Top Ten Wins of the Art Briles Era, Part 2

Art Briles: On his way to becoming a Baylor Football Legend - US PRESSWIRE

We continue counting down the Top Ten Wins of Art Briles Tenure at Baylor. Today, we finish up with #6 through the top win.

Welcome back for more fun with the best wins of Art Briles' career at Baylor. Yesterday, we presented for your consideration two honorable mentions and Numbers 10-7.

Today we're wrapping things up, giving you the Top Six Wins of the Art Briles Era. Kicking off today's list is the most recent win...

6. Doubt Us At Your Own Peril. December 27, 2012: Baylor 49, UCLA 26 19.

2012 Holiday Bowl, Baylor vs. UCLA

The Bears had just rattled off three impressive victories in a row, wins that had some pundits calling Baylor the hottest team in the nation. If I recall correctly, predictions on the outcome of this game were fairly mixed, but there was one thing upon which the vast majority of analysts agreed: The Holiday Bowl was going to be a shootout. The illustrious Spencer Hall had this to say about the game: "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! THE BAYLOR OFFENSE IS COMING AND SO IS THE DEFENSE AND FIIIIIIIIIIIRE---"

Which, of course, also is where this beautiful gif originates:

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At any rate, the Bears had other plans than a shootout. The defense showed up in a big way, holding the Bruins to an unbelievable 1-for-17 on third down conversions (a serious trouble spot for the Bears earlier in the season). The Bears also stuffed the vaunted UCLA rushing attack to the tune of 33 total yards. Before the Holiday Bowl, they averaged nearly 203 yards per game. The Bears even lost the turnover battle, giving the ball away three times and not forcing any turnovers themselves, which was highly uncharacteristic of this Baylor team during the winning streak. The defense didn’t care, though, it just continued stuffing UCLA and taking care of business. The offense was its usual, efficient self, with Nick Florence throwing for 188 yards and two scores, Lache Seastrunk rushing for 138 yards and a touchdown while Glasgo Martin added 98 yards on the ground and three scores of his own. But the real story remained the defense and its impressive work in proving all of the pundits horribly, horribly wrong. There would be no shootout; and if it weren’t for the worst end-of-game officiating debacle in recent memory, the Bears would have held UCLA to under 20 points. The win capped off a season that proved that the resurgence Baylor football is no fluke, and will not be trifled with.

Of course, the recent tweeting of the Holiday Bowl Championship rings produced a little bit of controversy awesomeness:

5. Heisman Moments. December 3, 2011: Baylor 48, Texas 24.

Baylor vs. Texas 2011

During the week leading up to this game, we were forced to endure endless hype about the Texas defense that had become the best in the Big 12, how they hadn’t allowed any plays longer than 20 yards all season, or whatever the stat was. All week long we heard Blake Gideon jawing about how the Texas defense was going to shut RGIII down. It took two plays from the line of scrimmage to prove him wrong. On a 2nd-and-10 at the Baylor 41, Robert Griffin III stepped back into the pocket and launched a beautiful pass to Kendall Wright, who had streaked past the Texas secondary. Wright caught the ball and waltzed into the end zone untouched. After a close first half, the Bears held the Longhorns to three second half points, while firing off 24 of their own. He added a gorgeous 39-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams (Terrence Williams) in the fourth quarter to cap a 15 for 22 day with 320 passing yards, and added two rushing touchdowns to his two passing touchdowns. It was a magical night for Griffin. After the game, RGIII said, "I could be wrong, but I think Baylor won its first Heisman tonight." A week later in New York City, his words proved prophetic as he took hold of the Heisman Trophy. In Baylor Nation, there was great rejoicing.

4. The Season-saving Comeback. November 12, 2011: Baylor 31, Kansas 30.

Baylor vs. Kansas 2011

Nobody expected this game to be the trap game of 2011. Baylor came out flat, managing a pitiful 33 yards in the first quarter and turning the ball over once. The second quarter was hardly any better, with the Bears turning the ball over again, gaining only an additional 64 yards and kicking a field goal as time expired in the half. The Kansas Jayhawks were 2-7 on the year so far and winless in conference, yet they had just held the potent Baylor offense to under 100 total yards of offense in the first half and led the game 17-3. The third quarter was no better, with the Bears having one drive of 3 total yards, and one drive of 52 yards that ended with a highly unusual RGIII interception. With 15 minutes to play, the Bears trailed Kansas 24-3. All hope seemed lost. But then, all of a sudden Robert Griffin III happened. On their first drive of the fourth quarter, Griffin hit Kendall Wright for 25 yards before showcasing his blinding speed on a 49 yard touchdown run. On the next drive, he hit Kendall Wright twice for 14 and 17 yards before finding Terrance Williams in the end zone for a 36 yard score. He then hit Tevin Reese for 67 yards to tie the game with just over 3:30 remaining. Kansas started to drive, but an Elliot Coffey interception halted the Kansas drive and Baylor forced overtime. After Jared Salubi rushed twice for a first down in the opening overtime drive, RGIII found Reese in the end zone for the second time. Kansas took just one play to score, but decided to go for two to win the game. The pass was broken up, and for the second straight year Baylor celebrated bowl eligibility.

