Dave Campbell discusses Baylor's win over Texas Tech and looks ahead to their Saturday matchup versus the Kansas State Wildcats.
The 2014 Baylor Bears went to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, played a must-win game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders and returned home with a victory.
But did they win in the minds of that committee which will choose the four teams that will play for college football's 2014 national championship?
On that one fans will have to wait and see
The Bears did what they absolutely had to do last Saturday. They beat the Red Raiders on the scoreboard in a tight, tense, nerve-wracking game, 48-46, and they did so although they lost one of their two outstanding running backs, Devin Chafin, in the first quarter, the starting tight end Tre'von Armstead in the third quarter, and their offensive leader and outstanding quarterback Bryce Petty a bit later in the third quarter.
Backup quarterback Seth Russell took over on the drive when Petty was kayoed and led the Bears to the touchdown that put Baylor ahead, 42-17.
And then things fell apart, and as the last seconds ticked off the clock the Bears had just denied Tech's 2-point conversion attempt after the Raiders' final touchdown (which would have tied the score and almost certainly would have sent the game into overtime), and then who knows which team would have won?
But what we do know is that the Bears did win, and thus they are still tied for first place in the Big XII Conference and getting ready this week to play Kansas State for a share of the 2014 Big XII football crown.
And if they win that game and win a share of the conference crown, something no football team has done in Baylor's history going back to 1915, the first year the old Southwest Conference began playing for a football championship, that indeed would be something much to be prized.
But this season Baylor still aspires for something that truly would be historic: it aspires to be one of those four teams picked to participate in what amounts to a first-ever national college football tournament. If you win that "tournament," you will be crowned the national champion.
But will the Bears be chosen? Ah, that is THIS week's top question.
The latest national rankings give them a chance. The Top 10 teams are ranked the same in both the AP and coaches polls:1.Alabama; 2.Florida State; 3. Oregon; 4. TCU; 5. Baylor; 6. Ohio State; 7 Michigan State; 8. Arizona; 9. Kansas State; and 10. Georgia Tech. The only other Big XII team ranked in the Top 25 is Oklahoma at No. 16.
In what turned out to be a wild Saturday, Ohio State lost the player who had become the Buckeyes' top quarterback (presumably they now will be down to their third-teamer for the Big Ten's playoff game against Wisconsin), Mississippi State got upset by Ole Miss and knocked out of the playoff picture, No, 1 Alabama found Auburn to be anything but easy, and four other SEC teams (Georgia. Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky) all lost to Atlantic Coast Conference rivals.
So the question Baylor partisans were asking this past Monday is this: Will the committee that will pick the Final Four give the Bears credit for beating TCU, 61-58, in a head-to-head contest played in Waco on Oct. 11, or penalize them for beating Tech by only two points? After all, TCU slaughtered Tech in Fort Worth, 82-27. Or will the committee remember that Baylor was on the way to a decisive victory last Saturday when the three injuries took so much steam out of the steamroller?
Will the committee remember that TCU beat Oklahoma in Fort Worth, 37-33, and Baylor went to Oklahoma and flattened a healthy Sooner team, 48-14? Will the committee remember a TCU team that beat a self-imploding Texas team, 48-10, and a Baylor team that beat that same Texas team, 28-7, and SHUT OUT the Longhorns for 57 minutes and 18 seconds? Will the committee remember that TCU struggled to beat a weak Kansas team in Kansas, 34-30, and Baylor beat Kansas in Waco, 60-14?
Questions, questions, questions.
And here's one that will count as much as all of them: Will Baylor beat Kansas State at McLane Stadium this coming Saturday night? TCU did so in Fort Worth, 41-20. Can Baylor, with all its injuries, do anything similar?
ESPN's heralded Game Day Crew will be there — Kirk Herbstreit (former Ohio State quarterback), Lee Corso, Chris Fowler and Desmond Howard (former Heisman Trophy winner). That might or might not be a distraction. But it will offer the Bears a great opportunity to showcase their football program, their great new stadium, their campus and this 2014 football team.
Indeed, seeking to make the most of the opportunity to showcase the beautiful new McLane Stadium, the Brazos River setting, the Baylor athletic facilities and the Baylor campus, Baylor has hired a public relations firm to be on hand and do what public relations firms do.
If the Bears lose that K-State game, all the other questions will answer themselves. So we will see.
As a matter of fact, the final answers are just ahead. The selection committee's final decision naming the Final Four teams will be announced at 11:45 Sunday morning, and those teams that did not make the Final Four are supposed to learn their bowl destinations shortly thereafter.
