Conference play begins for the Baylor Bears this Saturday night against the University of Texas Longhorns. In all likelihood, this will be the last time the Longhorns play in Waco for quite a while. The 112-game series, dating back to 1901, is the 46th most played matchup in college football history and the third longest between two teams in the state of Texas. A rivalry halted for nothing in the last century less than a world war comes to an unnecessary end.
As we prepare to watch the 113th meeting, I wanted to take time to look back on some of the best moments — memories that will live on even if the rivalry doesn’t.
Miracle on the Brazos, 1974
In 1973, then second-year head coach Grant Teaff led Baylor to a disappointing 2-9 record (0-7 in conference). And despite losing the 1974 season opener to #1 Oklahoma, the team knew this year was going to be different. By early-November, Baylor was 4-3 with wins over #12 Oklahoma State and #14 Arkansas.
On November 9, the #12 Texas Longhorns entered Baylor Stadium (later renamed Floyd Casey in 1988) looking to continue their 16-game win streak against the Bears. A 24-7 halftime lead made 17-straight seem pretty likely.
Here’s a retrospective recount from our own David Fankhauser:
As Coach Teaff entered the Baylor locker room at halftime, the first player he encountered was his QB Neil Jeffrey, who had a big goofy grin on his face. Teaff was alarmed and asked his quarterback, “What do you see funny about being down 24-7?” Jeffrey continued to smile as he responded to his head coach:
“Coach, we got ‘em right where we want ’em. They’re thinking, ‘Same old Baylor,’ but we’re not. We have a great game plan and we know how to come back in a game.”
Jeffery’s confidence permeated through the entire locker room and as the Bears took the field for the second half, they felt that something special was about to happen. They may have been the only people in the world that believed they could still win that game, but that didn’t stop the Baylor players from believing in themselves.
Texas started the second half with the football but were unable to move the ball as Baylor made some halftime adjustments against the option. The Longhorns dropped back to punt but Johnny Greene blocked it to give the Bears the ball at the Texas 17 yard line. The Bears drove down to the 1 yard line but faced 4th and goal. Jeffrey, not exactly known as being fleet of foot, faked the handoff to RB Steve Beaird and beat the Texas defenders to the corner to cut the deficit to 24-14. And after Jeffrey hit wide receiver (and current on-field reporter for BU football radio broadcasts) Ricky Thompson on a slant and run for a 58 yard touchdown pass to make it a 3 point game, the momentum was fully on the side of the green and gold. Assistant coach Cotton Davidson radioed down to Teaff from the press box that there was a line of cars coming back into the stadium parking lot. Baylor fans that had left early now wanted to be a part of the developing comeback.
The comeback was complete early in the 4th quarter as a Texas fumble deep in their own territory led to a go-ahead 6 yard touchdown run by Phillip Kent to give the Bears a 28-24 lead. A pair of Bubba Hicks field goals put the game away and Baylor could finally celebrate a win over the Longhorns. After the game, Darrell Royal stopped into the Baylor locker room, congratulating the Bears on their victory and urging them “Don’t look back, go all the way.” The scoreboard at Baylor Stadium that read Baylor 34 Texas 24 stayed on all night as Baylor fans everywhere reveled in the win.
Baylor would go on to win their next three games, win their first Southwest Conference championship since 1924, and play Penn State in the Cotton Bowl.
The Worm, 1978
Heading into the 1978 season, Baylor had won two-straight at home against Texas. That said, the 1978 team looked a lot different from the 74 and 76 teams. Sitting at 2-8 with one final game against the heavily favored #9 Longhorns, head coach Grant Teaff knew the team needed extra motivation if they were going to win.
As reported in the New York Times,
“He [Teaff] told us a story about two fishermen,” [sophomore linebacker Mike] Singletary said. “One was catching fish, and the other wasn’t. The second fisherman asked the first how he was catching so many. He told him, ‘I keep the worms warm in my mouth.’”
“Then Coach Teaff told us, ‘If that’s what it takes for you to beat Texas, I’ll swallow this worm,’ and he put one in his mouth and sent us out of the dressing room.”
“After the game, I wondered what the taste was like. Jerry Harrison [senior linebacker] asked him and he said Coach Teaff told him, ‘It tasted pretty good.’”
Given how well Baylor played, it’s a shock Teaff wasn’t asked to swallow a worm before every game. The first quarter was a low-scoring affair with Baylor scoring the only points following a 13 play, 57 yard touchdown drive. The second quarter saw Baylor score three more touchdowns following a trio of Texas turnovers inside their own territory (Texas would end the game with six interceptions and three fumbles)
Entering the second half down 28 to 0, Texas orchestrated one good drive in the third quarter, a ten play, 69 yard drive capped off with a 27 yard touchdown pass. They also benefited from a 52 yard interception return for a touchdown.
