control the game: Michigan State should expect gunslinger Bryce Petty and his limitless number of speedy receivers to do some damage, sure. But Sparty coaches who've been prepping for a month know by now the Bears win in lots of ways. Devin Chafin (elbow) is back and gives Baylor a three-headed monster at running back. Those backs will pound and bruise to set up the air show. Three-and-outs are the key on D, and Baylor forced more this season than MSU did. -- Olson

Michigan State's X factor: Defensive end Shilique Calhoun is likely playing his final game in the green and white, as he's widely expected to go to the NFL. He got off to a little bit of a slow start and whiffed on an important would-be sack of Marcus Mariota in the Oregon loss. But he bounced back strong and finished with 6.5 sacks. The Spartans need him to harass Petty and throw off the timing of the Baylor offense. -- Bennett

Baylor's X factor: Motivation. Even when Art Briles was irate about being left out of the College Football Playoff, he was quick to point out he hasn't forgiven or forgotten last year. Baylor laid an egg at the Fiesta Bowl -- a 52-42 loss to UCF -- but gets a redo this week: another chance for the first 12-win season in school history. Can the Bears channel their anger from the CFP snub and let loose against an even better opponent? -- Olson

What a win would mean for Michigan State: The Spartans are 10-2 but lost the only two marquee matchups on their schedule. So beating Baylor and claiming a New Year's Six bowl would add further validation to this season and make this a highly successful follow-up to last year's Rose Bowl championship season. With Ohio State surging and Michigan feeling the buzz of the Jim Harbaugh hire, Mark Dantonio's team can remind everyone that there's still a Big Ten East Division superpower in East Lansing. -- Bennett

What a win would mean for Baylor: In addition to those aforementioned incentives, the Bears are looking for a proper send-off for Petty, Bryce Hager, Antwan Goodley and the seniors who helped build up this program into a national title contender. Spencer Drango and Shawn Oakman made a major statement this week in electing to pass up the NFL for another run at the playoff. Baylor can make its own statement Thursday that, for a third straight year, this will be the team to beat in the Big 12. -- Olson
WACO, Texas -- Bryce Petty feels selfish for even thinking it, and worse for saying it. Winning, after all, should be enough. He won another Big 12 championship.

But Petty wanted so much more. He craved perfection.

“Obviously I’d want it different,” Petty told ESPN.com this month. “Shoot, I’d love to be No. 1 on the Heisman list. I’d love to be the No. 1 pick coming out. I’d love to have 40 touchdowns, no picks.”

What the Baylor quarterback endured in 2014, instead, was a senior season he can only describe as being “such a roller coaster.” As Petty reflects on the ride, he can’t help but think he wasted too much time overthinking it all.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesBryce Petty says his perfectionist mentality began to change after he threw a pick-six to fall behind TCU by 21 points.
Petty, now prepping for his college finale and Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic meeting with No. 8 Michigan State on Jan. 1, vows he’s done indulging disappointment. Ever since the season opener, though, he’d known there would be no easy route to another title.

A back injury suffered against SMU sidelined Petty for a game and a half. He can admit now the effects of the injury -- two cracked transverse processes -- lingered until the middle of October.

Along the way, he kept taking hits. The preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year was hunted all season long.

“People don’t hit me like they did last year,” he said. “As soon as I get hit, they’re driving me to the ground and talking the whole time.”

He played through pain throughout, but nothing hurt like the heartbreak on the eve of Baylor’s Big 12 opener at Iowa State.

Ethan Hallmark, a boy he’d befriended from his hometown of Midlothian, Texas, passed away on Sept. 26 after a courageous battle with stage 4 neuroblastoma. Petty stood by his side during Ethan’s bout with the rare form of childhood cancer. He visited the boy on Christmas, once drove him to a treatment session in Dallas, and even attended his last birthday party.

“I knew it was coming,” Petty said, “but I didn’t know it was coming that fast.”

While he grieved, he struggled. Petty didn’t like how he played against ISU. He hated his performance against Texas, easily the worst statistical showing of 24 career starts. And he almost blew it against TCU, throwing a pick-six to put BU behind by 21 in the fourth quarter.

And then something finally snapped.

“That’s kind of when things changed mentally for me,” Petty said. “I didn’t care about being perfect anymore. I’ve already thrown a pick and a pick-six. Perfect is out the window. I’ve got to go win this game.”

He guided the best comeback in Baylor history against the best opponent he faced all season. The Heisman buzz was suddenly back.

“Then the West Virginia game came and, again, I was just thinking so much. I was trying not to get hurt. I was pressing,” Petty said. “The little thing that has really immobilized me athletically is when I think too much. All that stuff kind of came in and it’s just been ... not tough, not difficult. Just not what I expected.”

