November 9, 1974 was a foggy, misty Saturday afternoon in Central Texas. The kind of day that just feels like perfect weather for football. And on this day, the 4-3 Baylor Bears were set to take on the 12th ranked Texas Longhorns led by legendary head coach Darrell Royal. In his third season on the job in Waco, 40-year-old Grant Teaff was trying to earn respect at a program that had gone just 29-73-1 over the previous 10 seasons. Meanwhile, Coach Royal's Longhorns were looking to win the Southwest Conference championship for a 7th consecutive season.
Texas' multi-pronged wishbone offense was a nightmare for opponents to slow down and appeared to be a tough matchup for the Bears. After all, Baylor had not defeated Texas in football since 1956, the year before Royal was hired at UT. The Bears had shown signs of life in 1974, opening the season with a much closer than expected loss at #1 Oklahoma as well as wins over ranked foes Oklahoma State and Arkansas, and entered Baylor Stadium on November 9th with a 2-1 conference record. Still, most outside of the Baylor Bubble expected to see Texas flex its muscles to dispatch of the Bears.
In the first half, the game went according to the script for Texas. Baylor got off to a quick 7-0 lead with a long Neil Jeffrey touchdown pass to Alcy Jackson but it did not last long. The Longhorns' option attack with Earl Campbell, Raymond Clayborn and Roosevelt Leaks consistently wrecked havoc on the Baylor defense. All 3 players reached the end zone in the first half and Texas went to the halftime locker room with a commanding 24-7 advantage. It appeared that this game was going the same way as the previous 17 meetings with the Longhorns and many in the crowd of over 43,000 at Baylor Stadium began to head for the exits feeling that all hope was lost. The 17 point deficit appeared to be too steep of a hole to dig out.
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.
The Bears would go on to finish the season with wins over Texas Tech, SMU and Rice. With the help of a 32-3 win by Texas over Texas A&M on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the 6-1 Southwest Conference record was good enough to clinch Baylor's first outright conference championship since 1924 and its first ever appearance in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day 1975. Although the Bears would go on to lose that game to Penn State, the 1974 team lives on in Baylor football lore.
The video below is from the 40th anniversary reunion on Homecoming weekend in conjunction with the re-dedication of the Grant Teaff statue at McLane Stadium.