It’s been a very long time since Baylor won a conference championship – 19 years to be exact. It was hard for some people to see them hosting Texas as the favorites for what turned into the Big 12 championship game, but things have changed since Art Briles has taken over the program, lifting it to new heights through Bryce Petty and a surprisingly efficient defense, taking the program to the Fiesta Bowl and a BCS one in general for the first time.
Why not Baylor in the national championship game? Their loss came to the wrong team at the wrong time. They also play in the wrong conference for now. But you won’t find anyone disappointed with how this season ended – after the loss to Oklahoma State things seemed quite dreary, but Oklahoma did them a solid, and all Baylor had to do was beat a Texas team that has been struggling with consistency all season long.
It ended with a 30-10 win for Baylor, being the first team to loosen up after a 3-3 first half. Texas kept playing some horrible offense, while the Baylor attacking formation spread its wings and started playing like we’ve gotten used to see from this team, posting some record breaking numbers during the season, settling for “only” 508 total yards of offense this time.
The story was the defense for a chance. Case McCoy was limited to only 54 yards on 12-of-34 passing attempts. He did complete one touchdown pass but was also intercepted twice, finishing with a QBR of 4.3. Petty has had better days in terms of individual numbers – his performance of 287 yards and two touchdowns passes was almost ordinary for him, but on a big stage, with a lot of the line, Baylor couldn’t have asked for more.
Texas couldn’t get anything going for them on offense except for Malcolm Brown. He ran for 131 yards on 25 carries, but never crossed into the endzone. He ran only for 13 yards in the second half, as the Texas gameplan fell apart, and their offense looked like it belonged in a lower division compared to the defense they were facing, which was something that happened to them once or twice earlier this season against BYU and Ole Miss. Since winning the conference in 2009, Texas is 0-5 against the team that would win or share the Big 12 title that season.
It’s hard to imagine how far this program has come since Briles took control in 2008: Two seasons of 4-8 before Robert Griffin III arrived, and the program grew with him: 7-6, 7-6 and a 10-3 season that seemed like it would be the best they’d ever get to. However, after a solid, yet expected drop in the 2012 season, Briles went to work on what stood in the way of competing with the Texas and Oklahomas of the world. He might have been the only one who believed he could take Baylor this far, going into the Fiesta Bowl as probable favorites against UCF, but that only makes it that much sweeter for him and his players.