Homecoming weekend has been a tradition at Baylor University since 1909. Sometime during the fall of 1909, Baylor President Samuel Palmer Brooks invited all alumni to return to the Baylor campus to "renew former associations and friendships, and catch the Baylor spirit again." From Freshman Mass Meeting to the Friday night bonfire to the parade on Saturday morning, it's always a fun weekend to be back on campus.
But of course, the main attraction on Homecoming weekend is the football game. Baylor played its first Homecoming football game on November 25, 1909 when the Bears defeated cross-town rival TCU (who was still based in Waco at the time) by a score of 6-3. Homecoming has been played at Carroll Field, Cotton Palace, Waco Municipal Stadium, and the last 63 Homecoming games have been played at Floyd Casey Stadium (known as Baylor Stadium until 1988). The Bears are 32-30-1 (.516) in Homecoming games at the Case going into its final Homecoming game on Saturday against Iowa State.
I thought it would be fun to step back and go through the best Homecoming moments for Baylor football at Floyd Casey. So I nerded out and did some research and here's the top 10 that I came up with:
#10. November 7, 1992 -- Baylor 31 Georgia Tech 27
This is the only non-conference Homecoming game that cracks the list, and one of only 2 that occurred in the 64 years of Floyd Casey Stadium with Air Force being the other in 1977. The Bears took on a Georgia Tech team that had spent multiple weeks in the Top 25 at the start of the season and won a split of the national championship in 1990. The game was a sloppy one as the two teams combined for 6 turnovers, 4 of them by Baylor. But Baylor was able to hit on some big plays in the second half to combat their turnover issues. RB Bradford Lewis ran for 119 yards and a touchdown to keep the Bears in the game early. In the second half, the famous combination of QB J.J. Joe to WR Melvin Bonner was a difference maker as Bonner caught touchdown passes of 80 and 62 yards, the latter of which came off of a reverse flea flicker to give Baylor the lead in the 4th quarter. Georgia Tech threatened late but a fumble inside the Baylor 10 yard line with 25 seconds to go sealed the win for the Bears in Grant Teaff’s final Homecoming game as Baylor head coach.
#9. October 28, 1972 -- Baylor 15 Texas A&M 13
From Teaff’s last Homecoming game to his first in 1972 as the Bears battled the Aggies, who were a regular Homecoming opponent until the mid-1970s. Teaff was leading Baylor out of the dreaded Bill Beall era (1969-1971) and the Bears were looking for their first Southwest Conference win since the last time Texas A&M had played in Waco 2 years earlier. The game was a low scoring defensive bout and the Bears had to hang on for dear life after pulling out to a 15-0 lead in the first half behind solid quarterback play from a young Neal Jeffrey and 3 field goals by Mike Conradt. The Aggies rallied in the second half, spurred on after a kick return for a touchdown got A&M back into the game. However, Roger Goree and the Baylor defense would not let the game get away from the Bears, who held on at the end for a 15-13 win. Teaff later said, "I found out in a hurry how Baylor people feel about the A&M game. Never have so many Baylor fans been so grateful to a coach."
#8. October 21, 2006 -- Baylor 36 Kansas 35
Baylor was riding some unusual momentum into the 2006 Homecoming contest with Kansas, looking to win a third conference game for the first time as a Big 12 member. Kansas had other ideas and raced out to a 35-17 halftime lead behind a dominant rushing game. With 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter, QB Shawn Bell got in a rhythm and the Bears began to chip away at the seemingly insurmountable 18 point Kansas lead. Bell threw 2 touchdown passes to bring the score to 35-30 and the Bears got the ball back with just under 3 minutes to go in the game. Baylor was again able to drive down the field and took the lead on a spectacular catch and run by WR Dominique Zeigler with 1:08 left in the game. Bell set new single game program records with 394 yards passing and 5 touchdowns. The game also tied the school record for largest 4th quarter comeback in program history (since broken against Kansas in 2011) and broke an 8 game losing streak in Homecoming games. Also, props to those of you who actually stuck around to see the end of this game (me!) as a majority of the crowd bailed prior to the beginning of the comeback.