Perfect was now officially out the window. But the 41-27 loss in Morgantown was another setback that failed to stop Petty. Baylor regrouped, stomped Kansas and Oklahoma and got back on track.

Three steps forward, a small step back. After a 49-28 win over Oklahoma State, Petty recognized just how discouraged he’d become. His time, with just three games left, was running out. Baylor was 9-1. Why wasn’t he happy with that?

Yes, he was frustrated that his individual goals weren’t being met. But he also felt guilty for caring too much about those ambitions. Prayer and heart-to-heart talks with buddies, parents and coaches helped Petty recognize the folly in his perfectionism.

He says that P-word gets him more than anything. Art Briles brings up a different one.

“I’m very proud of what he’s done. And the thing I’m most proud of is his determination inside of him,” Briles said. “He’s got a lot to prove. He’s got a lot of doubters.”

Surely he shed a few in his regular-season finale. A week after sustaining the first concussion of his college career against Texas Tech, Petty was masterful against a top-10 Kansas State team to clinch a Big 12 trophy: 412 yards on 85 percent passing.

“He was just being Bryce out there,” receiver Levi Norwood said. “That’s exactly what we expect from him.”

The Bears’ latest blow -- exclusion from the inaugural College Football Playoff -- will sting for a while. Their quarterback can take it. In a season stuffed full of unexpected twists and tests, what’s one more?

Petty is done dwelling on wanting more. He'll take the most he can get and be grateful he got this far.

“The whole roller-coaster deal, I think it’s good that it’s all happened the way it has,” he said. “I’m telling you, this game makes you stronger.”

Roundtable: Big 12 team with most to gain in bowl

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
2:00
PM ET
In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we examine the most intriguing bowls, which team has the most to gain in the bowl season and the players we'll be focused on the most during the bowls:

[+] EnlargeKevin White
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesMountaineers receiver Kevin White finished his senior regular season with 1,318 yards and nine TDs.
Other than the Goodyear Cotton and Chick-Fil-A Peach bowls, which Big 12 bowl are you most intrigued by?

Chatmon: It has to be the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, when West Virginia and Texas A&M battle on Dec. 29. Lots of points, lots of fun, lots of Red Bull. Mentor Dana Holgorsen against understudy Jake Spavital in a battle of offensive gurus. And considering this is a meaningless bowl game, I'm not interested in seeing much defense. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Kevin White has in store for his final game in a West Virginia uniform, after his breakout senior season.

Olson: There will be points in the Liberty Bowl, and I'm excited to see what a healthier West Virginia team is capable of against Texas A&M. But for me, the choice is the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Big 12 vs. Pac-12 matchup is typically a nice one in terms of style, and K-State taking on a UCLA team that Texas almost defeated in September, in the final starts for both Brett Hundley and Jake Waters, will be a lot of fun to watch.

Trotter: I'm intrigued by the Russell Athletic Bowl, and the matchup of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables going up against his former boss at Oklahoma in Bob Stoops. Remember, Stoops brought in his brother to coach the defense in 2011, which ultimately prompted Venables to leave Oklahoma for Clemson. If Venables' Tigers shut down the Sooners, and Clemson runs the score up on Mike Stoops, it will serve as an indictment of where Oklahoma is as a program three years after that move was made.

With no one playing for a national championship, which Big 12 team has the most to gain in bowl season?

Chatmon: It has to be Baylor against Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. As good as the Bears have been during the past two seasons, some people still point to their Fiesta Bowl loss to Central Florida as a reason to doubt what Art Briles has built in Waco. Add the intrigue of proving the committee wrong and BU has plenty of motivation. It's also a chance for an impressive win against a quality Big Ten team in the race for conference bragging rights.

Olson: I agree with Brandon here. Some Baylor coaches I talked to before the season say their Fiesta Bowl loss to UCF was arguably the most frustrating of their time in Waco. A 12th win and ending a dream season with a BCS bowl win would've meant an awful lot to this program. They get a meaningful chance for a redo against a much better opponent in Michigan State.

Trotter: Baylor and TCU have the most to gain, because they have the chance to show they deserved to be in the playoff. But I'll throw another team into the discussion here in Texas. After finishing the season with a 48-10 home loss to TCU on Thanksgiving night, the Longhorns really need to bounce back against Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl to set the tone for 2015. Next season is going to be a critical one for Charlie Strong and the Texas program. A win over a former rival like Arkansas would give the Longhorns the momentum they'll need heading into next season.

Who is the one Big 12 player you'll be focused during the bowls?

Chatmon: I can't wait to see what Trevone Boykin has in store for an Ole Miss defense full of playmakers in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Boykin creates all kinds of problems for every defense with his ability to slither through open lanes like a running back yet frustrate defensive backs with his deep throws. The Rebels have held opposing quarterbacks to a 17.3 Adjusted QBR, ranking No. 2 among FBS teams behind Louisville, making this the best matchup of individual brilliance against team strength during the bowl season.

