Monday, December 30, 2013

Bowl Week: Fiesta Bowl Bound!

It's Bowl Week!

Monday morning Elliot and I got up early to drive to Salado to meet Mom and Dad for the drive to Glendale.  I am thankful to be driving with them.  While it would not have been impossible for me to drive the entire route with Elliot as co-pilot, it will be nice to share the driving while sharing lots of time with #1 Baylor fans, Mom and Dad!

I was thinking about the last time Baylor won a conference championship.  I was in 6th grade, and Baylor went undefeated in the Southwest Conference, earning a spot in the Cotton Bowl.  Sadly, they had little answer for Bear Bryant and his Alabama Crimson Tide team, who won 30-2.

What do I remember?  Not as much as I'd like. . . . I remember that we stayed at La Quinta on Central Expressway. . . . I remember sitting in the way back of the station wagon, facing backwards, and an Alabama lady in the car behind us mocking me with fake crying after the game. . . .  I remember coming back to school and taking down the sign on which I had been posting the scores of every game. . . .

Elliot is 2 years older than I was that year, and much more engaged and knowledgable about football, so hopefully his memories of the Fiesta Bowl will be clearer and, well, more memorable.  And that's what this season has been all about, making memories.  Sure, it would be cheaper and easier to stay home and watch the game on TV.  But that's not how memories are made.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Baylor Stadium Update: 12/22/13

Last weekend we drove to Salado to celebrate Christmas with my parents and siblings.  On the way home, Kelly was nice enough to let me hop out to take some pictures of the stadium.  It's looking better and better all the time!

Below is the view from where the pedestrian bridge will start.  You can see the smaller pedestrian bridge, crossing the lagoon entrance to the right.

On the right you can see the supports for the bridge.

The work on I-35 is coming along nicely, too.  This bridge work should all be done in time for the completion of the stadium.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Baylor Stadium Update: 12/7/13

Well, this post is a little overdue!  On the way to the Texas game (December 7), we stopped by once again to check on the stadium progress.  Looking good!

I especially like the banner or sign that will be on the stadium for the first season: Big 12 Champs!

The below view is taken from approximately where the pedestrian bridge will cross.  You can see where the pilings are being put in the river, and the landing beside the red crane.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Huge night of basketball for Baylor!

Last weekend was a huge night for Baylor football, with the closing of the Case and Baylor's first Big 12 conference championship.  But lost behind that glory was one of the biggest nights of basketball Baylor has ever had.

Many of these seats did eventually fill . . .
As part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, the Baylor men's and women's teams played the men and women of the University of Kentucky at AT&T stadium on the night of December 6.  As D/FW locals know, that was in the middle of one of the iciest weekends this region has ever seen.  Many reasonable people living in D/FW stayed home, and many reasonable fans from Waco stayed home rather than drive into this mess.  Well, I never claimed to be reasonable, so Elliot and I, along with a thin crowd of other unreasonable people, saw two terrific games.

There weren't too many people there when we arrived, just before the women tipped off.  We weren't surprised by that, but we were surprised how few Baylor fans were there.  I would estimate that of the 10,000 or so fans, some 75% of them were wearing Kentucky blue.  Not only do their fans always travel well, I figure if they drove or flew hundreds of miles to see their teams play, a little ice wouldn't keep them trapped in a hotel room.

