Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Enough talk--let them play!

The excitement is building for the Bears' final season at Floyd Casey Stadium!  Only a few short days to wait until kickoff against Wofford.  I'm as excited as the next guy, and I have high hopes for the Bears this season.  But I, for one, am getting a little bit weary of predictions and prognostications.

The good news is, there is a virtual consensus that Baylor will be heading to their 4th bowl game in as many years.  That's a great milestone, but, realistically, with as many bowls as there are, and with the Big 12 tie-ins, we could have a stinker of a season and still go to a bowl.  Very few fans would be happy if we went 3-0 against a weak non-conference schedule, then 3-6 in the Big 12.  A bowl is nice, but a third-tier bowl that no one cares about is not what we have in mind.

I have seen pre-season polls placing the Bears in the mid-teens down to unranked.  We even got a couple votes as the favorite for the Big 12 championship!  David Ubben, ESPN blogger (until recently--you will be missed!) has Baylor stumbling at the end of the season, losing some tough games and finishing 5th in the Big 12, 8-4 overall, 5-4 in the Big 12.  NBC Sports has the Bears finishing 6th, Sports Illustrated, 4th (9-3, 6-3).  The Dallas Morning News also predicts 9-3, 6-3.

None of these scenarios are bad, and they all get the Bears in a half-way decent bowl.  But my sense is that they will finish strong, have 0 or 1 losses and home, and win win at least 2 of their 4 road games.  I'm looking for a Big 12 championship.  If not, then a top 4 Big 12 finish.

But I say no more predictions!  It's all meaningless until they suit up on Saturday!  Bring it on! Sic 'em!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My very last post about the Aggies

When Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC, not many tears were shed in Texas.  As much as Baylor fans and Texas fans (and Tech fans, TCU fans, and SMU fans, for that matter) like to deride the Aggies, we love and miss the rivalries we shared.  Of course, for fans born after, say, 1975, Baylor's rivalry with A&M has hardly lived up to the name.  Nevertheless, I have some fond memories of great games against our neighbors down the river.  I have already written about the 1978 game, where Walter Abercrombie made his Baylor debut in a big way.  Here are a few more memorable games.

That momentous 1978 win in College Station started a streak against the Aggies.  They came to Waco in 1979, and took home a 17-7 loss.  (I'm sure I was at that game, but I don't specifically remember it.  Hey, I was 10.)  Baylor returned to College Station in 1980 and faced the Aggies in what has to have been the rainiest game I have ever sat through.  We sat behind Baylor's tubas, which didn't help our view of the field.  At times it was raining so hard that we couldn't see the opposite sideline.  But we endured, and, more importantly, the Bears endured, and in the end we saw the only view that mattered: a scoreboard that read Baylor 46, Texas A&M 7!  That season Baylor swept the SWC, and should have beaten San Jose State in Waco to finish the season undefeated.  Alas, 1980 was the last year in which Baylor won an outright conference championship--so far!
See the splashing on the field? What a wet game!
Photo from the BU Libraries Athletic Archive.
Baylor won again in 1981 (a four year streak!), lost at College Station in 1982, tied in Waco in 1983, and won in 1984 and 1985.  So from 1978 to 1985, Baylor was 6-1-1!  The 35-and-under crowd can hardly believe that kind of streak, because after 1985, A&M absolutely dominated.  In 1990, my senior year at Baylor, we travelled to College Station and tied 20-20.  Bleh.  (By the way, those had to be the worst seats ever.  With the new stadium renovation at A&M, I hope they don't put the visitor's section in Bryan!)

So after that mini-streak in the 70s and 80s, Baylor fans had to endure long years of painful losses to the Aggies.  From 1986 to 2003, Aggies ruled the Battle of the Brazos, 17-0-1.  Few of those games were even close.  In 2003, the Bears were absolutely humiliated 73-10.  (Well, at least they scored that year.  The year before they were shut out 41-0 at Floyd Casey Stadium.)

The 16th ranked Aggie team coming to Waco in 2004 didn't know what was coming.  After two blowout wins in a row, and with the knowledge that A&M hadn't lost to Baylor since these guys were in diapers, they didn't expect to be fighting for a win as time ran out.  But there they were, facing Baylor in overtime.  The Aggies had been up by 10 at the half, but the Bears tied it up at 20 with under 6 minutes left.  The two teams swapped TDs again to go into OT tied at 27.

