• Bears outlast Vanderbilt in slugfest to win 2018 Texas Bowl

    Baylor football players with Texas Bowl trophy

    Shortly after midnight early Friday morning, Baylor football head coach Matt Rhule was handed the 2018 Texas Bowl trophy after his Bears had defeated Vanderbilt, 45-38.

    The win capped off a remarkable year in which the Bears bounced back from a 1-11 season to not only become bowl-eligible, but to defeat a Commodores team picked to win by virtually every pundit out there.

    [VIDEO: Highlights from Baylor Athletics and ESPN || The first-ever Baylor Line run at a bowl game || “Houston is Bear Country” billboards]

    “Our senior class last year, the senior class this year, and then the guys that are sitting next to me and many more like them, they are building the program on the right things in terms of the right lessons and toughness and resiliency and battling back and celebrating together,” Rhule said after the game. “The purpose for our program is to make sure that players leave here with a life that’s better than if they wouldn’t have come. … I was proud to watch our guys this week at the charity events. I was proud to watch our guys all week — the way they carried themselves, the way they handled themselves. Some of the people from the bowl said to me, ‘Coach, I’ve been around a lot of teams, and this is the most respectful, polite, fun team to be around.’”

    [See Baylor’s “Thank you, Houston” ad from Sunday’s Houston Chronicle.]

    Facing an SEC opponent for the first time since 1995 proved no problem for the Bears, who scored 45 points and racked up 662 yards of offense against a Vanderbilt defense that had allowed just 29 points and 467 yards a game during their entire SEC schedule. Texas Bowl MVP Charlie Brewer led the way, accounting for 508 yards of offense (384 passing, 124 rushing) and three touchdowns in the Bears’ big win.

    More than 51,000 fans filled Houston’s NRG Stadium, and most estimates suggested Baylor fans made up 75-80% of that total. The home-field advantage provided by those Bears no doubt made a difference in such a close game. From the Baylor Line run before the game — the first ever outside of Waco — to the singing of “That Good Old Baylor Line,” the fans in green and gold made their presence known.

    [PHOTOS: Pregame in Houston || Strong Houston crowd || The Baylor Line at NRG Stadium]

    With 24 players on the team who have already earned their degrees — second nationally among teams playing in bowls this season — next year’s Baylor team will no doubt look a little different. But the bulk of the team remains young — the Bears have played 48 true or redshirt freshmen over the last two seasons — so there’s also plenty of talent returning.

    We now have a little more than eight months until Baylor takes the field again — Aug. 31, 2019, at home against Stephen F. Austin. Between now and then, you can get your official 2018 Texas Bowl champions t-shirt from the Baylor Bookstore and make your season ticket plans for 2019. See you at McLane next fall!

    Sic ’em, Baylor football!