Olson: Giving Mason Rudolph a month of extra practice and all that post-Bedlam momentum is going to make for a fascinating performance in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl. Oklahoma State's rookie quarterback takes on Washington and a pass defense that ranked last in the Pac-12. I'll be a little surprised if he doesn't pick apart the Huskies on Jan. 2 and continue to build up hype for 2015. The confidence boost this team got from beating Oklahoma can't get squandered.

Trotter: Boykin and Rudolph are definitely players to watch. But I think I'll be most focused on Bryce Petty in his Baylor swan song facing one of the best defenses in the country in Michigan State. Quarterbacks the caliber of Petty -- on and off the field -- don't come along very often. I'll be curious to see how he goes out in a tough matchup in his final college game for the Bears.
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WACO, Texas -- No. 6 Baylor took care of business and earned its second consecutive Big 12 championship with a 38-27 win over No. 9 Kansas State. Now the Bears and conference co-champion TCU wait to learn their fates. Did Baylor do enough to make its case?

How the game was won: Baylor’s offense showed no slow-down in Bryce Petty’s comeback from a concussion, marching for five touchdown drives of 70-plus yards against one of the Big 12’s best defenses. K-State never let it become a blowout, but it also never held a lead.

Gameball goes to: Petty, who was spectacularly steady throughout. He completed 34 of 40 passes for 412 yards and one touchdown and more than made up for his lone mistake, an end-zone interception. He guided BU to a total of 34 first downs and played in huge role in Baylor controlling this game.

What it means: Let’s not lose sight of what Art Briles achieved, playoff or not: Baylor successfully defended its Big 12 title, despite the huge target on its back all season long. The Bears went 6-0 at home in McLane Stadium’s inaugural year and will be proud of this season no matter what happens Sunday. K-State finishes 9-3 with losses to three great teams.

Playoff implication: We’ll find out soon, won’t we? Florida State, Ohio State and TCU all avoiding upsets on Saturday did not help the Bears’ cause. They notch an 11-point win over a team the Horned Frogs defeated by 21. Yes, Baylor controlled this game, but it’s difficult to predict whether this result will make a huge impression on the committee.

Best play: Cornerback Xavien Howard clinched the win by picking off Jake Waters and stopping the driving Wildcats with 5:08 left. A week after the Bears’ secondary was burned badly by Texas Tech, one of their defensive backs came up big.

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What's next: Baylor nervously awaits the verdict of the committee. Kansas State seems most likely to end up in San Antonio for the Valero Alamo Bowl, especially after Oklahoma’s collapse in Bedlam.

Rewind: Baylor 61, TCU 58

December, 3, 2014
12/03/14
2:00
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Baylor 61. TCU 58. It happened. It still matters. The Big 12's unofficial conference championship game, played on Oct. 11, might not end up settling the College Football Playoff debate as a title tiebreaker or head-to-head hammer to the No. 3 Frogs' hopes. In the totality of these two teams' résumés, evidently the committee values this one as just one game.

Still, what a phenomenal game it was. The first-ever Big 12 game at McLane Stadium was a four-hour shootout between two evenly matched teams with all the traits of an instant classic. Here are 10 lessons learned after a thorough re-watch of the Big 12's best game of 2014.

1. Admiring the instant comeback. Months later, Baylor’s successful 21-point rally in less than seven game minutes remains an astonishing feat. Bryce Petty had fans exiting with 11 minutes left after his pick-six to TCU's Marcus Mallet put the Bears in a three-score hole. “I was pissed,” Petty said this week, “but there was never a thought of, ‘I just lost us this game.’ I wanted the ball back.” He immediately engineered an unfathomable offensive run: 14 plays, 228 yards, 21 points in three minutes, 21 seconds. Per ESPN Stats & Information, TCU’s likelihood of winning after the Mallet pick-six was 98 percent. We witnessed the not-so-impossible 2 percent.

2. Count those turning points. Close games usually get decided by four or five plays. This one might've had a dozen game-changers. Ever since TCU jumped ahead 14-0, handing Baylor its first deficit of the season, the twists and turns were constant. A 90-yard scoring drive to put TCU up 21-10? Nobody remembers that. KD Cannon’s 64-yard touchdown, capped by a stiff-arm, makes it 21-21? No big deal. B.J. Catalon took the ensuing kickoff to the house. Petty’s first INT, David Porter's near touchdown and countless other plays might’ve swung a more ordinary game.