The Aggies scored first in overtime, then Baylor came back and scored on a Shawn Bell pass to Dominique Ziegler at the goal line.  Coach Morris made a bold move then, not only deciding to go for 2, but to do it with the exact same play they had just run!  And it worked!  After the drought against A&M (and every other team in the Big 12) that win was sweet!  The crowd went wild!  The goal posts were torn down and carried all the way to campus!  My parents (and many other long-suffering fans) were embracing and weeping!  Take a moment to relive those glorious moments:

Unfortunately, the 2004 win did not turn the tide.  Baylor would only beat A&M once more before the Aggies left for the SEC.  Few and far between though they were, I'll chose to dwell on those wins rather than the many losses.  Aggies, it was a fun ride, one that in recent decades you enjoyed more than we did.  Perhaps we'll meet again, some day. . . .

Thursday, August 15, 2013


The 2013 Baylor football season kicks off two weeks from Saturday, and today it feels even closer.  Why?  Season tickets came in the mail!  This is going to be a great final season at Floyd Casey Stadium--I can feel it!
I love this cover, with Lache Seastrunk busting out with the metallic gold helmet.  I can't wait to see him busting out for some big yards!  Heisman!

Here are the Baylor season tickets, along with Kansas and Kansas State tickets.  OSU, Texas Tech, and TCU to come.  I don't mind that SMU backed out of the game in Dallas--seven games at Floyd Casey this year is OK by me!

See you at the Case!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Baylor Line, 1987

One of the great Baylor game day traditions is the Baylor Line, Baylor's freshman spirit group, formed in 1970.  Before each game, they gather outside the south end zone, run onto the field in their matching yellow jerseys, and create a human tunnel for the football team to run through.  Although it has looked a little different through the years, this was one tradition in which I always looked forward to participating.

My freshman year, 1987, I drank it in!  I was there every game, back when we had the card section, and when the Line was all men.  If we had a date to the game, they would have to wait in the seats until we completed our manly duty to run like a fool across the football field.  Women were admitted to the Line in 1993, shortly after I graduated.  From my perspective on the alumni side of Floyd Casey Stadium, it appears that they have honorably upheld and continued this great Baylor tradition.
Here am I with some of the gang from Penland at our first game as Baylor Line members.  Baylor started this season 5-1, but hit a rough spot in the last five games, going 1-4.  Still, it was a winning season.  I wish I could remember everyone's names.  That's Glen Greiner on the bottom left, Allison next to me, Phil at the top . . . beyond that, I'm drawing a blank. Sorry.

(By the way, remember Flash?  In the age of Instragram and camera phones, Flash is somewhat obsolete.  The Flash photographer came to all the events, snapping shots like this, then we would make a pilgrimage to he Flash store to browse through hundreds of pictures looking for familiar faces.  Quite a difference from today.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Old Main Lodge: RIP

 For many Baylor fans, the Old Main Lodge has been a home away from home for football weekends since 1974.  Alas, after nearly 40 years of hosting visitors to Baylor, it has been bulldozed.

My family's favorite place to stay when coming to Baylor games was Fort Fisher, but sometimes a hotel was called for.  I particularly remember staying here on RA Day weekends.  (RA Day might be cause for a whole post of its own. . . .)

Located just off I-35, across the street from Truett Seminary and Russell Hall, no hotel had easier access to campus.  On Homecoming weekend, you could stay in your room until you heard the bands, and walk to campus to watch the parade, arriving before the BUGWB.  I'm sure every room was rented every weekend of a home football game, but now that the new stadium is going up across the river, this would have been an even hotter property.

The Baylor Lariat published a short article on the hotel's razing.  Maybe it wasn't much in terms of luxury, but Old Main Lodge earned a place as a favorite Baylor hotel.  It will be missed.
That's Old Main Lodge in the top left. Russell Hall on the bottom, Truett Seminary on the right.
You can't get any closer to campus than this.
I guess Dutton Ave. is also a numbered road, 434. Who knew.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Baylor -Texas Rivalry

Ask Baylor fans who Baylor's biggest rivals are, and you'll get several answers.  Some will say the "Battle of the Brazos" with Texas A&M, which is legitimate for many historical reasons.  But for fans born after the middle of the 20th century, this doesn't seem like much of a rivalry; since 1986, Baylor has 2 wins and 1 tie, opposed to A&M's 23 wins.  Ouch.  Plus, now that A&M's in the SEC, they won't be playing on a regular basis, if at all.

