ARLINGTON (AP) — A week after shaking up the Bowl Championship Series, the Baylor Bears are finally bowl eligible themselves.
“We got players and we got a team that fights,” quarterback Nick Florence said. “A month ago, people were writing us off and this team fought hard. It means a lot.”
In their 11th game, the Bears overcame three missed field goals — including one on the final play of a wild fourth quarter — before winning 52-45 in overtime against Texas Tech on Saturday.
Baylor (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) didn’t lead until Eddie Lackey’s 55-yard interception return for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Lackey had another pick with 1:46 left but Aaron Jones, whose 22-yard field goal a minute before that turnover tied the game, missed wide left on a 48-yard kick.
Glasco Martin scored on a 4-yard run in overtime for the Bears. The game ended on a fourth-down incompletion by Seth Doege after Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5) started its ensuing drive with a holding penalty.
Baylor was coming off a 52-24 victory over Kansas State, then the No. 1 team in the BCS standings.
With Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III watching from the Bears sideline at Cowboys Stadium, two days after the rookie led the Washington Redskins to a victory there over the Dallas Cowboys, Baylor got bowl eligible for the third consecutive season. That’s a first in school history.
“It’s real big. When we first got here, we wanted to turn the program around, which we did,” senior receiver Lanear Sampson said.
“Reflect on it? No. Appreciate it? Yes,” coach Art Briles said. “I’m appreciative of our team becoming bowl eligible in what I think is the toughest conference in America.”
The teams combined for 1,241 total yards (674 for Baylor and 567 for Tech).
Florence completed 22 of 37 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns, while Doege was 30 of 40 for 359 yards with three TDs and three interceptions.
It was the third overtime game this season for the Red Raiders. They won in triple overtime at TCU on Oct. 20, and have won only one of their five games since — in double overtime against Kansas two weeks ago.
“We knew this would be a high-scoring game. We felt we would have to score 45, that was our number, 45 to win the game,” Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville said. “What can you say? Holding in overtime. That’s one thing we talked about, no penalties in overtime.”
The holding call made it first-and-25. After two incompletions, Doege hit Austin Zouzalik for 15 yards. But the fourth-down pass was incomplete to Eric Ward, who was well-defended by Joe Williams, who had two interceptions against K-State.
“Throughout the game, we were struggling a few times. Eddie Lackey made some huge plays. At the end, Joe Williams was in the perfect spot,” nickelback Ahmad Dixon said. “We learned from it in the first half and moved on from it. That helped us come up with the big win.”
Jones kicked a 22-yard field goal with 2:48 left in regulation to tie the game at 45. The Red Raiders got the ball back and already had picked up a first down when Doege threw a short pass that deflected off the helmet of offensive lineman Terry McDaniel, the same player called for holding in overtime.
The ball ricocheted into the hands of Lackey, who also recovered a fumble.
Ward had nine catches for 113 yards, but Tech was led by Darrin Moore’s 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
“I wouldn’t say it’s bittersweet. It’s bitter that we took the (loss),” Moore said.
Moore’s 6-yard fade catch with 6:19 left put Tech up 45-42. That came after a 4-yard touchdown catch by Terrance Williams, who had seven receptions for 175 yards while setting a Baylor single-season record for receiving yards (1,693).
Lache Seastrunk ran for 136 yards on 19 carries for Baylor, and Martin had 23 carries for 98 yards.
After Florence had a 4-yard run with 5 minutes left in the third quarter to get Baylor within 24-21, Jakeem Grant returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Florence then threw a 27-yard TD to Lanear Sampson, who reached over the defender to make the catch.
Texas Tech was up 21-7 about to score again late in the first half when a scrambling Doege was hit from behind and fumbled. Baylor recovered and went 93 yards in eight plays, scoring on Florence’s 39-yard pass to a wide-open Levi Norwood with 5 seconds left.
Along with two missed kicks by Jones before the half, Martin was stuffed for a 3-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 from the 2.
“We just made mistakes. We left points on the board,” Florence said. “We were moving the ball well and not finishing. It was frustrating. But again, this team kept fighting.”
Doege went 19 yards on his first rushing TD of the season, and Kenny Williams had a 5-yard run to put Tech up 14-0 in the first quarter.
Martin scored on a fourth-down run from the 1, but the Red Raiders then needed only three passes to cover 75 yards, getting a 23-yard TD from Ward for a 21-7 lead.
“We played hard, we’d like to have a couple of these games back,” Tuberville said. “This is not a conference you want to coach in if you’re a defensive coach.”
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