There would be no glorious second-half comeback for the Longhorns, though. Baylor had a quick, 1:24 scoring drive for 49 yards in the third quarter and a cherry-on-top 37 yard field goal with 9:39 left in the fourth. Baylor’s 38-14 win was the largest ever margin of victory against Texas at that point — a record that would stand until 1989.
50-7 in Austin, 1989
Despite winning all but one game at home against the Longhorns over one and a half decades, a win in Austin simply eluded Grant Teaff. It’s not that Baylor couldn’t win in Austin, it’s just that they hadn’t done so since 1951.
By the end of November in 1989, both teams were struggling. Baylor was 4-6 and coming off a 6-3 loss to Rice the prior week. Texas was 5-4 but had some impressive wins early in the year, including a 28-24 victory over #15 Oklahoma and 24-20 win at #7 Arkansas.
On the game, the Los Angeles Times wrote,
Blackmon reached below his knees to intercept Texas quarterback Peter Gardere’s pass, which was tipped by Texas receiver Tony Jones, and ran 20 yards for a touchdown with 9:36 left in the first quarter.
Blackmon out-jumped Jones for reserve quarterback Donovan Forbes’ pass and ran 35 yards with the interception for his second touchdown with 11:42 remaining in the half.
Blackmon’s third interception, off Gardere, and his 26-yard return set up a two-yard touchdown by Anthony Ray to give Baylor a 43-0 lead late in the third quarter.
Baylor, ranked No. 11 nationally in defense, finished its season with a 5-6 record, 4-4 in the Southwest Conference. Texas is 5-5 and 4-3.
Texas had eight turnovers and never started a possession beyond its 25 until Baylor lost a fumble fumble at its 2. Texas then scored on Adrian Walker’s 1-yard dive to avoid its first shutout since 1980.
The third quarter was really special. Baylor’s 26 points were more than their highest point total for an entire game in Austin since 1924.
Teaff’s Final Game Against Texas, 1992
1992 was Grant Teaff’s 21st and final season as the head coach of Baylor Football. The Bears were 5-5 with one game left, a home match against Texas, to secure a bowl berth. Texas was also on the cusp of earning a spot in the post-season, sitting at 6-3 but with only 5 victories against Division-I opponents.
As the 21-20 final score suggests, this game came down to the wire. From Baylor Bear Foundation:
Teaff, and all the players, had no intentions of losing that game.
“The thing that stands out to me is that everybody - from J.J. (Joe) to Melvin Bonner, David Mims, Michael McFarland, Curtis Hafford - none of us wanted Coach Teaff to walk off that field with a loss. There was no way that was going to happen,” said Trooper Taylor, a fifth-year defensive back on that team and a longtime college assistant coach now in his fourth year at Arkansas State.
“All week long, whether it was the dining hall, the study hall or in the training room with Mike Sims, everybody was locked-in to make sure we did everything humanly possible. I can tell you this, there is nothing losing about Coach Teaff. The reason that most of us are winners in life is because of that guy.”
Taylor, who returned from a devastating knee injury that year, broke off a 40-yard kickoff return in that game to break the school career record with 1,063 yards. But, it was a play in the fourth quarter that turned out to be arguably the biggest of his career.
Joe engineered the offensive attack for the Bears, tossing an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike McKenzie and scoring on TD runs of eight and one yard to give Baylor a 21-10 fourth-quarter lead.
The Longhorns made it a one-point game with a 19-yard TD run by quarterback Peter Gardere and a 25-yard field goal by Scott Szeredy and had two shots in the final minutes to pull off the win and stay in the race for the Southwest Conference championship.
But, not this day. Not against Grant Teaff.
“(Coach Teaff) wasn’t playing, but I could have sworn I saw him out there in black and white (referee’s uniform) a couple times,” Gardere said after the game, referring to a couple questionable calls. “We had some things going for us, and we were on a roll, but the referees sometimes took us out of it.”
None bigger than the mark on running back Phil Brown’s run on fourth-and-4 from the Bears’ 41-yard line. Taylor and defensive tackle Joseph Asbell teamed to stop him on a draw play that had worked all day long.
The referees marked the Longhorns six inches short of the first down, giving Baylor the ball back with 1:44 left and pretty much guaranteeing that Teaff would walk off the field that day a winner.
“One of the things I loved about it is was an incident in that game where, in my opinion, it was a bad call on Texas,” Teaff said. “But, I had gotten so many horrendous, horrendous calls playing the University of Texas . . . it was really good that they got a little of their own medicine.”
