Not only a beaten team but a beat up one as well, the Cowboys recovered
with a second half surge of their own to blitz
In jeopardy was the nine win season, the Cotton Bowl, and any perception that the Cowboys had moved forward from last season's Houston Bowl breakthrough campaign. With a total of eight regular starters out with injuries, it was a real gut check. The Cowboys could roll over and let the improved Bears get their second Big 12 victory for the first time since the conference began in 1996.
It really speaks to the character of this football team in my opinion," said head coach Les Miles. "This was not set up for us to have a nice easy victory against a good football team. It was a windy day that took some of the things away from us that we like to do in the passing game. We had to move the ball on the ground for the most part and this defense is set up to stack the box and stop the run. Our defense was banged up and we had to mix and match. We didn't have Darrent Williams with us. It was not set up for us but we actually got the job done. I have to credit the character of this football team. They looked at each other and said this thing is not going to get away from us and then took it down the field and we're going to stop them. We pretty much did."
"The coaches told us that they were a pretty good team and that we were going to have to come out and play," said tight end Billy Bajema, who finished with four receptions including one for a touchdown. It came to the point where we had to come up with a drive, go down and score some points, and secure the thing."
Miles' team may not have come out totally fired up to play, but when challenged this team did answer. Thanks primarily to Vernand Morency, the one-time third team tailback, the Cowboys started moving with a first down. Then Josh Fields launched a pass down the sideline and backup wide receiver John Wohglemuth made a circus catch for long gain. The catch was so good that few fans noticed the penalty flag back at the line of scrimmage. The holding penalty made it first and 20 back at the OSU 40. Morency went off right tackle for 19-yards, and then Fields went back down the middle of the field to Rashaun Woods who was pushed out at the 11 for a 30-yard gain. A few plays later one of the emerging stars of this Cowboy team Shawn Willis bulled in for a two-yard touchdown. The Cowboys led 31-21.
"Shawn Willis really played well," said Miles.
The next possession the Cowboys got their chance at good field position starting from the Baylor 46. Morency, who went back to back 200-yard plus games by rushed for 227-yards on 32 carries, covered 40 of the yards including the burst through a huge hole opened by right guard Sammy Mayes and right tackle Kellen Davis that went 35-yards for the touchdown.
"I guess I just have to say that we've got an offense that is very focussed right now," said Morency, who almost always deflects credit for his performance. "We've got our swagger back. We didn't care what happened. We were just going to throw it back at em."
While the offense was busting loose to a 38-21 advantage that would be the final score, the defense played their best football with the pressure on as they held Baylor to 75-yards in the quarter and most of that was late after the verdict had been decided. Linebacker Paul Duren had one of the biggest plays as he sacked Baylor quarterback Shawn Bell for a five-yard loss on a third and four play to get the ball back for the Cowboys second fourth quarter scoring drive.
"It was pretty much an all out blitz with the linebackers and we crossed
gaps and it opened up," said
"We just kept our composure and it was a finish type deal," added safety Vernon Grant. "The coaches told us we needed to come through and count nine wins. It was just like you had to take it upon yourself to go out and play every play like it was your last play."
A season has a number of defining moments. Tatum Bell's second half
fumble in the opener at