ARLINGTON, Texas — The Baylor Bears took a tough route to bowl eligibility, but they got there.
One week after upsetting then No. 1 Kansas State in a shocker in Waco, the Bears outslugged rival Texas Tech in a 52-45 overtime shootout at Cowboys Stadium.
The victory over Tech upped Baylor to 6-5 with a home game remaining against Oklahoma State next week. The Bears, who are now 3-5 in the Big 12, qualified for a bowl for the third consecutive year for the first time in school history.
“We’ve got a lot of winners in this room,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “That’s what we’ve got. We’ve got guys who are winners. Anybody can say what they want. There are a lot of descriptions of winners. I describe them as someone who never quits believing, never quits fighting and trusts the people around them. That’s what we’re dealing with in our locker room – a bunch of winners.”
Strangely enough, on a day when Baylor allowed 567 yards in total offense, it was the defense that elevated the Bears to winner status Saturday.
Four Texas Tech turnovers, including two interceptions by Eddie Lackey, contributed to the comeback for Baylor. Texas Tech led by 14 in the second quarter and 10 in the third quarter but couldn’t put away the Bears. Twice in the first half the Red Raiders had the ball and a two-touchdown lead but both drives ended in turnovers.
The Bears, who came into the game 119th out of 120 FBS team in total defense, had their finest stand in overtime. A holding penalty on first down backed Texas Tech up to the 35, which proved too steep a distance to overcome.
Seth Doege’s fourth-down pass to Eric Ward was broken up by Joe Williams. The stand sent everyone on the Baylor sidelines, including last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, streaming onto the field in celebration.
It wasn’t a huge celebration, but that likely had to do with the energy that was expended by both teams. In the first overtime college game at Cowboys Stadium, the teams accounted for 1,241 yards and 59 first downs.
“We’ve got players and we’ve got a team that fights,” said Baylor quarterback Nick Florence, who threw for 396 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 51 yards and a score. “No one said we could do this. Looking a month ago, people were writing us off. This team fought hard. It means a lot. Building a new stadium, won 10 games last year and a Heisman Trophy and now we’re going to a bowl game for a third-straight year. I’m proud of this team.”
Baylor displayed the fight Florence was talking about in the first half. The Bears left 13 points on the field after a pair of missed field goals from Aaron Jones and a drive in which they turned the ball over on downs at the Texas Tech 5.
But Levi Norwood hauled in a 39-yard touchdown pass from Florence with five seconds remaining in the first half, and as bad as things went, the Bears were down just 21-14.
Lackey’s interception and 55-yard return for a touchdown started the scoring in the fourth quarter by giving Baylor its first lead at 35-31. The scoring was far from over though as the teams combined for four touchdowns in the quarter, with a six-yard pass from Doege to Darrin Moore putting Tech up 25-42 with 6:19 remaining.
Jones tied the game with a 22-yard field goal late and had a chance to win it on the final play of regulation, but missed a 48-yard field goal.
The Bears didn’t miss in overtime, running the ball all four plays with Martin Glasco scoring to put Baylor up. It capped a night in which Baylor ran a season high 57 times for 278 yards.
The loss was tough on the Red Raiders, who were 6-1 after winning at TCU on Oct. 20 but ended the regular season by losing four of its final five games.
“We knew this would be a hard-scoring game,” Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville said. “We felt like we have to score 45 to win, that was our number, 45 to win the game. It wasn’t enough.”
Not in a game in which Baylor rolled up 674 yards of offense, allowing it to eclipse the 600-yard mark for the fourth time this season.