Under Art Briles, the success of RG3 and Nick Florence has helped Baylor football become known for its passing. But Thursday, it was the Bears’ rushing game and defense that stood out most as Baylor dominated Pac-12 runner-up UCLA, 49-26, in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.
Sure, Florence passed for almost 200 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover as the Bears won back-to-back bowls for the first time since 1985-86. But it was the rushing attack, led by Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, that carried the offense, putting up 306 yards and five touchdowns on the ground as the Bears coasted past the 17th-ranked Bruins to end the season on a four-game winning streak.
As it did against No. 1 Kansas State earlier this season, Baylor’s defense again stepped up, holding UCLA’s all-time leading rusher to just 34 yards on 14 carries and taking down the Bruins’ quarterback six times after tallying just 13 sacks through the Bears’ first 12 games.
It’s worth remembering that this Baylor team could easily have folded in mid November, when the Bears were just 4-5, had lost four of their last five games, and faced three ranked opponents to finish the year. Instead, Briles’ squad toughened up, won all three games to get bowl-eligible, then blew out UCLA in front of a Bruin-friendly southern-California crowd and a national ESPN audience.
A few notes from the day: Briles joined Grant Teaff (1985-86 and 1979-80) and Frank Bridges (1921-22) as the only coaches ever to have led Baylor to back-to-back seasons of 8+ wins… Florence set a new school record for passing yards in a season, finishing the year with 4,309 yards passing to break RG3′s total from his Heisman campaign… After totaling just 181 yards rushing through the end of October, Seastrunk came on late to finish his sophomore season with 1,030 yards and became the Bears’ third-straight 1,000-yard rusher (just the ninth in BU history).
[PHOTOS & VIDEOS FROM BOWL WEEK: Sunday hospital visit & Navy ship tour || Day One practice and behind-the-scenes video || Monday at San Diego Zoo & Christmas eve service || Day Two behind-the-scenes video || Tuesday at SeaWorld || SeaWorld video || Wednesday press conference || Wednesday pep rally || Thursday balloon parade || Pep rally & parade video || Pre-game tailgating]
What a year… A special thanks to Baylor football’s outgoing seniors for their efforts in making this the most successful three-year period in program history, and for taking us along for the ride. Amazing to think that the next senior class could leave Baylor knowing nothing but bowl games — and that the class after that will get to play in the gorgeous new Baylor Stadium. (Speaking of which, have you ordered your Stadium Brick yet?)
A great big sic ’em to Baylor’s coaching staff, players and support staff, plus all of Baylor Nation that turned out or tuned in for this game — especially the students who bussed 26 hours to get to the game in-person. In short…
Sic ’em, Bears!!