The TCU rivalry may be the best case for a real rivalry, as the all time record has TCU edging Baylor 51-50-7.  In the last days of the Southwest Conference, Baylor dominated this rivalry, but since they started playing again after a 10 year lapse, TCU has dominated, 4-1.  Before the SWC broke up, this was among the top five most played match ups in college football.  I'm happy that we are in the same conference again, especially since I live in Fort Worth.
Baylor v TCU, 1935. From the Texas Collection.
TCU and A&M notwithstanding, in my family growing up, the rivalry that mattered was the annual meeting of Texas and Baylor.  My parents, both Baylor grads, indoctrinated us in a deep love for all things Baylor (well, there was my brief, regrettable foray into Aggie-hood).  But Uncle David, Mom's brother, was a proud UT grad and football season ticket holder.  So each year, our families would get together for the game.

Yeah, I know, Texas owns this series, too.  All time record: 73-24-5.  But Baylor fans remember that in 1974, after not having beaten the Longhorns since 1956, Baylor won in the "Miracle on the Brazos" and claimed their first conference title in 50 years.  There was some parity then for a few years, followed by 12 consecutive Baylor losses until RG3 led the Bears to win twice in a row.  Even during these times of UT dominance, we still had fun with my always gracious Uncle David and his family.
Baylor fans never thought they'd see this--the Miracle on the Brazos!
Oh, by the way, Uncle David's son Bruce, after finishing his undergrad at UT, came to Baylor for his MBA.  His sister Joyce skipped UT altogether and graduated from Baylor.  And at some point, Uncle David became a Baylor season ticket holder.  So there is hope, even for a die-hard UT family!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A new book about everyone's favorite QB: RG3

There is no question that during his time at Baylor, Robert Griffin III brought Baylor football to a higher level than it had been for decades.  Not since the end of the Grant Teaff era had Baylor fans had much reason to celebrate.  Now, with three consecutive winning seasons, recruiting on the upswing, a new stadium being built, and better and deeper talent than ever, Baylor football looks like it's here to stay.  

Could it have happened without RG3?  Maybe.  But probably not.  His talent on the football field was backed by his leadership of the team, his charisma on campus and in front of the camera, and his inspiring back story.  He was the right man at the right time to turn the Baylor program around.  Now Washington Redskins fans have put their hope in RG3 to turn their team around.

This is the story that David Sheinin tells in his new book, RG3: The Promise.  For Baylor fans, RG3's influence continues, but his work is done in Waco.  For Redskins fans, "the promise" describes their outlook for Griffin.  In his rookie season, he won rookie of the year honors while leading Washington to their first playoff berth in years.  But, as Sheinin reminds us with excruciating detail, RG3's knee hobbled their playoff run.  The question is, will the knee be the downfall of RG3 and the crux of a losing bet by the Redskins' leadership, who traded away future picks for the chance to draft Griffin?

RG3 is definitely a fan's book, bordering on hagiography.  Sheinin, a writer for the Washington Post, compiles press accounts and his own observations, as well as interview material from Griffin's friends and family (unfortunately not much from RG3 himself).  You won't find tell-alls and dirt in this book.  I'm not saying there is any dirt, but if there is, Sheinin didn't go looking for it and/or didn't see fit to write it.  The best parts of the book, for me as a Baylor fan, were the recaps of his key games during his Baylor career.  The most painful parts to read, of course, are the reminders that he is human after all, and that his knee is very vulnerable.

It's too early to say if RG3 is going to live up to his hype.  He certainly did at Baylor.  Sheinin points out that RG3 has won the hearts not only of Redskins fans and Baylor fans, but of football and nonfootball fans alike, all over the country.  For RG3 fans, RG3 is definitely worth a read.  I, for one, am pumped and ready to watch the Bears on Saturday and RG3 on Sunday!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!