#7. November 8, 1986 -- Baylor 29 Arkansas 14
Baylor seemed to have Arkansas’ number at Baylor Stadium in the 1980s and this game would be no different. The Razorbacks rolled into Waco with a 7-1 record and #10 national ranking, still in contention for the Southwest Conference championship and a Cotton Bowl berth. The game was hotly contested in the first half and Arkansas took a slim 14-12 lead into the locker room. The second half, however, would be dominated on both sides of the ball by the Bears. The Baylor defense shut out the high-powered Arkansas offense in the final two quarters, allowing only 2 first downs in the process. The offense finally was able to take the lead with a field goal early in the 4th quarter and the Bears put the game away late led by the gutty performance of QB Cody Carlson. Carlson passed for 258 yards, breaking the single-season and all-time passing yards records in Baylor history at the time. The 1986 Homecoming win was also significant as it marked the 100 year anniversary of Baylor in Waco. The Bears win would spark a late-season surge, culminating in a Bluebonnet Bowl win over Colorado and a #12 final ranking.
#6. November 2, 1963 -- Baylor 32 TCU 13
Prior to famous QB-WR combinations such as Joe to Bonner and Griffin III to Wright, the Bears were led by the lethal duo of QB Don Trull and WR/DB Lawrence Elkins. The Bears rolled into the 1963 Homecoming game with a 4-1 record, undefeated in Southwest Conference play. As was the case for nearly every odd-numbered year until 1995, TCU was the Homecoming opponent. The Horned Frogs were also having a nice season to this point and had a 13-12 lead as the 4th quarter began. Unfortunately for the Frogs, Trull and Elkins took over the game in the 4th quarter as Baylor ripped off 20 unanswered points to give the Bears a comfortable margin of victory. Trull threw for 273 yards and a touchdown while running for 3 more scores. Elkins caught 10 of Trull’s passes for 116 yards and put the game away with a 69 yard interception return that led to Trull’s final touchdown. Trull would go on to finish 4th in Heisman Trophy voting and both players were voted as consensus All-Americans. This would be the only time in program history that Baylor had 2 consensus All-Americans in the same season until Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright matched the feat in 2011.
#5. November 1, 1997 -- Baylor 23 Texas 21
The Dave Roberts era is not one that is looked upon with much fondness by many Baylor fans, but it did produce a memorable Homecoming performance in 1997 against the Texas Longhorns, the only time in Floyd Casey Stadium history that Texas was the Homecoming opponent. The Bears were struggling through the 1997 season and had lost to a winless Iowa State the previous week. But the Bears came out strong on this date as RB Darrell Bush broke a 65 yard run on the first play from scrimmage, leading to a Baylor touchdown. The Bears were able to hang around in the 1st half and trailed the Longhorns 14-13 at the break. Texas became turnover happy in the 2nd half and the Bears took full advantage. A Jeff Watson touchdown pass gave Baylor a 23-14 lead going into the 4th quarter. Texas would respond via an 87 yard Ricky Williams touchdown run and the Longhorns were driving for the lead in the final minutes. However, Texas missed a go-ahead field goal and the Bears were able to run out the clock. This game remains Baylor’s only win over Texas since 1956 without a coach named Teaff or Briles patrolling the sidelines.
#4. November 8, 1980 -- Baylor 42 Arkansas 15
Many questions surrounded the 1980 Baylor Bears in advance of the annual Homecoming game, coming off of a stunning defeat to San Jose State which ruined Baylor’s undefeated record and any hopes of a national championship. However, the Bears received quite the pep talk prior to their game against Arkansas. Kyle Woods, a former Baylor player who was paralyzed in an intra-squad scrimmage in 1979, returned to the locker room to give his old teammates a positive lift. The main message was to "turn a setback into a comeback". Baylor would take Woods’ words to heart and take their frustrations from the previous week out on the Razorbacks. Baylor was led by 2 touchdowns from RB Walter Abercrombie and never looked back en route to a 42-15 thumping of the Hogs. Grant Teaff would later tell the Baylor Lariat that the 1980 Arkansas game was one of the best games he was ever involved in.