3. TCU led for 80 percent of the game. A total of 48:01, in fact, of the game’s 60 minutes. The Frogs led for 160 plays against a foe that, again, had never trailed. Against Baylor, TCU never trailed until the final play of the game. Say what you want about game control measurements and their meaningfulness. In a matchup of two top-10 teams, controlling a game that long is significant.

4. It was like playing us.’ That’s what Baylor DC Phil Bennett said this week, when reflecting on the challenge TCU presented. The new-look Frogs took such a similar approach to this game, particularly with deep shots and gutsy big plays. The best pass of the night was receiver Cameron Echols-Luper chucking the ball to end the third quarter that soared 55 yards and right into B.J. Catalon’s hands. The Bears matched those big plays by the day’s end, with these teams combining for 41 plays of 10-plus yards. The influence of aggression was everywhere.

5. The Big 12’s great QB battle. Petty put up career-high passing numbers, but he also pressed and was pressured throughout. What remains a mystery is just how injured Trevone Boykin was during the game. The injury to his non-throwing wrist was revealed days after the Baylor game. For a 119-point game, neither QB was as unstoppable as you'd expect.

6. Three the easiest way. With 8 seconds left in the first half, a deep snap soaring over punter Ethan Perry’s head nearly cost TCU its lead. Shawn Oakman, all 6-foot-9 of him, chased and fell on the ball with 2 seconds left. TCU got lucky, in a way, because Oakman could’ve tapped the ball to one of three oncoming teammates. Nobody stood in their way of a TD. But the big man set Chris Callahan up for an easy 29-yard field goal to make it 31-27. Those three points paid off in the end, didn’t they?

7. Shock, awe up the middle. The secret key to the comeback? Baylor running back Shock Linwood and his five linemen. Linwood, once a Horned Frogs commit, pounded the middle of the TCU defense for 113 rushing yards on 13 fourth-quarter runs, repeatedly busting through well-cleared lanes to set Art Briles and Petty up for ideal passing downs. As that game wore on, TCU couldn’t get him down.

8. Frogs get tired. These teams combined for 198 offensive snaps, including 103 pass attempts. TCU cornerback Kevin White said Tuesday he knows that workload played a role in the Frogs’ failures late. “We were both going fast. A lot of deep balls, a lot of guys tired by the end of that game,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of football. I’ve never felt like that after a game as far as being exhausted and tired.”

9. ‘No mas.’ TCU’s back and forth over going for it on fourth down is still a little baffling. With 1:20 left in a 58-58 game, the Frogs quickly lined up and punted on fourth-and-8 while the Bears were still substituting players. That drew a 5-yard penalty for fourth-and-3. Patterson sent out his offense, then called a timeout. Then he sent out his punting team. Then he called another timeout. Back came the offense. “He went no mas, all or nothing,” Bennett said. The DC blitzed six when TCU finally ran its fourth-down play. Had Boykin waited a second, he had B.J. Catalon open on an out along the sideline. But the call was a lob and fade to Josh Doctson. The result? A low-percentage throw, an incompletion and a chance for Baylor's offense to start at its 45 with 77 seconds left and a win in sight.

10. Patterson right about PI, not ending. Patterson recently offered USA Today the following take: “It still really came down to two pass interference penalties; one that didn’t get called and one that did.” His complaint is fair. Officials didn’t call PI on Ryan Reid for his physical fourth-down coverage of Doctson. They had no business calling one on Corry O’Meally's third-down coverage of BU’s Levi Norwood five plays later. That flag set Callahan up for the game-winner. In a rollercoaster four-hour battle, blaming the result on one flag or no-call makes little sense. Baylor won 61-58 because, after nearly 200 plays of pure craziness, the Bears made the last one count.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 14

November, 30, 2014
11/30/14
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Here’s what we learned Saturday in Week 14 of the Big 12:

1. Good week to be a Frog. Can’t draw it up any better than that if you’re TCU. First, the No. 5 Horned Frogs notch a 38-point road win against Texas in front of a national TV audience. Then, down goes No. 4 Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Then, Baylor needs a two-point conversion stop late in the fourth to win 48-46 against Texas Tech, the same team TCU beat 82-27. An Auburn upset of No. 1 Alabama would've helped, but TCU still has a real shot at re-entering the top four, and Baylor likely didn't gain ground on it. Gary Patterson has to be pleased.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
AP Photo/Tim SharpShock Linwood and the Bears survived Texas Tech, but they must now deal with injuries heading into the Kansas State game next weekend.
 2. Baylor takes some hits: Will Baylor have Bryce Petty and Shawn Oakman next week for its Big 12 title fight with Kansas State? The Bears survived a scare against Texas Tech but lost Petty (concussion) and power back Devin Chafin (dislocated right elbow) in the process. Oakman got away with a play that will draw the ire of the Big 12 office when he kneed Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the head after a second-quarter sack and wasn't penalized. He said after the game there’s no way he'll sit against KSU, but the status of Petty -- and, if he's disciplined, Oakman -- will be the talk of the week in Waco, Texas.

