Last week, Baylor’s 247 site had a list of the Top 10 Plays of the Art Briles Era. In looking at the plays, I had a hard time thinking of each individual play in a vacuum, considering the individual athletic performances of each play without considering the impact of those plays on the game as a whole. So, I decided to figure out my own Top Ten Wins of the Art Briles Era, which I humbly submit to you now. I ended up having more than ten that were worthy of mention, so I’ve got two Honorable Mentions to include also. Since I won't subject you to nearly 4,500 words all at once, I've split it up into two posts, with the first containing the honorable mentions and Wins #10-7. Tomorrow we'll cap off the list with the Top Six wins.
Beating The Aggies is Always Sweet. November 15, 2008: Baylor 41, Texas A&M 21.
How can you not recognize a game where the Bears thump the Aggies? After 22 years of being on the wrong end of similar beatings (save one shining moment in 2003), the Bears put the hurt on the Aggies, winning 41-21 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score makes it sound. To find the last time the Bears dominated the Aggies in such a way, you have to go back to 1980 and the 46-7 drubbing that Baylor put on the Aggies (incidentally, that was the last year that Baylor won a conference title), but I digress. Robert Griffin III threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns, tacking on another 56 yards on the ground. Kendall Wright led receivers with 71 yards and a score. Jay Finley led the rushing attack with 116 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown, while Jacoby Jones had two scores of his own. Beating the Aggies is always a treat, but beating them in Briles’ first year as head coach was something special. Plus, the Bears’ win meant that the Aggies were not going bowling, which made the victory that much sweeter.
Briles Gets the OSU Monkey Off His Back. December 1, 2012: Baylor 41, Oklahoma State 34.
Five years in the league and zero wins against Oklahoma State. In fact, before this game, the Bears had only beaten the Cowboys once. But the Bears were rolling, having destroyed #1 Kansas State two weeks prior and clinching a bowl berth against Tech the previous week. After trading field goals, Eddie Lackey intercepted a Clint Chelf pass and took it to the house from 26 yards out. While Tevin Reese’s 75-yard touchdown reception was a standout play, the real jaw dropper came with 5:30 left to play in the game, Nick Florence handed the ball off to Lache Seastrunk at the 20, five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Seastrunk hit the hole at full speed, and by the time he was at the 40 yardline, he was gone. But then something happened that had the fans speechless in both awe and fear. Right around the 50 yardline, Seastrunk pulled up, appearing to favor his left leg. That didn’t stop him, though, as he still outran the Cowboy defenders and tumbled over the goal line for the score. Watching it live, I feared that he’d pulled a hamstring (apparently so did these announcers), but thankfully it turned out to be a simple cramp. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. One other thing - this is the game that gave us this gif:
THE TOP TEN
10. Tech Finally Goes Down. November 26, 2011: Baylor 66, Texas Tech 42.
This game barely beats out the honorable mentions to make the list at #10 for a few reasons. First, this was Baylor’s first win over Texas Tech since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996. It snapped a 15-year losing streak, a drought which saw the Red Raiders overtake a comfortable margin in the lifetime series between the schools. Secondly, it was the game in which we saw a glimmer of what was to come. Robert Griffin III went down with concussion-like symptoms in the second quarter, forcing Nick Florence to burn his red shirt and lead his team onto the field for the second half. He would end up going 9 of 12 with 151 passing yards and two touchdowns, and added another touchdown on the ground. It showed us that even once the great RGIII moved on, "scrubby lil’ Baylor" would not be making a quick return to Waco. Finally, it was the first comfortable win against a rival in the 2011 season. Baylor was riding high, having beaten Missouri by three, coming from behind to beat Kansas, and then the heartstopper against Oklahoma. In this game, Baylor finally showed that it could take control of a game and put it on ice.
9. Briles Gets His First Bowl Victory. December 29, 2011: Baylor 67, Washington 56.
It’s hard to believe that before 2011, Coach Art Briles had never won a bowl game. In the evening hours of December 29, 2011, it looked like the drought would continue. The Bears quickly jumping out to a 21-7 lead, a fast start that included a play that personifies the escapability of Robert Griffin III and served as an exclamation point on his Heisman season. But the Bears watched as that lead rapidly evaporated, finding themselves in a 42-24 hole barely a minute into the second half. What ensued was 30 of the most wildly entertaining minutes of football that I’ve ever experienced. The highlight of the comeback was Terrance Ganaway’s 89 yard touchdown run. Baylor went three-and-out on the previous drive and with the punt returned all the way to Baylor’s 17 yardline, it looked like Washintgon was going to seal their victory. But Sam Holl forced a fumble and Rodney Chadwick jumped on it, giving the Bears new life. Ganaway seized the opportunity, scampering 89 yards to the end zone for the score. The Bears went for two and got it on Griffin’s very Tebow-esque jump pass to Jerod Monk. That proved the turning point of the game and Baylor eventually retook the lead using their signature quick-strike style, with no scoring drive taking more than 2:30 for the rest of the game. Art Briles gets his first bowl win ever, and the Bears end their bowl victory drought at 19 years.
8. At Long Last, We’re Going Bowling Again. October 23, 2010: Baylor 47, Kansas State 42.
It had been sixteen long years since Baylor had been to a bowl game. 1994. To put that in perspective, Robert Griffin III was four years old the last time the Bears went to a bowl. The Bears became bowl eligible once again in style, beating Kansas State 47-42 in a game in which they never trailed. Griffin completed over 68% of his passes for 404 yards. Josh Gordon and Kendall Wright each had over 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns each, while Jay Finley punished the Wildcats on the ground to the tune of 250 yards and two scores of his own. The game wasn’t as close as the score makes it seem, as the Wildcats picked up a garbage time touchdown with seven seconds remaining on the clock. As the final whistle blew, Baylor fans rushed the field and high fived, hugged, cheered, and cried together as Baylor finally became bowl eligible once again.
7. Texas Falls At Home. October 30, 2010: Baylor 30, Texas 22.
Not since 1997 had Baylor defeated Texas. What’s more, you have to go all the way back to 1991 to find the last time that Baylor had beaten Texas in Austin. Almost 19 years later but just one week after becoming bowl eligible again, Baylor came from behind to defeat Texas in the signature win of the 2010 season. Despite 100 fewer total yards and a nine point deficit with ten minutes to play in the third quarter, the Bears rattled off 20 unanswered points on their way to a 30-22 victory. Robert Griffin III threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another, while Terrance Williams (Terrence Williams) and Kendall Wright each had receiving touchdowns and Jay Finley added another on the ground. The game remained tight, though, but Mikail Baker’s forced fumble recovered by Rodney Chadwick allowed the Bears to run out the clock and clinch the victory. After the game, chants of "Our house!" could be heard emanating from the visiting locker room.