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Fiesta Bowl Final: UCF 52, Baylor 42

For just the second time this season, the Baylor Bears found themselves outplayed and on the losing end. That it happened tonight on basically the largest possible stage and in the final game of the season only makes things worse.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor came into this game a 17-point favorite to win its first BCS bowl ever and finish the season with a program-record 12 wins.  It left the losers of one of the biggest upsets in BCS bowl history after having never led over the course of the game.  Disappointment being the difference between expectations and result, Baylor fans are obviously and understandably extremely disappointed.  George O'Leary's Central Florida Knights were simply better on both sides of the ball, particular offensively against the Baylor defense, and managed to overcome 3 first half turnovers, to boot.  Baylor gave up everything-- big plays down the field and on the ground, short plays that should have been made and weren't-- and had no answer.  We also helped things along considerably with a near-record 17 penalties, most of which were completely preventable procedural miscues.  Several others came as the result of idiotic plays by the secondary.  When they weren't giving up free yards by the boatload, that same secondary missed tackle after tackle.  Calling it a disaster would be charitable.

I don't know why Baylor wasn't ready to play tonight.  We'll probably never know (and before anyone says it, the idea that the UT stuff had this kind of impact is facile, at best).  All of the reports from practice were good about energy and motivation.  After losing to Oklahoma State, it's not like we were expecting something significantly better that we didn't get.  Anything you hear about effort from anyone associated with Baylor will be an excuse, something to blame where we don't want to see the truth.  No, the result of this game is much simpler than "We weren't interested."  UCF was just better.  Having seen the OSU, KSU, and TCU games, studied them in detail, and learned the lessons contained therein, UCF crafted an excellent offensive game plan focusing on the play action (duh) and the Blake Bortles-led read option.  It wasn't entirely schematic, however, as UCF also controlled the game on the line of scrimmage basically throughout.  That will be the lasting image of this game: a Baylor DL put on skates again and again.  It's exactly what we couldn't let happen.

The disappointment of this game doesn't undo everything positive that has happened this season.  That's not how this works.  As awful as the defense looked against UCF's rushing attack, they are still light years better than they were. Otherwise, we wouldn't even be in this game to start with.  Thinking we should fire Phil Bennett because of this game is beyond nonsensical.  But that disappointment is still there, it's still real, and it's something we're going to have to address going forward.  This game didn't go at all like we hoped.  The season didn't end at all like we hoped.  Honestly, of all the things I'm upset about regarding this game, the penalties are the worst.  It's ok to get beat by a team more ready to play than you are.  It's not ok to do it and look like fools.  The score looked bad enough without adding insult to injury.

And now we get to think about it for nine months until our new stadium opens and the games resume.