Why is this game so high on the list, you ask? The game was not televised; it was only viewable online. And while the first 45 minutes of the game was probably some of the most frustrating football I’ve ever seen, the last fifteen made it absolutely worth it. It was as if Griffin, after throwing that pick, said, "This aggression will not stand, man!" And suddenly there he was, making plays left and right. Lightning quick strikes. The defense that held him to 152 yards through three quarters and forced three turnovers was suddenly powerless to stop him. He did it all, accomplishing one of the better comebacks I’ve ever seen. And when he was done, he saved Baylor’s season and his own Heisman hopes. It was a sight to behold.

3. Vengeance Is Sweet, if Slightly Nerve Wracking. September 2, 2011: Baylor 50, TCU 48.

Baylor vs. TCU 2011

Friday night. The only college football game on TV, the day before the full season kicks off. Baylor, having lost the previous year to TCU 45-10, has an ax to grind. Plus there's this guy. Baylor shows it means business right off the bat with some trickeration, RGIII throws a backwards pass to Kendall Wright, who launches a 40 yard pass to Terrance Williams. For the rest of the first half, TCU and Baylor trade blows, with seven lead changes in the first half. The Bears get some separation before the half and head to the locker room up 34-23. The atmosphere in Baylor Nation turns downright festive as Robert Griffin III launches a 64-yard bomb to Lanear Sampson and a 42 yarder to Williams, putting the Bears up 47-23 at the start of the 4th quarter. But then, back come the Frogs. 47-31. 47-39. 47-45. The festive atmosphere has turned downright fearful. The dread is palpable at The Case, even through my television screen. My eight months pregnant wife kicks me out of the living room, declaring that she can’t take the stress any more. I am banished to finish the game in solitude, but she requires regular updates.

Where is our offense? Art Briles has taken his foot off the gas, hoping to be able to control the clock with the ground game. The plan fails miserably, then backfires when RGIII fumbles the ball and TCU recovers on Baylor’s 39. The defense stiffens, though, and only gives up the field goal. 48-47. I glance at the clock. TCU has made a critical error! There’s over 4 minutes left in the game, and the Bears were been scoring quickly, when they were scoring. 1st down: incomplete pass, intended for Kendall Wright. 2nd down: incomplete pass, intended for Lanear Sampson. I’m sweating. TCU has our number. This will be yet another in a long string of disappointments from Baylor Football. But then, RGIII tosses a backwards pass to Kendall Wright, who then launches it over the middle to... RGIII, who catches it and is immediately hammered. He takes a second to get up, but get up he does. RGIII returns the favor to Kendall Wright, 11 more yards and Baylor is moving the football again. Griffin and Terrance Ganaway combine rushes for another first down, and then Griffin hits Terrance Williams for 17 yards, down to the TCU 26. Three rushes go nowhere, so on comes Aaron Jones, the stork, to hit the 37 yard field goal. With just over a minute to play, he drills it. 50-48. I calmly inform my wife of the situation, and she tells me she still can’t watch. TCU starts moving the football, quickly swallowing huge chunks of yardage as time ticks away. They move into Baylor territory and spike the ball. 18 seconds to play. Pachall has all kinds of time, but then throws errantly. Ahmad Dixon almost hauls in a game-saving interception. I leap up out of my chair, then rapidly sink back down into it in despondence, still expecting TCU to pull this thing out. 12 seconds to play. Pachall drops back, looks at his options, then throws the ball to Mike Hicks, who accepts it willingly and seals the Baylor victory. I vault from my chair and burst back into the living room. "BEARS WIN! BEARS WIN! WE BEAT TCU!!! BEARS WIN!!!!!!!" RGIII returns to the field one more time and downs the football. Baylor 50, TCU 48. An instant classic of a game. Vengeance for a humiliating defeat the previous year. It would launch RGIII’s Heisman campaign and tell the world that Baylor football is back.

