What’s up team? I’m back and whether or not you like it we’re going to be taking a deep dive on two of the biggest bangers of the last decade. This is my personal favorite game in Baylor football history as well as a song that has meant the world to me for the greater part of my adult life. Today we are going to take a walk together and talk about West Virginia 2013 and Touch The Sky by Kanye West.
It’s worth repeating that while early 2000’s hip-hop and Baylor Football are two of my favorite things in the entire world, I know without a doubt that being a 150-pound white dude who lives in Austin, Texas gives me little-to-no authority to speak on either topic. What we’re trying to do here is take a look at a kick-ass song and an ass-kicking of a football game, no more and no less. Let’s ride.
For those who haven’t refreshed their memory of each of these slappers, I’ve gone ahead and thrown a few links at you below to reacquaint yourself with perfection incarnate:
Baylor vs. West Virginia 2013 -
Touch The Sky: Kanye West -
There is a great argument to be made that this is both the season and the game where the secret got out: Baylor was a
good great football team that wouldn’t think twice before dropping 63 points on your head. Coming off an up-and-down 2012 campaign that ended way-way-way up, expectations were justifiably mixed for the 2013 iteration of my beloved Bears. The first few weeks of the season included swift and thorough mud-hole stompings over Wofford, Buffalo, and UL Monroe. While the Bears were averaging 69 points a game 3 games into the season, the long-and-short of any discussion about the boys on the Brazos was that they correctly had not played anyone worth a damn, so there was a nation-wide brake-pumping around any hype getting generated out of Waco.
Competition aside, anyone with a brain could see that this team had the juice. They had an Oregon RB transfer with preseason dark-horse Heisman hopes, an untested but strong as hell quarterback who would end up accounting for 46 total touchdowns that season, and a receiver-room full of track stars patiently waiting in line for 80 yard bombs. Partner each of the above with the best offensive line in Baylor history, and we were cooking with gas folks.
The defense did not have any sure-fire All-America candidates, but what they did have were enough dudes that could handle the 80-90 snaps per game to give the offense a chance to cook up a 50-burger and take home a victory. I’ll never forget where I was when Chris McAllister tipped a pass, caught the ball, and took it to the house all by his damn self. The defense was trending upward and that was good enough to put chumps in a blender all fall long. The defense also had Waco legend Ahmad Dixon, who at one point was the highest rated defensive recruit in what felt like 100 years. Lastly, the defense returned National Player Of The Week Joe Williams fresh off a year that saw him pick-off the Heisman front-runner two times in Baylor’s biggest win of all time over #1 Kansas State.
Simply put, anyone in Waco would have let you know that the team was built to win and to win right this moment.
By the time that Kanye released “Touch The Sky” on August 30th of 2005, he had already established himself as an emerging (if not dominating) voice in the conversation of hip-hop up-and-comers. He had spent years producing hits for heavyweights in the game like Jay-Z, Trina, Talib Kwali, Brandy, and Alicia Keys, but it wasn’t until the release of his first studio album “The College Dropout” in 2004 that he had firmly planted his feet in front of the microphone instead of behind the producer’s desk.
The aforementioned debut album was an unmistakable home-run and is considered one of the best albums of the first decade of this century. The College Dropout is 21 consecutive tracks of heat, ranging from the smooth guitar and predictably heart wrenching discussion around chasing a lifestyle that you can’t quite fit your hands around of “All Falls Down” all the way to the unflinchingly unique “Through the Wire” where Kanye raps an entire song with his jaw wired shut while describing to the listener how he got in this situation. With his signature style of sampling classic songs, slowing down the drums/horns, and lacing a track over top of that, Kanye had found his lane and was comfortably leading the pack here.
Understandably, when Kanye was set to release his sophomore album, Late Registration, expectations were mixed. Would he follow-up a chart-topping album with another or would it be underwhelming and push him back to operating primarily as a producer? All he did was win the 2006 Grammy for Best Rap Album and bless us with all-time hits like Gold Digger, Touch The Sky, Hey Mama, and Heard ‘Em Say.
Touch The Sky get the party going with horns sampled from the 1971 hit “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield briefly before West leans into the mic with throat-punch of an opening lyric “I gotta testify, Come up in the spot looking extra fly. ‘Fore the day I die, I’ma touch the sky.” After giving the listener a snapshot of his many efforts to break into the music industry, Kanye ends his flamethrower of a first verse with “I think I died in that accident, ‘cause this must be Heaven!” referencing his well-documented car crash that nearly took his life in 2002.
After a few more verses of deep introspection masked by a fun-as-hell beat and a horn line that reminds you of the first day of summer, Kanye takes a victory lap on all of us with the refrain “We’re back at home, baby!” before riding the outro while chanting “I’m, I’m sky high!” until the sound fades out and you are left with your own thoughts for a few seconds before running the track back about 8 more times.
This song is ridiculously fun and encapsulates how Kanye built a career on story telling mixed with samples of songs worth remembering from years passed all while using his unique voice to leave a line or two stuck in your head for days at a time. Regardless of what you may or may not think about the last decade or so, Kayne was in a league of his own in 2005 and I’m going to choose to remember that version of him for as long as I possibly can.
They thought pink polos would hurt the Roc
Kanye starts this song off with a direct reference to the fact that Jay-Z was hesitant to sign him to his record label because of his off-the-wall style that was a hard break from the mainstream fashion sense of the day. Kanye was regularly seen wearing his signature pink polo shirt and typically paired that with an equally eccentric backpack, and many thought this could keep him from breaking into the mainstream of hip-hop. Kanye ended up proving any and all those nay-sayers wrong and carved out a path of his own. Baylor also managed to pull off a meteoric rise to prominence while thinking outside the box when it came to fashion. With the eyes of the country on Waco on that Saturday night, they didn’t just show up to knock teeth out, they rolled up in their newly minted Chrome Domes.
