Well, Baylor fans, we'll have wait another year or so for another shot at the Aggies. But I will tell you this. They are not looking forward to it. Not at all. Our Bear finally produced what all of us have wanted to see this year - tangible improvement. If you don't think you saw it Saturday - that's probably because you listened to it on the radio. The bottom line is this, Baylor led 7-0 after one, 10-3 at half, trailed 13-10 after three and took 24th-ranked A&M to the last play of the game with the outcome in doubt.
Now, the Aggies could have played better. But really so could Baylor. Overall, it was an emotional and inspired effort by the Bears. They gave it everything they had, left it all on the field. QB Greg Cicero played well against a tough, fast and well-coached defense - one of the best in the country. He finished 19 of 38 for 147 yards with one interception of any consequence.
The final drive of the game, which began with 37 seconds to go in the game and BU without any timeouts, saw Cicero complete three straight passes. From the Aggie 40 yard line, Cicero launched two hail marys that both came up empty. It was a gut wrenching defeat and the pain was evident. Cicero and his father embraced aftwerwards.
Players walked off the field late Saturday afternoon, disappointed but not defeated. Defensive coordinator Brick Haley was on the verge of tears as he hugged his family. I leaned over the rail and told him "Great game coach, they have to come to Waco next year." It at least brought a faint smile to his face. Our players and coaches wanted that game, they wanted it more than A&M did.
While many were hoping for mere competitiveness in the first half, those on the sidelines thought only of winning. I didn't share this before the game, but towards the end of practice Wednesday, Kevin Steele told myself and another staff member that we were going down there to win. He gave reasons, which aren't really important, but when he left us he said "Let's go win this one Saturday." Now, at the time, we looked at each other, I'm ashamed to say, in some disbelief. See, even while I was defending Kevin to the hilt on the boards last week, I too was doubtful that the Bears could compete the way they did on Saturday. I really did not expect that we would actually have a chance to win.
So, with that confession, I want to formally apologize to Coach Steele, the coaches, the players, trainers, staff and players' families for wavering in my belief.
Back to the game. The first break of the game came when defensive end A.C. Collier flew around the tackle and leveled QB Mark Farris near the Aggie goal line. Farris fumbled and DE Aaron Lard recovered it at the 1-yard line. Two plays later running back Jonathan Golden bounced outside to the left, put a stiff arm on a A&M defensive back and high stepped into the endzone. The Bears led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter - their first under Steele.
Perhaps an early turning point in the game came on the ensuing Aggie posession. Another forced fumble was recovered at the A&M 20-yard line. Unfortunately, two plays later the Wrecking Crew poked the ball away from Golden and Linnus Smith fell on the loose ball.
The Aggies cut it to 7-3 on a field goal by Cody Scates before Baylor drove down into Adam Stiles' range. Stiles hit a career long 50 yarder to extend the lead back to seven, 10-3.
A&M got the ball back though with 3:47 to go until halftime. Farris engineered his best drive of the half against a soft Baylor zone. With a first and goal at the Baylor six yad line, a tie game looked inevitable. However, the Aggies had two things working against them. They had one timeout and under 30 seconds until the half. After two incomplete passes, Farris tucked it and ran on third down but was stopped inside the one. Texas A&M called timeout and decided to go for the touchdown. Needing only a couple of feet, the offense lined up with two tightends in the eye formation. Big Joe Weber was the lead back with Keith Joseph at tailback. Farris gave it to Joseph who went airborn at the three and was met mid-air by John Garrett at the one. Joseph had no chance and the halftime score was 10-3.
The difference in the game was the third quarter. The A&M offensive coaches made some serious adjustments during halftime and began attacking the Bruin defense. Two drives netted 10 points and 142 yards (over half of A&M's total for the game). Power running and crisp passes from Farris gave ATM the lead going into the fourth quarter 13-10.
Baylor's defense adjusted as well and held the Ags to three points and 86 total yards in the final frame. Meanwhile, the Baylor offense was moving the ball but just could not sustain drives long enough to punch it in the endzone. Every Baylor drive in the second half netted at least one first down and three times moved into A&M territory.
BU had a chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter when a drive stalled at the Aggie 16-yard line. It wasn't to be though as place kicker Daniel Andino's 33-yard attempt was blocked.
Scates missed a field goal from 47 yards out to set up the final drive by the Bears.
So, there it is - every heartbreaking detail. Undoubtedly, I am extremely encouraged by what I saw. The defense played tough, aggressive and disciplined and the offense threw the ball downfield more and was much more productive. Did either play as well as they are capable of? Not even close. The defense is young and is going to get better and better every game. The offense was much crisper and polished and moved the chains, but is obviously a long way from where the coaches are taking them. Cicero played as good a game at quarterback against the Aggies as any Baylor signal caller in years. The last game that was even this close was 1992 (19-13 in Kyle).
The next two weeks will be tough, but the Homecoming game against Texas Tech is one I am very much looking forward to. Staff writer Chris Roose made a good point as we were walking out of Kyle Field. He said, "Ya know, we have four teams left on our schedule that are no better than A&M, and three of those games are at home."
Now, no one is predicting anything here, just making a point. But, beyond all that, our team and program are improving and there are plenty of chances to show further improvement in the weeks to come.