3. K-State still lurking: The nonstop TCU versus Baylor playoff discussion has obscured the program that loves being underestimated. Kansas State had no trouble against Kansas on Saturday, winning 51-13 and getting Tyler Lockett his school record for career receptions. KSU still has as equal a share of first place in the Big 12 as its 10-1 peers and, with one week left, even has a shot-in-the-dark chance at an outright conference title. You won't hear Bill Snyder or his Wildcats complaining about the lack of attention. They'd rather make their statement next Saturday in Waco.

4. Mahomes is the man: This kid is a gamer. Mahomes set a Big 12 freshman record with his 598 passing yards against a Baylor pass defense that ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 entering the day. Down 45-27, he never gave up. The rookie threw for touchdowns on each of Tech's final four drives of the game and showed no fear with all the deep shots he hit. That was just the fourth start of Mahomes' young career, and he reportedly played through an injured left wrist throughout. His play is making the spring debate between Mahomes, Davis Webb (who will have shoulder surgery) and incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham all the more fascinating.

5. WVU might've found its QB, too: Skyler Howard, thrown into the fire a week ago against Kansas State, looks more than capable of being West Virginia's quarterback for the foreseeable future. The mobile junior college transfer overcame a 14-point deficit by guiding WVU on a 20-point run in the second quarter and finishing with 354 yards of total offense in a 37-24 win in Ames, Iowa, to wrap up the regular season. Imagine what that showing will do for his confidence in the practices leading up to the Mountaineers' bowl game.

Baylor shouldn't apologize for 'ugly' win

November, 24, 2014
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WACO, Texas -- Art Briles walked back to the benches and saw five beat-up, rain-soaked, worn-out Baylor offensive linemen.

"They were just gasping," Briles said. "I thought, 'What's the deal?'"

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
AP Photo/LM OteroA hard-earned win over Oklahoma State might be just what Art Briles and Baylor needed.
So the head coach asked his assistants on the headset: How many plays had they just run?

Nineteen. Now Briles was gasping.

"Wow."

Baylor's longest offensive drive in two years will not go down as being overly memorable. The possession that reset the tone in the Bears' 49-28 win over Oklahoma State won't make any season highlight reels. It's a line scribbled on a College Football Playoff committee member's notepad and probably nothing more.

By the Bears' high-speed standards, a drive like this is calling winning "ugly." They shouldn't have to apologize. Possessions like these tell you something about a team's toughness.

In 19 plays, Baylor's offense burned through half of the first-quarter clock. They stayed on the field for 10 uninterrupted minutes, working through problem after problem with patience.

Fifteen rushes. Four pass attempts. Four penalties. Four second-and-longs. Four third downs. A fourth-down conversion.

"That was, uh ... um, tiring," Baylor left tackle Spencer Drango said.

Just ask his running back. Devin Chafin logged seven of his 21 carries on that drive and finished it with a 2-yard score. By the end of the night, his arms were covered top to bottom with red scars, scuffs and cuts.

"Just playing football," Chafin said.

His Bears have scored in three plays or fewer 18 times this season, including twice in that same first quarter. This time, to go ahead 21-3 on the Cowboys, they had to earn one.

Thanks to the penalties, the Bears had to travel 94 yards on their 79-yard drive. They did so by asking Bryce Petty, Chafin and two more backs to trust that the run game could grind out those gains. Ten of their 15 rushes gained less than 4 yards. Still, they kept the sticks and the clock moving.

They kept going after that drive, too. Briles was content to run on 33 of Baylor's 40 second-half snaps and maintain a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Shock Linwood loved every minute of it. When the running back played football video games as a kid, he said he'd always turn on the rain before kickoff. Chafin was all for a little nasty weather, too.

"As running backs," he said, "we favor the rainy, muddy, grimy games rather than the sunny days."

After drying off, the last thing on those backs' minds late Saturday night was whether they'd done enough to impress the playoff committee. A 21-point win in rough weather over the team that spoiled Baylor's national title hopes a year ago? Yeah, they'll take that.

But they should know by now that, as Baylor embarks on its final stretch against Texas Tech and Kansas State with everything on the line, this offense and this team will continue to be held to almost unreasonable standards.

For Baylor to reach the playoff, it will have to outperform TCU, Ohio State, Mississippi State and, in a way, itself. "Be the standard" is the program's mantra. The bar was set incredibly high in 2013. This team hasn't had such an easy time reaching it.