Up to this point, we knew that Baylor had some exciting uniform combinations up their sleeve, but this was by far the biggest and boldest fashion statement the team had made. Having a team that could back up a chrome gold helmet probably helped there.
‘Cause this must be Heaven
Walking into their 4th game of the season, the Baylor Bears were in unfamiliar territory. They were on a 7-game win streak that extended back to the victory over the #1 Kansas Sate Fighting Snyders, and there was national buzz around what the boys in green were doing to any chumps who dared line up against them. Pundits galore were eager to push Baylor back to the basement of the Big 12, noting that while they ended the 2012 campaign on a high-note, all they had done was bully a few lesser teams to kick off the 2013 season.
In walks West Virginia, who had beaten Baylor in their 1st-ever matchup last season in a ridiculously stupid 70-63 result in Morgantown that, frankly, neither team deserved to win. Even though Baylor was ranked 17th in the country at kick-off, no one outside of the 254 really expected the Bears to continue their recent run of dominance. All we did was unveil the greatest uniform combination in school history, take our 69 point per game average, and drop 73 on those dudes before they could get their shoes tied.
The game starts off with a short pass to Baylor legend Tevin Reece, a quick run up the middle, and then a smooth 65-yard pass to Antwan Goodley to get on the board a mere 40 seconds after kick-off. West Virginia were overmatched, overpowered, and in for 3 hours of ass kicking at the hands of Bryce and whoever the hell he gave the ball to.
After a very rare fielding mistake by sure-handed WR/Punt Returner leading to a special teams touchdown for the Mountaineers, Baylor got the ball back for their second drive. The Bears followed up their 3 play explosion with a 12 play, bruising drive where they proved that they can find more than one way to demoralize you. Bryce was playing with his food. After an incredible 4th down stand by Eddie Lackey and company, the boys came back onto the field and busted the top off the defense with a 1-play drive ending with Tevin Reece sliding on his back into the endzone. The route was on in Waco.
West Virginia proved quickly that their only offensive game plan was to throw it as far as they could and hope that Kevin White came down with the ball. All things considered, that isn’t an objectively bad plan because college Kevin White was damn near unstoppable.
After another sputtering drive by the mountaineers, Bryce attempted to slow down the pace and handed off the ball to Lache Seastrunk to get the drive started. 80 yards and 13 yards later, Bryce trotted off the field after seeing Lache bust one outside and get to paydirt.
All told, Baylor was up 28-7 at the end of the first quarter and then promptly scored on the second play of the 2nd quarter as Glasco Martin went untouched up the middle. Nothing was going to stop the gang from getting points that night and Geno Smith wasn’t about to walk through that door.
A few unremarkable drives later Glasco doubled his touchdown mark with another 6 yard burst up the middle to extend the lead to 42-7. This was followed by the Mountaineers finally connecting with Kevin White to get their first offense score of the game. Real quick, I need you to know that that WVU only completed 17 passes this game and 7 of them were answered prayers to Kevin. Real sicko stuff, gang.
Yes, yes, yes, guess who’s on third?
While the second half of this game did not provide the same fireworks that we were hit with in the opening 30 minutes, we did get a glimpse of a few Baylor Mount Rushmore candidates. It’s rare that you get 30 minutes of garbage-time in a conference football game, but that is exactly what we were gifted with when we saw Shock Linwood (Baylor all-time leading rusher) and Seth Russel (the single biggest what-if in Big 12 history) enter the game. As expected, neither player was quite the finished product that we grew accustomed to years down the road, but seeing these guys get on the field that early in their career pretty obviously threw their development into overdrive.
Similarly, just about every single listener who turned on “Touch The Sky” was gifted with an early glimpse of Lupe Fiasco. Lupe is the artist you hear on the third track, and while he was entirely capable of superstardom of his own accord, it is hard to deny that his feature on a Kanye West song this early in his career gave him a springboard that would have benefitted just about anyone on the planet.
Lupe had already began carving out a place for himself in the hip-hop game by 2005, but shortly after his feature on “Touch The Sky” he would release another all-time slapper in “Kick, Push”. If you care at all about love stories, skateboarding, or just kick-ass music, I could not recommend clicking that link more.
Lupe is still making incredible music to this day, and while he very obviously was destined for greatness from the jump, his early feature with a soon-to-be hip-hop giant surely didn’t hurt the cause.
We back at home, baby!
After decades of being a spot where Big-12 teams came to pad their stats, cross off a guaranteed win, and pray that none of their players left a meaningless game injured, Floyd-Casey stadium had seemingly transferred overnight into a place where teams came to play target practice for the best offense in America. In its last three years as Baylor’s home stadium, the Bears would lose exactly one (1) home game. Floyd-Casey, the butt of decades of tarp jokes and truthfully pitiful bathrooms (shout out to all the ice troughs), spent her waning years proving to be a place where #1 teams came to lose, Oklahoma and Texas would get embarrassed, and most importantly a place where Big 12 champions rested their heads at night.
This was the game that did it for me. I had grown up in Waco and went to games whenever we got free tickets in our happy-meals (yes that is a real thing that happened), but my heart wasn’t in it. I did a little bit of couch surfing my freshman year to get by, so this was my first season where I felt like a part of the Baylor community, and this game solidified that the team I had grown to love was primed to kick any ass that lined ‘em up on the field.
Baylor came up in the spot looking extra fly, detonated a nuclear warhead on Dana and his Mountaineers, and Baylor fans around the country finally felt what it was like to touch the sky that night.