• September 20, 2014

Bowl-eligible Baylor chasing loftier goals

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Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013 4:30 am

WACO — After Baylor completed its latest home trouncing Saturday, a 71-7 rout of Iowa State, the public address announcer notified the Floyd Casey crowd that the Bears were bowl eligible for the fourth straight season — an announcement that elicited hardly any celebration from the players, save a dancing Tevin Reese, one of the last players to leave the field.

On Sunday, the Bears jumped seven spots in The Associated Press poll to No. 5, the Bears’ highest ranking since 1991, and were also No. 8 in the initial BCS standings, also released Sunday.

And while all of it seems cause for celebration, the Bears, who are 3-0 in conference play for the first time since joining the Big 12, still aren’t rejoicing — at least not yet.

“Where you are after Dec. 7 is kind of what’s important for us,” BU coach Art Briles said, referring to the end of the regular season.

Saturday was the fourth time Baylor has scored 70 points this season, and the typical offensive outburst coincided with the Bears’ best defensive performance of the season.

And Baylor — which held Iowa State to 174 yards of total offense while intercepting two passes and shutting out the Cyclones until the final minute of the game — believes the defense can still improve.

“It’s always improving,” senior defensive end Terrance Lloyd said. “There are fits we missed, plays that we wish we could have back and do again, so y’all haven’t seen the best of it yet.”

Now, with the offense leading the nation in points and yardage by a significant margin, and the defense playing well, the Bears are shooting much higher than No. 5.

“My goal, our goal, is Pasadena,” quarterback Bryce Petty said in reference to the site of the BCS National Championship game.

“I think it was a far outstretched dream for a lot of people, but not for us — we know we’re that good.”

Under Briles, the offense has always lived in the national spotlight. But now, the defense is earning attention of its own.

Senior linebacker Sam Holl said Saturday was the best defensive performance he can remember in his time at Baylor.

“I think we’re more together than we’ve ever been, as a defense, as a whole, as a unit,” Holl said. “Everyone’s just playing well.”

And while Baylor is reaching unprecedented heights in program history, the days of longing for a bowl-eligible season aren’t far from the players’ minds, even for a player like Petty, who has seen Baylor bowl-eligible in each of his seasons on campus.

“Four years ago, no one worried about us,” Petty said. “So, we know where we’ve been. We know where we’re going.”

Where the Bears are going this week is to Lawrence to face last-place Kansas.

But don’t tell that to Baylor, which still remembers stealing a 31-30 overtime victory in 2011 with eventual Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III at the helm.

“That was a tough deal,” Briles said, “like I say, that was the greatest game nobody has ever saw.”

No one can accuse the Bears of flying under the radar these days.

And while Baylor believes it deserves the brightest spotlight the nation has to offer, the Bears aren’t paying attention to what the polls or standings say just yet.

“Everybody’s a critic. We’re just focusing on what Baylor does, what Baylor do, and Baylor is six out of six now,” running back Lache Seastrunk said. “We’re trying to be seven out of seven.”

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