The public expects America's Top Offense (as Baylor's own PR people call it) to keep cranking out long-bomb scores and instant blowouts. That's not getting easier. When an opponent tries Tampa 2 coverages and offers up beneficial rushing opportunities in return, as Oklahoma State did, Baylor sticks to taking what's easiest.

"That Tampa 2 just messed everything up," receiver Jay Lee said. "We had to go the ground game and pound 'em like that. If they're going to back [the safety] out, we're going to run it at them."

And what's wrong with that? The Bears, as well-equipped to chase style points as any team in this playoff hunt, didn't pile on against OSU. Briles didn't do much politicking Saturday. Maybe he shouldn't have to.

The easy wins on sunny days are more fun, no question. But these hard-earned ones might be better for Baylor.

"I just think our team's record speaks for itself," Briles said, "and I think good teams find ways to win."

Briles, Baylor keep slaying Big 12 kings

November, 10, 2014
11/10/14
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Art Briles earned his gold title belt last season. This year, it's about time he gets his Valyrian steel sword. It's a prize befitting a kingslayer.

Briles has earned that status, hasn't he? His Baylor Bears did it again Saturday, stomping No. 15 Oklahoma 48-14 for their first victory in Norman. It was the worst home loss of the Bob Stoops' era, if you hadn't heard.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsBryce Petty and the Baylor Bears are relishing -- and winning -- in the underdog role this season.
A fine feat, but no longer a rare one for Briles' squad. Their dominant streak against the league's kings continues. The once-mighty powerhouses of the Big 12, OU and Texas, have both lost three of their last four games against Baylor. Four out of five for the Longhorns, in fact.

They haven't even been playing close games lately. The margin of victory in Baylor's last five wins against either Texas or OU has been 24, 29, 20, 21 and now 34.

This isn't a talking point for Baylor's College Football Playoff fight. It's just another reminder that, in today's Big 12, Briles is sitting on the throne that once belonged to Stoops.

The Bears have defeated the Sooners three times in school history: 2011, 2013 and 2014. The latest ended with a run of 45 unanswered points during which Baylor's superiority in scheme, talent and, yes, coaching was artfully flaunted over and over again.

You can tell Baylor's worldview is changing when Briles says some of the things he did on Saturday. In particular: "This was the first time we had really felt challenged all year." What does he mean?

"This was the first time we came into a game and felt like we would have to play our best to have a chance to win," Briles said. "We talked about it all week and our guys rose to the challenge."

The thing about Briles is, he covets every opportunity to play the kingslayer role.

Being the king is fun, too, but it's a demanding job. You're the hunted, the one with the target on your back. Every foe gives their best shot. Week after week, BU's opponents do things they'd never once put on film.

New challenges and unexpected twists become a constant, and that can stress any coaching staff out. Not only must you plan for the unknown, you must also constantly check the pulse of your players for signs of overconfidence or underestimation.

Kingslaying, by comparison, is so much more enjoyable. Being underrated is much easier. Losing to West Virginia last month gave Briles another valuable chance to convince his players nobody believes in them and nobody respects Baylor.

That mentality raised a monster in Waco. Bryce Petty said it himself after stomping the Sooners: he'd much rather be the underdog.

"We play so much better when we are mad and upset," he said. "We can't ever be happy, can't ever be satisfied. Coach Briles tells us that all the time. When we come out determined and ready to rock and roll, it's going to be a good day for us."

The outrage and shame of suffering a blowout loss to the Bears -- you know, the 'yeah, but they lost to Baylor' line -- is long gone by now. But Petty, like a good student of Briles' doctrine, knows in times like these it's best to double down on the disrespect angle. Nothing cuts like it.

"People still say, 'You are still Baylor.' Yeah, we are Baylor. This is different," Petty said. "This isn't the same team as the 90's or the 80's. You all are going to have to get that out of your minds."

This mindset did wonders for Baylor in 2013 and still can today. The Bears are being gifted another perfect reason to play mad. The pollsters and playoff committee members still think TCU is better than Baylor.

TCU, by the way, is another team Baylor has beaten three times in these last four years. Including a game in 2014.

That's just extra fuel for Baylor's fire, valuable but also necessary. You're going to need fire to forge Briles' sword.
NORMAN, Okla. – It all changed with the RG III touchdown pass heard round the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsBryce Petty and the Bears feel like they have something to prove when they visit Oklahoma on Saturday.
 In the waning seconds in 2011, Robert Griffin III heaved a bomb that fell into the arms of Terrance Williams, catapulting Baylor to its first win ever against Oklahoma.

The dramatic victory over the old-money program of the Big 12 gave the Bears the credibility they had so desperately craved after years of futility. And since that moment, new-money Baylor is 30-8 with an outright Big 12 title; the Sooners are 29-9 with a Big 12 co-championship.