Configured for football games, AT&T can seat 80 or 90 thousand fans, so the crowd, which would have nicely filled the Ferrell Center, seemed even smaller.  Adding to that, the opposite seats weren't used, making it seem even emptier.
 I love watching Kim Mulkey coach her teams.  She brings so much passion, and shows so much love for her girls, that there is no question why she is one of the most successful coaches coaching today.  We particularly enjoyed seeing her get in the ref's face when her daughter Mackenzie ended up on the floor and no foul was called!
 Here the refs are consulting about something at the end of regulation.  The second half ended in a tie, so they played on, in not 1, not 2, not 3, but FOUR overtime periods!!  If Baylor's 3 point shot hadn't rimmed out at the end of the fourth overtime, we would have gone into #5!  As it was, it ended up being the highest-scoring women's basketball game in NCAA history.  Alas, the #9 Lady Bears came up short to #5 Kentucky, 133-130.
 As much fun as the women's game was, watching the men's and women's games back to back was an opportunity to see what a contrast the two games are.  Men's basketball is a whole different game than women's.  Both Baylor and Kentucky were both dunking, alley-ooping, and driving, in a very physical, powerful game.  These guys are good!  
Thankfully, for Baylor fans, the Bears were better on this night!  The Bears led throughout most of the first half, by as much as 11 early on.  Kentucky snatched the lead back with a 3 pointer at the end of the first, then led in the second half until a Kenny Chery-led run got the Bears back on top with 5 minutes left.  Kentucky kept it close the rest of the game, but Baylor never gave up the lead again and won 67-62.  After the game, they gathered for a mid-court prayer.  I'm sure that among other things they were praying for safe travel back to Waco on the icy roads!
It's too early in the season to tell if Baylor has what it takes to play at this stadium again.  I would love to see them her in the Final Four!  But this was a big step for Baylor.  This #3 Kentucky team is the highest-ranked team Baylor has ever beaten! 
It was fun running into Everett!  Even it it did make me feel old, seeing my Baylor friends' son now attending Baylor. . . .

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Game 12: Baylor 30, Texas 10

Has there ever been a better night to be a Baylor fan?  There was the Miracle on the Brazos in 1974, RG3's win over Oklahoma in 2011, Baylor's upset of #1 ranked Kansas State in 2012, and this year's blackout win over Oklahoma.  But on many levels, last night's win over Texas has to be considered one of the best.

Baylor fans have been told for over a decade that Baylor can't compete in the Big 12, that we should just go to some second-tier conference.  Now our time has come: Baylor beat Texas to clinch the outright Big 12 football championship!  Baylor fans believed it could happen, Baylor hired a coach who believed it could happen, he instilled the team with a belief that it could happen, and now Baylor will represent the Big 12 in their first BCS bowl!  Sic' em Bears!

Field view from the south end zone.
As it that were not enough, besides the tears of joy shed by many over the championship trophy, many shed tears over the closing of The Case.  Floyd Casey stadium, Baylor's football home since 1950, is in many ways outdated and behind the times, but it's still home to some great football memories.  My family has been sitting in the same seats for some 35 seasons.  The fans in neighboring seats have become our football family.  As much as I'm looking forward to watching Baylor play in the new stadium, I will miss our spot at Floyd Casey.

Home away from home for 6 or 7 days a year. . . .
These crazy fans must have been a bit chilly!
Besides the Big 12 championship being on the line and the closing of The Case, the big story going into the game was the cold.  Thankfully, there was no precipitation, aside from the "freezing fog" that rolled in late in the game.  But the temps were in the 20s, with wind chills in the teens.  After experiencing temperatures nearly that cold at Oklahoma State we knew we need to bundle up a bit more, especially on the feet!

For the last time, the Baylor Line ran the field, led by Baylor Santa.  I know this is one tradition that will be preserved at the new stadium.  It will be fun to see what new game day traditions emerge at Baylor Stadium.

The game itself was looking like it would be a low-scoring defensive struggle.  They went into halftime tied 3-3, after Baylor's kicker missed 2 of his 3 field goal attempts.  The defense stopped Texas, including a blocked field goal, but our offense kept getting stopped, too.  That all changed in the second half.  I'm not sure what got the team fired up, but they came out of the locker room on fire.  They scored TDs on their first 2 possessions in the 3rd quarter, and then a field goal on their third.  Now with a 17 point lead, the energy of the freezing crowd, and a hyped-up sideline, the Bears maintained for a solid 30-10 victory.

I like Baylor's throwback uniforms.  I'm not sure Texas ever changes their uniforms.
They had to break out the cold weather gear for this game.
They must have been a few jackets short and had to share.

Dale Connally was the final faculty member ever to be honored at Floyd Casey!
Mom and Dad.  The greatest Baylor fans ever!
Thanks for all the memories (and all the game tickets!)
My oldest sister, Laura, class of 1985.
Since we had a full contingent for this game, the boys say on the east side.
That's Evan in the blue, Elliot in the yellow, and Drew in green,
near the top of the stands in section R.