2. Unbelievably Believable. November 19, 2011: Baylor 45, Oklahoma 38.

Baylor vs. Oklahoma 2011

I don’t know what there is to say about this game that hasn’t been said already. You all know the stats. You know the impact plays. You know the stats. You know the history. You’ve watched the game countless times before (If you haven’t, you can now. Go watch it. Right now.). For me, not only is this one of the biggest games of the Art Briles era, it’s one of the biggest games in the history of Baylor football. The TCU game taught us that this Bears team was something different, that they wouldn’t fold under pressure and lose the tight game. This game against Oklahoma taught us that nothing is out of reach, not even a Heisman trophy. A solid first half had Baylor ahead and had me believing. As halftime hit, I turned to my wife and said, "We’ve got a real shot to win this game." Then OU promptly rattled off 14 points to take the lead and momentum away from Baylor. Terrance Williams had a ball in his hands that he dropped, and I really started to worry that the Sooners were going to pull away, as they had always done. But momentum is a tricky thing. Some say it doesn’t exist, but one deflected pass dropped right into the waiting arms of Kendall Wright who then took it to the house. Game on. Another 14 points, and Baylor was sitting pretty with a 38-24 lead. Of course, almost on cue, OU came storming back, scoring the potential tying touchdown with 51 seconds left in the game. After a false start penalty derailed their attempt to win the game outright, they settled for the extra point and tied it. Normally, 51 seconds is far too little time to march down the field and score the winning touchdown; in fact, Art Briles looked to be playing for OT with a handoff to Terrance Ganaway up the middle. Bob Stoops, thinking he might have the chance to take a shot, took a timeout. Apparently that didn’t sit well with Art Briles and Robert Griffin III, because on the next play RGIII rushed for 21 yards, another eight yards, then connected with Kendall Wright, who ducked a couple of defenders and got the Bears down inside the 34 yard line with 21 seconds to play. The next play is the stuff of legends. The play has been discussed and broken down at length, particularly by this fantastic article by DCTF’s Greg Tepper. Seriously, if you haven’t read that article before or even if you have and it’s been awhile, stop reading this article and go read that article. Then come back and continue reading this article. It’s spectacular. What amazes me is that RGIII launched that pass BEFORE Williams broke from the defender. Griffin threw the ball the only possible place that Williams could catch it, and Williams knew to break there. This win finalized what the TCU game started - Baylor football is back. It gave legitimacy to RGIII’s Heisman campaign, and jump started a national conversation about the transformation of Baylor under the tutelage of Robert Griffin III and Art Briles. And even now, nearly two years on, I can’t think about that game without getting that jumpy sense of excitement and pride in my stomach.

As an aside, this game will forever be linked to Joe Tessitore’s voice. I cannot even think of two different plays without hearing his voice in my head. "...And that ball is FLOATING THROUGH THE AIR AND PICKED UP BY KENDALL WRIGHT!!! Touchdown Bears! Sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good!" I will never be able to think about the Immaculate Deflection without hearing those words. And then, of course, "Remember, no time outs for Baylor. Empty backfield for Griffin... He has time... launches it to the end zone... TOUCHDOWN!!! TERRANCE WILLIAMS!!!!!" Every single time I see that play, regardless of the replay, regardless of what song is playing in the background or what camera angle is shown, I hear Joe Tessitore’s voice in my head. This game and he are forever linked for me.

1. We Are Here To Stay. November 17, 2012: Baylor 52, Kansas State 24.

Baylor vs. Kansas State 2012

I’ve had numerous discussions with friends and family about which win is bigger, this one or OU. If you disagree, I’d love to hear your reasoning, but here’s mine. The OU game was huge for Baylor, but this one was bigger. the Bears had never beaten a #1 ranked team before. Coming into the season, there were questions about how Baylor would cope with losing its program-altering quarterback and top talent receiver. There were those that said that Baylor was nothing more than a dynamic quarterback named Robert Griffin III. This victory proved that the Bears were no one-trick pony. While Griffin was the instrument of Baylor’s resurgence, Art Briles was its architect. This win proved that. It wasn’t the heroic efforts of one person or a select few that made this game so great, it was a team effort. The defense came up huge, completely dominating the normally-punishing Kansas State offense. The offense was its normal self - dynamic and exciting. The combination of the two made for a dominant performance and a statement game. The OU win said you couldn’t take us for granted anymore; KSU said that we are here to stay.

Though there had been glimmers of resurrection in the previous two weeks (the blowout of Kansas and a fairly close loss to Oklahoma), the season at this point still felt largely like a disappointment. The defensive turnaround had certainly started, but it was this game where it blossomed. The players bought into Phil Bennett’s scheme and were selling out on their assignments. As the defense piled up multiple stops against Collin Klein and the K-State offense in the first half with little results from the offense, I stayed nervous. I thought that eventually the ball control offense of the Wildcats would eventually take over and we wouldn’t get the ball back for long stretches of time. I shouldn’t have worried, though, because in the 2nd Quarter Baylor put together two quick drives that put them up 28-7 over the Wildcats. Though they fought back with 10 points of their own, K-State would not get closer than 11 points down for the rest of the game. And that grueling, milk-the-clock-ball-control offense of Bill Snyder’s finally saw the light of day at the end of the 3rd Quarter and beginning of the 4th, when the Bears were already up 52-24. The drive lasted over eight minutes, taking up half of the 4th Quarter, grinding to a halt at the 1 yard line of the Bears when the Baylor defense stopped Collin Klein cold on 4th down.

This game was chock full of offensive fireworks on the Baylor side, and no play was more exciting than watching Lache Seastrunk turn on the afterburners and leave everyone in his dust. It was one of the more visually impressive runs I’ve seen in recent memory, and it cemented a win that, for my money, is the biggest in the short history of Art Briles at Baylor.

*****

Well, there you have it, folks. The Top Ten Wins of the Art Briles Era. What do you think? Any games left off the list? Should they be in a different order? Let us know in the comments!

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