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Bears Hope to Avoid Another Texas Bowl Disappointment

Baylor v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

I still remember leaving what is now called NRG Stadium in 2010 disappointed at what I had just witnessed. In front of a very large and rowdy de facto home crowd, the Bears rewarded the fans with a shoddy defense and stagnant offense. From a fans’ perspective, it just seemed as though that Baylor team was just happy to be make a bowl game, rather than be in it to win it. That game had repercussions. It was soon afterward that the program decided to go in a different direction and hire a new defensive coordinator.

There are similarities between now and then. Although it’s debatable, just like in 2010 I think most fans would call this season a success, despite whatever the outcome of the pending bowl game. In 2010 Baylor had just broken a 16-year drought, and after going 1-11 last year, a bowl game this year almost feels like a miracle. Another similarity is in the type of opponent that we drew for the game. Without disrespect to either Illinois or Vanderbilt, neither school motivates the type of hatred that a Texas A&M or Auburn match-up would have; and I’m sure their fanbases probably feel the same way about us. In my opinion, this factor led to an uninspiring 2010 Texas Bowl that hopefully won’t be repeated this time around in 2018.

Not everything is aligning just as it did in 2010, however. In 2010 Baylor finished the season at 7-5 so it didn’t matter whether we won or lost, we were still guaranteed to have a winning record; whereas this year a loss would put the Bears on wrong side of the win/loss column. It seems like it shouldn’t be big deal. What’s one more game, in post-season? But I can just hear the critics now if we miss on a bowl next year, “Rhule hasn’t had a winning record yet, and Briles had one in his first 3 years.” Another difference is the clarity or lack thereof, that the future holds for the football program. Even though it was a disappointing result in our last Texas Bowl, the fanbase still believed the program was on the rise; the offense was just starting to get good, we had a Heisman quarterback on the roster, and a new experienced defensive coordinator taking over. Unfortunately, with this bowl game there is a gigantic elephant in the room that nobody really wants to discuss--the NCAA notice of allegations sent to Baylor in early October. What kind of ramifications will the NCAA actions have on the program going forward as well as future bowl games?

With the cloud of uncertainty looming from the NCAA, my hope is that these players realize this year’s bowl game is a chance to leave their marks on their Baylor career. The way things have gone the past few years, we can’t afford to be complacent. The coaching staff needs to keep the players from falling into the same trap that multiple teams fall into every year of not being focused come game time. As a coaching staff, team, fanbase, and university, we must be energized for this game as though it were the most important game of the season.