And the celebration begins!

The last time Baylor won a conference championship, I was in 6th grade.
That's a long time ago! 
No word on whether the scoreboard was left on all night,
or whether anyone slept on the field!  I kind of doubt it. . . .
Elliot and I had high hopes, as we always do, that Baylor would have a great season.  When we set out to attend every Baylor game this year, we didn't know it would be the best season ever in Baylor football history!  It's been great fun, and I hope the memories of these games, these road trips, these victories, and even of one painful, heart-breaking loss will stick with him forever.  I know every chance I get to spend this time with him means the world to me.

And now, on to the Fiesta Bowl! 

Sic 'em!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Baylor Stadium Update: 11/28/13

Only one game left at Floyd Casey Stadium!  Next season the Bears will be playing at their fabulous new stadium on the Brazos.  On Thanksgiving Day, we stopped by on the way to Salado to get some pics of the stadium in progress.

This is new since we last stopped by: a bridge over the sailgating lagoon.  The game day experience will be terrific here, second only to great Baylor football.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Game 11: Baylor 41, TCU 38

Singing the Baylor Line.  See the BUGWB stuck up in the corner?
Ten wins!  Ten and one! 10-1!  I have to keep pinching myself as Baylor keeps winning.  After Saturday's oh-so-close win over TCU, Baylor has 10 regular season wins for only the second time in their history.  They won 10 games in 1980, and in 2012 the bowl win was win number 10.  Win number 10 did not come easy Saturday, and it looked like we were going to have to wait another week for it.

Thanks to the generosity of Kelly's family, and Kyle's bad luck that he couldn't stay in town long enough for the game, we used their season tickets, so Mom, Dad, Mark, and Drew could join Elliot, Elliot's friend Aaron, and me in the middle of the TCU section.  Even in the TCU season ticket section, there were plenty of Baylor fans (as well as quite a few empty seats) around us.

The stadium filled in some during the game,
but there were plenty of empty seats.
We knew this would be an emotional game.  Last week's loss at Oklahoma State still stung.  Art Briles's brother passed away this week, which affected not only him, but the whole team, who view Briles as family.  The Frogs, bowl-ineligible, had said this was their bowl game.  The game seemed pretty even, until Baylor recovered a fumble on the TCU 1 and scored a TD, and Pachall threw 2 pick sixes.  With TCU gift wrapping 3 TDs for Baylor, it looked like Baylor had it in the bag--until TCU scored 2 unanswered TDs.  Finally, late in the 4th quarter, Baylor had a precarious 3 point lead, and TCU had the ball in the red zone with seconds left.  They decided to attempt on more pass play, hoping to score TD for the win.  But when the pass was tipped into the hands of a Baylor defender, the game was over and Baylor had win number 10.

Baylor players' pre-game prayer time.
Two weeks ago, I thought Baylor had a chance to play for the national championship, and I thought they could compete with the best teams in the country.  The national championship game is out of the question for Baylor, and my faith in their competitiveness has been shaken.  Credit goes to the defense for forcing the four turnovers.  Without them, we might have seen a loss similar to last week.  It all comes down to Texas.  The good news is, we get them at home.  It will be a sellout at the last game in Floyd Casey Stadium.  The seniors will be playing their last home game, the team knows they're playing for a Big 12 championship and a possible BCS bowl.  I think Baylor can win it, but it promises to be a hard-fought game.

I know I'm biased, but I think Baylor's band is much better than TCU's.  This is the first road game where BUGWB marched at halftime.

In case you can't tell, this is a submarine sinking below the water line, part of their tribute to the armed forces.
Aaron wore his TCU shirt and cheered for the Frogs, even though he knew he's have to hitch a ride home with someone else if the Frogs won.
Just a random play to display my weekly ineptitude at sports photography.
I'm not sure how to get a good picture of the scoreboard.  The important thing is the message: 41-38.
Win #10!  I love it!  So Elliot and I have been to all 11 games.  One regular season game to go, and we're hoping to make the bowl game.  It's been a fun, historic season!

