WACO, Texas – Turn out the lights … but the party isn't over, Dandy Don, it's is just starting. Not a party, exactly, more like a … fiesta.
Baylor said goodbye to Floyd Casey Stadium in the perfect way Saturday. The celebration started when the news reached Central Texas that Oklahoma had stunned Oklahoma State. The ninth-ranked Bears “only” had to close out the regular-season with a victory to claim an undisputed title.
And while Baylor struggled for a half and made mistakes that nearly let the Longhorns pull off the upset, the outcome led to a field storming, a trophy presentation and a Case closed.
Quarterback Bryce Petty connected on two short touchdown passes in the second half and the Bears’ defense was stifling as Baylor won its first Big 12 Conference championship with a 30-10 victory over Texas. The Bears (11-1, 8-1) will represent the Big 12 in the Fiesta Bowl against a foe that will be announced Sunday.
"It's a defining moment for our program," said coach Art Briles, who guided Baylor to the first 11-win season in school history. “The problem with people, it’s not that they aim too high and miss. It’s that they aim too low and they hit. That’s kind of the way that you have to think and feel.”
“When I first came to Baylor, I didn’t look at it as a great opportunity. I looked at it as a great place for accomplishment. You can find opportunity anywhere. It’s hard to find places where you can accomplish something. That’s what our players have done.”
On one of the coldest days in Waco history, Baylor made its fans forget about the weather. A record crowd of 51,728 had to wait until the second half to start thinking of celebrating. The Bears’ offense, which has been slowed over the last few weeks, could only generate a field goal as the teams were tied at 3.
The Bears started taking control by going 77 yards in 14 plays on the first possession of the second half. Baylor converted four third downs, three on Petty passes to Antwan Goodley. The fourth was an 11-yard touchdown pass on third-and-9.
“Back to old Baylor, just how we started the season,” said Goodley, who eight receptions for 114 yards. “We’re here. We’re serious. We’re at the top now and we’re going to continue to stay there.”
After a Texas three-and-out, the Bears grounded their offense. Six consecutive running plays set up a third-and-goal at the Longhorns’ 6. Petty found Levi Norwood on a slant for six and a 17-3 lead.
Baylor limited Texas to 217 yards, its fewest since the 2009 Big 12 Championship game. The Longhorns had just 54 yards passing, their fewest since 1991.
“It’s tough, disappointing,” said Texas quarterback Case McCoy, who was on the field when Kansas State clinched last year’s Big 12 title against the Longhorns. “It’s a bitter taste in your mouth the last two years sitting on a field and watch other teams sing we are the champion.”
McCoy’s scrambling 2-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Brown, who finished with 131 yards rushing, made it 20-10 and there was tension until the final five minutes. Baylor’s K.J. Morton picked off a McCoy screen pass and his 57-yard return set up Glasco Martin’s game-clinching 18-yard touchdown run with 4:04 remaining.
When Briles was hired six years ago, his vision was a two-point plan: Win a Big 12 championship and have the school build an on-campus stadium. Robert Griffin III won the Heisman two years ago to jump start donations and a $260 million stadium just across the Brazos River will open next season.
“It was like a dream,” said Baylor senior safety Ahmad Dixon, who spent the first half in the locker room serving a suspension for a targeting penalty assessed last week. “The dream became reality. … This is one of the greatest things I've ever been a part of in my life."
There are eight light standards at Floyd Casey and the lights burned through the foggy mist until the closing ceremony. Representatives from various eras in Baylor history turned off the lights, one standard at a time.
The last was Briles. By then, the tears that had streamed down his cheeks before accepting the championship trophy had dried.
"It was emotional for everybody," Norwood said. "Everybody knew it was there, whether it was outright or a share. We wanted to be Big 12 champs."
That became reality with two Petty kneel downs in the victory formation.
“I just started crying uncontrollably,” he said.