Tomorrow the wife and I are off to Houston for the Texas Bowl featuring Baylor vs. Illinois. It is Baylor's first bowl game since 1994, and the first since I became a Baylor Bear as a freshman in the Fall of 1996. 1996 was the inaugural year of the Big XII and that conference has not been kind to Baylor Football. With the bowl game looming, I thought it would be a good time to recount some of my highs and lows as a Baylor Football fan.
The first time I heard of Baylor is was a tremendous high for Baylor football and a great low for me. It was 1991 and my Colorado Buffaloes were coming off of their national championship season when little old Baylor came into Folsom field and squeaked by with a 16-14 upset.
My first high would be my first road game ever, the first game of 1996 against Louisiana Tech which Baylor won 24-16. It was the first game I went to with Peter Pope, who will also be attending the Bowl Game with me tomorrow. It was my first Baylor game, it was a win, and it was with a great friend.
The big low from that year, was our homecoming triple overtime loss to Missouri 49-42. Even though Baylor only went 4-7 that year, that win would have felt great.
Then come the total blowouts of my College years. 49-0 at Nebraska in 1996. 38-3 at Michigan in 1997 (Brilliant Dave Roberts, schedule Michigan on the road for a pre-conference game). 49-6 at home to Kansas State in 1998. And then my Senior year: 1999, the season of blowouts: 41-10 at Oklahoma, 62-0 at home vs. Texas (it was 42-0 at half), 45-13 at A&M, 48-7 at K-State, 45-10 at Kansas, 38-0 at home vs. Colorado. Final record for senior year: 1-10, Big XII: 0-8.
But, of all of these, the most painful loss in my Bayor Football fandom was a 1999 loss to UNLV at home. With seconds left, leading 24-20, Baylor with a first down on UNLV's 2 yard line could have just knelt the ball and taken the four point win, but brilliant Kevin Steele tried to punch it in. I guess he had not heard of the Baylor curse. Our RB fumbled the ball on the one yard line and a UNLV DB returned the fumble 99 yards for a touchdown and the win. I was at the game, watching in disbelief. We had a sure win, and we gave it up, and wins were hard to come by in those years.
But, despite all of these lows, there have been some great highs. My first real high, Baylor's first real big XII win was the 1997 win over state rival Texas at home. It was my sophomore year, and though we only won 2 games that year, one of them was over the Longhorns. Baylor fans rushed the field, tore down the goal post and marched it all the way back to campus. Life was good.
There is a tie for my favorite moment in Baylor sports history that I was a part of. The first was Baylor's one point OT win over A&M in 2004. It was my first year back at Baylor, this time as a Ph.D. Student. I remember the game vividly. We were down early, but battled back to tie the game at 27 late in the fourth quarter. A&M got the ball first in OT and quickly scored on a couple of running plays. The pressure was on. Baylor had to go for it on fourth down, but Sean Bell hit Dominique Ziegler in the end zone to bring us within one point. Then everything happened so quickly. Instead of going for the extra point and a second overtime, Baylor went for the 2 point conversion, the same play, Bell to Ziegler, it was caught in the end zone, game over, Aggies go down. Baylor fans again rushed the field, tore down the goal post and reveled in victory. The best part: looking at the Aggie fans faces, frozen in disbelief for 15 or 20 minutes after the game was over.
The other favorite moment was this year's win over K-State that finally got Baylor Bowl eligible. It was a magical sort of game. The weather whipped up a torrential downpour only minutes into the game causing a two hour delay during which the Baylor Faithful, me and my wife included, huddled under the stands, packed like sardines, waiting for the rain stop. Yet, the Baylor fans who usually would have gone home, stayed. They knew something amazing was happening. Baylor escaped with a close win, 47-42 as they withstood a 4th quarter charge from the wildcats. Yet, the win was ours, six wins were ours, and with that a bowl game.
And tomorrow: the Texas bowl. Who knows what to expect. Vegas has the game a virtual tossup with Baylor a 1 point favorite. Defense is expected to be absent, so points might go up fast. I can't wait. Rise up Baylor Bears. Sic Em!