After the final seconds ticked off the Floyd Casey Stadium scoreboard, the players lifted Teaff on their shoulders and started to carry him off the field. Something they had done the year before and eight other times in his Baylor career, with Teaff compiling a mark of 10-11 versus the rival Longhorns.
This time, though, was different.
The year, 1997. The coach, newly hired Dave Roberts. The record, 1-6.
To say Baylor struggled in the first few years of the Big 12 is an understatement. Chuck Reedy was fired following a 4-7 season (1-7 in conference) and Roberts wasn’t looking much better. The Bears had no conference wins, and they were hosting Texas for homecoming.
The game itself was a back-and-forth affair. Baylor Athletics wrote,
On Nov.1, 1997, the Baylor Bears defeated the Texas Longhorns, 23-21, in front of a Homecoming crowd of 42,719 in Waco, Texas. It was the first time the Bears had defeated the Longhorns since 1992.
Baylor started the game with a 7-0 lead after running back Elijah Burkins scored the first touchdown. Texas’ Jamel Thompson then answered with a touchdown of his own after an interception at the Baylor 27.
After another Longhorn touchdown gave them a 14-7 lead, Baylor kicker Matt Bryant came back scoring two field goals in the second quarter.
The Bears’ defensive end, Glenn Coy, started the third quarter with an interception, leading to a touchdown by Brad Domel. The Bears led, 23-14.
After a UT fumble and an interception by Baylor cornerback Matt Anderson, Texas tried to regain their lead. Ricky Williams rushed 87 yards for a touchdown, shrinking the Bears’ lead to two. With 1:22 left to play, Phil Dawson missed a field goal attempt, sealing the Baylor victory.
The scene after the game was spectacular. As described by the Baylor Lariat:
One year ago Saturday, the Baylor Line and other fans showed their love for the Baylor Bear football team when they attacked the south endzone goalpost at Floyd Casey Stadium and ripped the U-section from its base. The crowd, celebrating the Bears’ 23-21 homecoming victory over long-time rivals, the University of Texas Longhorns, could not be stopped.
According to an article about the event in last year’s Nov. 4 Baylor Lariat , Baylor Police Chief Jim Doak said his staff ‘had no intentions of putting a damper on the fans’ emotion and spirit.’
After the goalpost was torn off its base, the Baylor Line and others marched the trophy 25 blocks back to campus. After a short rest at the Bill Daniel Student Center, students took the goalpost to President Robert B. Sloan Jr.’s home. As reported last year, Sloan and his wife said they were ‘excited to find the figure in their yard late Saturday night.’
After students left President Sloan’s house, they returned to the Bill Daniel Student Center and placed the goalpost on the grassy area facing Fifth Street. The post remained there for all to see. Several television stations even came out to cover the event.
In the days to follow, students and faculty, armed with magic markers, wrote all kinds of messages on the uprights. Most messages were as simple as a name and classification, while others were testimonials of love.
Baylor lost their last three games of the year to finish an otherwise forgettable 2-9 season. But November 1 will always be remembered.
Author’s note: While the next two games may bring out mixed feelings given some of the parties involved and what we’ve learned about them in the subsequent years, it would not be fair to the scores of innocent players that worked hard for this team and University to erase their accomplishments from history.
A Violation of Scientific Law, 2010
I think it’s fair to say that expectations were at their highest point for Baylor football in decades. Robert Griffin III, Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year from two years ago, was back from a season-ending injury in 2009. The team had just clinched their first bowl game since 1994, earned their first top-25 ranking since 1993, and they were traveling to Austin to face a Texas team that just two weeks prior beat #5 Nebraska in Lincoln.
It had been 13 years since Baylor defeated Texas in football, 19 years since doing so in Austin. Will Ferrell, celebrity guest picker on College Gameday, said this about Baylor’s chances: “It’s physics. It’s a scientific law that Baylor cannot beat Texas at Texas”.
Not so fast, Will. Despite a slow start from both teams, Baylor entered halftime down 10-12. Here’s how the Associated Press described the game:
Baylor trailed 19-10 early in the third quarter before Jay Finley ran 69 yards for a touchdown. Griffin then scored on a 1-yard touchdown and hit Kendall Wright with a 30-yard scoring pass in the fourth.
“I don’t think there was one player in our locker room that had a doubt we were going to win,” said Baylor safety Byron Landor, who led the Bears with 15 tackles.
Texas led 9-3 before Griffin hit Williams with the long TD strike in the second quarter. The pass only covered about 10 yards in the air but Williams made Texas safety Blake Gideon miss and had no one else to beat over the final 45 yards to the end zone.