#3. October 28, 1950 -- Baylor 27 Texas A&M 20
The week leading up to the first ever Homecoming football game at new Baylor Stadium was marred by a group of Texas A&M students who snuck into the stadium and planted oats in the grass field that were intended to sprout up to spell out A&M. Baylor president W.R. White said of the prank, "The only kind of retaliation we want is that which will be shown on the scoreboard on Saturday." The heavily favored Aggies, ranked #13, would break out to an early 13-0 lead before Baylor began to take over the game behind the play of QB Larry Isbell. Spurred on by a number of A&M fumbles, Baylor would score the game’s next 4 touchdowns to take a surprising 27-13 lead, 3 of which came on Isbell TD passes. The Aggies had a late charge but the Bears held on for the upset win. This game was a part of Baylor’s most successful run against Texas A&M as the Bears were 6-0-1 in the Battle of the Brazos from 1947-1953.
#2. October 23, 2010 -- Baylor 47 Kansas State 42
It had been 16 long years since Baylor had celebrated a bowl appearance but the 2010 Homecoming game provided an opportunity to bring the drought to an end. Of course, the fans in attendance would have to wait a little bit longer than they anticipated as a lightning storm caused a nearly 2 hour delay at the start of the game. Once the game got going, the Baylor offense got off to an explosive start and never slowed. The first half was back and forth and the Bears were able to take a 31-21 lead into halftime behind 3 touchdown passes by Robert Griffin III. In the second half, RB Jay Finley would take over on the ground as Baylor extended the lead to 47-28 on the first play of the 4th quarter. Kansas State tried to come all the way back but the Bears recovered an onside kick with 7 seconds left in the game and ran out the clock. Fans stormed the field at Floyd Casey Stadium to celebrate Baylor’s first bowl appearance since the 1994 Alamo Bowl. For the game, Baylor set a program record with 683 yards of total offense and Jay Finley broke Griffin’s single game rushing record with 250 yards.
#1. November 6, 1982 -- Baylor 24 Arkansas 17
The #1 Homecoming win in Baylor/Floyd Casey Stadium history (according to this novice blogger) can also be considered as one of the more shocking victories in program history. #5 Arkansas rolled into Waco with an unblemished 7-0 record while Baylor was still searching for its first Southwest Conference win of the season, going 0-4-1 in its first 5 conference games. At the outset, there wasn’t much reason for optimism as the Razorbacks jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and threatened to blow the game wide open. Baylor was able to get on the board near the end of the first half on a touchdown run by Alfred Anderson to cut the deficit to 14-7 as the teams headed to halftime. That touchdown was the first TD allowed by the Arkansas defense in its last 17 quarters. The Bears would score again early in the 4th quarter on a Mike Brannan touchdown pass to Allen Rice to tie the game at 14. Arkansas had the ball with the chance to take the lead late in the 4th when Hogs coach Lou Holtz decided to try a trick play. But the flea flicker backfired when Baylor DB Preston Davis intercepted the pass in Arkansas territory. The Bears then drove the rest of the field, culminating in a go-ahead touchdown run by Anderson which would prove to be the game winner. At the time, this was the highest ranked opponent that Baylor had defeated at Baylor Stadium, surpassing the 1966 win over #7 Syracuse.
So there's my top 10. A big shoutout to the Internet for a lot of this information because I'm a first generation Bear and I was only in attendance for 2 of the 10 that I listed. Do you agree with my choice for #1? Did I leave out a game that sticks out to you? Comments section. Let's make it happen.