“We put a lot of stock in our wins [over the Sooners] because they’re a storied program. ... Oklahoma has been the dominant team in the Big 12 since its inception; they’re certainly the mark everybody kind of looks at as being a pretty good place to be,” said Baylor coach Art Briles, who has pulled the biggest rebuilding job in college football this side of Bill Snyder. “If you’re a casual fan, the names Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops might mean something to you. They’ve done a tremendous job as a program for decades. To come out on the topside lately is a boost to our program from a recruiting standpoint and a national image standpoint.

“They’ve dominated for so long, we’re glad we're a formidable foe. We’re just glad to be a part of it, getting to where we’re gaining a little more respect in the series.”

The Bears have done more than gain respect, they have gained Oklahoma’s full attention for this weekend’s showdown in the quintessential old money-new money clash in the Big 12.

But just as history has shown, new money can also cause old money to turn up its nose.

Texas linebacker Steve Edmond underscored this when he called the Bears “trash” even after Baylor stomped the Longhorns by 20 points last season to capture its first Big 12 championship. Just this week, Edmond said he wasn’t sorry about what he said. And leading up to their game this year, Edmond's teammate John Harris proclaimed that “They’re still Baylor. … We’re still Texas.”

Unlike the Longhorns, the Sooner players have avoided handing over any like bulletin-board material this week. Monday, Stoops went as far as to say that his program respected Baylor even when the Bears couldn’t win a Big 12 game in the pre-Briles era.

“I’ve always felt they’ve done a good job,” Stoops said, somehow with a serious face.

But Oklahoma's fan base hasn’t been so gracious. From Twitter to message boards to sports talk radio, Sooner Nation has continued to discount Baylor, from its soft nonconference scheduling to its lack of tradition, even though the Bears whacked Oklahoma 41-12 last season:

 
“A lot of people don’t want Baylor to win, and that’s totally fine with us,” said Bears quarterback Bryce Petty. “It’s not hard to sense.

That new-money perception has extended beyond Big 12 country. Even though the Bears are 7-1, toppled TCU with an historic fourth-quarter comeback and have won their other six games by at least three touchdowns, Baylor ranks just 13th in the College Football Playoff Rankings.

“Turn on the TV, and everybody is picking against Baylor,” Petty said. “But it is what it is. That whole national persona, it has kinda always been there, even after we began to turn the program around. Even last year, people didn’t want us to win."

But the Bears did win. And now, they're trying to become the first team to win back-to-back Big 12 titles since the Sooners did it in 2007-08.

“We’re trying to rewrite history.," Petty said. "We’re not the old Baylor, we’re not scrappy little Baylor. We’re trying to be the best, and to get there, you have to play the best. The Sooners in Norman are at their best. That’s where we want to be, that’s where the challenge is, and we’re definitely up for the challenge.”

It will be quite the challenge. Baylor has never before won in Norman in 11 attempts.

Then again, this isn’t the old Baylor.

And Saturday, the new-money Bears will have another chance to validate their worth against an old money powerhouse.

“We get the opportunity to prove ourselves,” Petty said, “and show we’re here to stay and we do belong.”

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 7

October, 12, 2014
10/12/14
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It's that time again! Let's honor the Big 12's top performers over the weekend:

CB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma: The sophomore has been a feast-or-famine player in crimson and cream but seems to consistently make big plays in the Sooners' biggest games. His 43-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Sooners breathing room while the offense was struggling in the first half and he finished fourth on the squad with eight tackles. He also added three pass breakups in OU's 31-26 win over Texas.

QB Tyrone Swoopes, Texas: Swoopes played with a presence and poise we had rarely seen from the sophomore during his stint as the Longhorns' starting quarterback. Playing in his first Red River Rivalry, he passed for 334 yards and rushed for 50 yards, accounting for three touchdowns along the way. It was a losing effort but Swoopes performance provides a glimmer of hope for UT.

K Josh Lambert, West Virginia: Not only did Lambert make 3 of 4 field goals, including a 55-yarder to give the Mountaineers a 37-34 win over Texas Tech, Dana Holgorsen actually talked to him. That, my friends, is the definition of winning.

DB Kennon Ward, Texas Tech: The sophomore finished with 16 tackles (11 solo) and 0.5 tackles for loss and one pass break up. It was a disappointing but productive day for Ward.

K Chris Callahan, Baylor: The Bears kicker entered the game 1-of-6 on field goal attempts this season. It didn't matter on Saturday as he went 4-of-4 in the Bears 61-58 win, including the 28-yard game winner as time expired. Redemption must have felt pretty sweet.

RB B.J. Catalon, TCU: Catalon finished with 213 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the Horned Frogs' loss. He made big plays as a runner, receiver and kickoff returner while giving the Bears defenders fits throughout the game.