Texas drove to a go-ahead field goal just before halftime and appeared to take control early in the third.
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert had two long runs on Texas’ first drive and his scrambling 20-yard touchdown put the Longhorns ahead by nine. Tucker then had his only miss of the game from 49 yards and Baylor answered on Finley’s 69-yard TD run late in the quarter.
Griffin took over the game from there.
An interception by Antonio Johnson inside the Texas 20 set up Griffin’s touchdown run. Baylor converted a fourth-and-1 from the Texas 2, before Griffin punched it in on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The touchdown pass to Wright put the Bears up 30-19 with 8:38 to play.
“It all goes to Robert Griffin. He made play after play after play,” Brown said.
All Baylor had to do from there was hold on. Texas drove inside the 10 again, only to stall and settle for Tucker’s fifth field goal.
Texas’ final chance died at midfield when Marquis Goodwin fumbled and Baylor’s Rodney Chadwick recovered with two minutes to play.
As many remember, 2010 wasn’t the magical year where RGIII won the Heisman and Baylor tied their season-high with 10 wins. However, it was the first time in a long time that a national sports writer (in this case, David Ubben), would pen, “You better take Baylor seriously”.
Case Closed, 2013
When I put the call out on Discord and Facebook for fans’ favorite memories of Baylor playing Texas, one game was mentioned more than any other.
The Ice Bowl. The unofficial 2013 Big 12 Championship Game. Closing of the Case.
While we may call it different things, we probably all have similar stories of how the day began. Walking up to your car, frozen solid with a layer of ice around it from the night before. Driving slowly down I-35, praying that you wouldn’t hit a spot of black ice on the highway and spin off the road. Wondering to yourself, as you sat on the cold, metal bleachers of Floyd Casey in the 24 degree temperature, “what am I doing here”, while checking the score of Oklahoma-Oklahoma State every two minutes.
Everyone in attendance, all 51,728 of them, knew the importance of this game. Baylor...scrubby little 10-1 Baylor...had a chance to win their first ever Big 12 Championship. And to do so in the final game of their 64-year-old home, Floyd Casey Stadium.
Here’s a brief summary of the game from ODB’s Prashanth Francis:
In a game reminiscent of Baylor’s other tough conference games this year, the offense struggled early while the defense played truly outstanding football to keep the game close. However, the Baylor offense that took the field at the start of the second half looked like a different team, a team that we have not seen in roughly two and a half weeks. They put up almost 300 yards in the second half, all while the Baylor defense somehow found a way to improve in the second half in only allowing 59 total yards. 59. yards. Incredible.
And from the Associated Press:
In what became a de facto Big 12 championship game after Oklahoma State’s loss, Petty threw for 287 yards with touchdown passes on the first drives after halftime and the Bears beat No. 23 Texas, 30-10, on Saturday in the final game at Floyd Casey Stadium after 64 seasons.
Antwan Goodley made a nifty one-handed grab on a slant pass for an 11-yard TD, one play after Petty overthrew his wide-open tight end at the goal line. After Texas (8-4, 7-2) went three-and-out, Lache Seastrunk had three consecutive runs for 28 yards and Glasco Martin ran 10 yards to help set up Petty’s 6-yard TD pass to Levi Norwood and a 17-3 lead.
Petty finished 21 of 37, with Goodley catching eight of those for 114 yards. Martin rushed for 102 yards with 18-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, one play after officials wiped out K.J. Morton’s touchdown on a 60-yard interception return when he was penalized for celebrating before getting into the end zone.
Malcolm Brown ran 25 times for 131 yards for the Longhorns. Case McCoy completed only 12 of 34 passes for 54 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown. The score was a 2-yarder to Brown while scrambling on fourth down after the Longhorns took a field goal off the board after a Baylor penalty on the made kick.
As the game ended, the Voice of the Baylor Bears, John Morris, announced with elation, “Ladies and gentlemen, The Case is closed, and the Bears are the Big 12 champions.”
Not every fond memory involves a Baylor win. Many fans enjoy the “could have beens”, like Baylor’s 17-23 loss in 2015 when our third-string QB got injured and RB Lynx Hawthorne took over down 0-20 at half. With an offense drawn up in 20 minutes, Baylor almost pulled off a stunning comeback.
I also read a lot of heartwarming stories about fans watching Baylor games with their loved ones. From first dates to wedding proposals, sometimes the experience means more than whomever won or lost. I won’t share everyone’s stories here, but take a few minutes to read through the comments on our Facebook post. Trust me, it’s worth your time.