Remember, the season is not quite over yet. And remember this: K-State, also loser of only one Big XII game and still very much in the title hunt, has almost as much to play for as the Baylor Bears.
As for that 48-46 thriller played in Arlington last Saturday afternoon, with a crowd of 54,179 watching the ebb and flow of the battle, Baylor scored first and saw Tech tie the score; Baylor then pulled ahead and saw Tech kick a field goal to make it a 14-10 game; then the two teams traded touchdowns; then Baylor scored again with 4:10 to go to make it 28-17 game at halftime.
By then Chafin was on the sidelines to stay (dislocated elbow), and as the second half started to unfold Armstrong and Petty would soon follow (both with concussion symptoms). Even so, the Bears were ahead, 35-17, and Petty was in the process of steering them toward touchdown land again when he took a Raider helmet to the chin. He appeared to be knocked out cold. After being helped to the sidelines, he soon was seen walking to the locker room (accompanied by a trainer) and Seth Russell took over at quarterback for the Bears. With 6:44 to go in the third quarter, Russell completed a 27-yard TD pass to Levi Norwood, putting the Bears ahead, 42-17.
And after that it was run-clock-run and here came the Red Raiders.
After Norwood's touchdown, Baylor scored only another six points on field goals of 38 and 36 yards kicked by Chris Callahan. Texas Tech kept drawing closer and closer with a 25-yard field goal kicked by Ryan Bustin and touchdowns scored by wideouts Devin Lauderdale and Brad Marquez and running back Deandre Washington, all the while embarrassing Baylor's pass defense.
Indeed, at the finish Tech's quarterback Patrick Mahomes (6-3, 215-pound true freshman from Whitehouse, a school in 16-5A, the same district with Ennis and Corsicana) had just about passed the Bears dizzy. He completed 30 of 56 passes for an incredible 598 yards and six touchdowns, was intercepted once, and was sacked once.
The Kansas State Wildcats must be licking their chops, or whatever Wildcats might lick.
Still, the Bears did win and kept their title hopes intact. (K-State did the same last Saturday, routing Kansas on its home field, 51-13.)
Overall, it was a crazy Saturday, one that apparently was built for upsets, so let's give the injury-plagued Bears credit for winning in Arlington on such a day.
Their touchdown-makers on that near-miss afternoon were (in this order) Shock Linwood on an 8-yard run; Johnny Jefferson on a 4-yard run; Corey Coleman on a 28-yard pass thrown by Petty; Linwood again on a 3-yard run; Antwan Goodley on a 9-yard pass thrown by Petty; and Norwood on a 27-yard pass thrown by Russell. Chris Callahan kicked true after each touchdown and also kicked the two all-important field goals in the second half.
Statistically, the Bears prevailed significantly in the run game, Tech overhead. The Bears rushed for a net of 255 yards led by Linwood (24 carries for 158 yards), Jefferson (10 for 47), Russell (7 for 29), Chafin (3 for 17), and Petty (7 for a net of 5 after being sacked 3 times for a net loss of 10 yards.
Petty completed 18 of 25 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns, and obviously was on his way to a big game when kayoed on BU's second play after gaining possession at the 8:43 mark of the third quarter. Russell completed 8 of 17 passes for 82 yards and was not sacked.
Coleman was Baylor's leading receiver, catching six passes for 57 yards and one touchdown. KD Cannon also caught six passes for 39 yards, Norwood 5 for 63 and a TD, Clay Fuller two for 50 yards, Jay Lee two for 26, Goodley two for 25 and a score, Linwood two for 15 and Chafin one for 17.
Washington led Tech's infantry with 65 yards on 15 carries, and Mahomes had a net of 27 yards on nine trips. But the big numbers belonged to Mahomes and his talented receivers. Jakeem Grant caught five passes for a whopping 155 yards and one score, Brad Marques caught six for 130 yards and three TDs, Washington caught six for 107 yards and one TD, and Devin Lauderdale caught dour for 85 yards and one touchdown.
On defense, Tech was led by linebacker Sam Equavoen who was in on ten tackles and safety Derrick Dixon had nine. Baylor was led by linebacker Bryce Hager with nine, Terrell Burt with seven, and Collin Brence and Shawn Oakman each had five. The 6-8, 280-pound Oakman had a big day for the Bears, breaking up two passes, sacking the Tech quarterback once, and making three tackles for loss yardage.
But when it counted most, the guys who put a big rush on the Tech QB, sacking Mahomes before he could get off a throw on Tech's desperation attempt at the finish, were linebacker Aiavion Edwards, defensive end K.J. Smith and tackle Beau Blackshear. Smith is only a redshirt freshman. I'll bet that's one play and one game he will never forget.