WR Corey Coleman, Baylor: The sophomore receiver quietly had a monster game in the Bears win, finishing with 253 all-purpose yards including eight receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He added 22 rushing yards and 87 kick return yards.

QB Sam B. Richardson, Iowa State: It was looking like Toledo might ruin the Cyclones' homecoming before a pair of Richardson touchdown tosses in the fourth quarter helped put the game out of reach. The junior finished 37-of-53 for 351 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in the 37-30 win. He added 13 carries for 31 yards.

DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State: It's officially a breakout season for the sophomore. Ogbah finished with 10 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in Oklahoma State's 27-20 win over Kansas.

QB Bryce Petty, Baylor: His eye-popping numbers have become so commonplace he almost didn't make the list but I don't want to live in a world where 510 passing yards and six touchdowns isn't enough to earn a helmet sticker. Do you?

Baylor just finds a way -- again

October, 11, 2014
10/11/14
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WACO, Texas -- While some Baylor fans were filing out of McLane Stadium, full of doubts and disappointment, quarterback Bryce Petty was looking into his teammates eyes and reaffirming his belief that his team would find a way to win on Saturday.

“I told our guys we weren’t going to lose that game,” Petty said of the sequence early in the fourth quarter. “I don’t know what it is, I don’t know why I felt that. I just knew, looking in guys' faces, we were going to come back in that game.”

Twelve minutes later, Petty and his teammates were surrounded by rowdy fans clad in green and gold celebrating a game-winning 28-yard field goal from Chris Callahan as Baylor defeated TCU 61-58. Petty and the Bears scored 24 unanswered points in the final quarter to improve to 6-0 overall, 3-0 in the Big 12 and cement their status as the favorite to win the Big 12.

The battle between No. 5 Baylor and No. 9 TCU (4-1, 1-1) -- the first-ever meeting between the two teams when both were ranked -- exceeded expectations. Petty put up prolific numbers with 510 passing yards and six touchdowns, along with a pair of interceptions, but was matched by the playmaking of TCU running back B.J. Catalon, who had 213 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Big plays, trick plays, big hits and 38 combined points in the final 15 minutes left the Bears’ newly-minted stadium buzzing.

[+] EnlargeChris Callahan
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsChris Callahan's field goal as time expired gave Baylor and its fans reason to go bonkers on Saturday.
“I think there were 40 plays in this game that determined the football game,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “We made 21 and they made 19.”

After TCU linebacker Marcus Mallet intercepted a Petty pass and returned it 49 yards for a score, BU trailed the Horned Frogs 58-37 with 11:38 left in the game, prompting a small number of Bears fans to head for the exits.

Petty was unfazed.

“With our offense and the way we play defensively, 21 points isn’t that big a deal for us,” he said. “We just know that we’re never out of it, we really never are.”

It was an interesting reaction from a team that had never trailed at any point of the 2014 season heading into Saturday’s action. BU was chasing the game throughout -- trailing by 14 in the first quarter and 21 in the fourth quarter -- and never took the lead until Callahan’s game winner.

“This was the first game this year that we were behind,” defensive tackle Andrew Billings said. “It showed that wasn’t going to effect how we played even though we were down 21 at one point.”

For the second straight week, Baylor found a way. Against Texas, BU turned to its running game and special teams to lead the way in a 28-7 road win in Austin, Texas. This week it was the entire team that stepped up with its backs against the wall and College Football Playoff hopes in jeopardy in the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter.

“We have a saying -- ‘clear it’ -- if something bad happens, something good happens, clear it and move on to the next play,” linebacker Bryce Hager said. “It was just one of those games we kind of knew, we had a feeling. When we needed to step up, we stepped up and when the offense needed to step up, they did the same.”

Buoyed by a pair of questionable pass interference calls, one questionable non-call on BU’s Ryan Reid on a critical fourth-down attempt by TCU and one pass interference penalty against TCU’s Corry O’Meally, the Bears completed their comeback with a nine-play, 44-yard drive to set up Callahan’s field goal.

“Everyone played really, really well at the end of the game,” tackle Spencer Drango said.

And in doing so the Bears showed the type of resilience generally equated with championship-level teams. Trevone Boykin and TCU came with punch after punch to the jaw of the reigning Big 12 champions, but the Bears' belief in their ability to win didn’t waver.

“Every champion has his back against the wall at some point in time and either cowers down or comes out swinging," Drango said. "We came out swinging.”

It’s a relatively new trait of the program that Briles has built alongside the banks of the Brazos River.

“I think that’s the difference now,” receiver Antwan Goodley said. “A couple years ago we didn’t have that mentality that, ‘Hey, we’re the best team and we’re going to go out there and play like it.’ This year, all of us guys are hungry, we want the same thing and we can get it done.”

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