Sic 'em!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Game 10: Baylor 17, Oklahoma State 49

Art Briles has brought Baylor football to heights rarely, if ever, experienced.  In my living memory, seasons of 9 wins or more have been few and far between.  In 1980, the last time Baylor won a conference championship, Baylor ended the regular season 10-1, then lost in the Cotton Bowl.  In 1985 and 1986, the Bears ended the regular season at 8-3 each year, then won bowl games in each post season.  In 2011, RG3's Heisman year, he and Briles led Baylor to a 9-3 regular season record, then a huge win in the Alamo Bowl, to give Baylor its first 10-win season since 1980.

At Hideaway Pizza
So why does it sting so bad to lose our 10th game?  The only explanation is that Briles has raised expectations, given Baylor fans a whole new outlook, and injected new life and hope into this program.  So I have to remind myself, before Saturday's game at Oklahoma State, Baylor was 9-0!  For the first time ever!  That's pretty incredible.  I wish things would have turned out differently for Baylor, and for the team.  They have worked hard, have inspired pride in Baylor among the fans, and have forced doubters around the country to take Baylor seriously.

Once again, Zippy didn't want to make the road trip to Stillwater, so Uncle Mark was happy to use Zippy's ticket.  After Mark watched Drew's basketball team win an exciting overtime game, we left from Fort Worth about noon, arriving in Stillwater to enjoy Oklahoma's best pizza at Hideaway Pizza.  It lived up to expectations.  Of course we had to walk over to see Eskimo Joe's.  I'm not sure why this is such a popular place, but an OSU alumnus we met said their t-shirt is the 3rd best-selling shirt in the world, behind 2 Hard Rock Cafe shirts.

Feeling happy and confident before kickoff.
It was a cold night in Stillwater, and we came prepared, but maybe not enough.  Temperatures were at or below freezing the whole game.  I'm not sure any of us could feel our toes by the time halftime rolled around.  Maybe the cold weather was a factor in the game, but it was just as cold for the Cowboys as for the Bears.  Baylor's mishaps and poor play can't really be explained by anything.  I wanted to put an announcement on the broadcast: "Hey all you watching on TV who haven't seen Baylor play before tonight: This is NOT the Baylor team that has won 9 games!  I promise they are WAY better than this!"

I don't know that they would have made a difference in this game, as well as OSU was playing, but Baylor's offense clearly missed the presence of Tevin Reese and Lache Seastrunk, their leading receiver and running back.  That said, the backups have played spectacularly in the last 2 games.  On this night, they were ineffective.  Petty struggled to even complete a pass.  On defense, our pass coverage was horrible against a team that has passed very little this season.  And we couldn't get a turnover for anything.

Even though they were looking bad, Baylor only trailed 14-3 at the half.  I had high hopes that Art would work some magic in the locker room, and the team would rally in the second half.  Alas, OSU scored TDs on their first 2 possessions in the second half, effectively putting the game out of reach.

We did enjoy the game-day experience at OSU.  The stadium is truly on campus.  Tailgating tents were set up on the lawns of the surrounding university buildings, and plenty of restaurants border campus in walking distance to the stadium.  Elliot observed that he saw a lot more people drinking alcohol and smoking that he sees at Baylor games.  Unfortunately, the Baylor fans sitting behind us had clearly been drinking, and liberally and loudly used the f-word in their cheering and conversing.  Elliot said he hopes the nice OSU fans sitting next to him didn't think all Baylor fans were like that.

OSU must love Boone Pickens, and for good reason.  He has single-handedly funded the remodeling and expansion of the stadium and football facilities, as well as the resurgence of OSU football in recent years.  It's a nice stadium and a fun place to watch a game.


Some random play.
Even as the Bears lick their wounds after this loss, and give up hopes of playing for a national title, I hope they will remember that if they win out, they will be Big 12 co-champions at worst.  At best, Baylor can win out, and if OU can beat OSU in Stillwater (no easy feat), Baylor would be Big 12 champs outright!  Now, Beat TCU!!  Beat Texas!! And Boomer Sooner!!

Sic 'em!!