WACO — All summer long the Baylor seniors kept needling Lache Seastrunk.
He needed to get better, be better and, most of all, finish.
It worked. Seastrunk ran for 178 yards on 16 carries Saturday, including a game-clinching 76-yard fourth-quarter run, as the Bears defeated No. 23 Oklahoma State 41-34 at Floyd Casey Stadium.
During the touchdown run, Seastrunk pulled up with a cramp at the Cowboys’ 30-yard line. But he put his other leg down and kept pushing the final 30 yards into the end zone.
“It was inspiring. All summer long we were harping on him about finishing, making him go back (and do things) over and over and he hated us,” said Baylor quarterback Nick Florence. “But that is why we do that. If we let those things slide all summer long, maybe he doesn’t finish right there.
“For someone to cramp and then pick it up and put it right back down that is inspiring. It was a huge play.”
It was not just inspiring, it also capped off a remarkable turnaround season for Baylor. Last season, the Bears (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) ended on a six-game
That won’t happen again, even with a bowl win. The Bears lost to Oklahoma 42-34 in Norman on Nov. 10. But even without Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, the Bears kept getting better as the season progressed. The win over the Cowboys was Baylor’s fourth in its last five games after it dropped four in a row to start Big 12 play.
Now, Baylor is awaiting a bowl bid for the third straight season.
“We built a bond with each other,” said sophomore linebacker Ahmad Dixon. “Earlier this season in the locker room guys would just shower and go home. When we would come in on Sundays all we would talk about is ‘How do we fix this.’ It brought us together.
“Now, it is crazy (in the locker room). … There are people still in there dancing in their pads.”
On their first touchdown drive, Baylor drove 98 yards in 16 plays, the last of which was a 2-yard touchdown run by Glasco Martin. The second one was much quicker. Florence hit Tevin Reese, who led Baylor five receptions for 108 yards, on a crossing pattern and the former Temple standout turned up field and raced 75 yards to the end zone to give the Bears a 24-3 less than 30 seconds into the second quarter.
“It is nice to get seven wins and go to a bowl, but today is about respect,” said Baylor coach Art Briles. “You have to make someone (respect) you and we had not done that.”
The defense actually scored first for the Bears. Eddie Lackey intercepted Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf’s pass and returned it 26 yards for the touchdown to put the Bears up 7-3.
“I am sure their coaches watched last week,” Chelf said. “They went cover-zero a lot against us and brought a lot of guys. They had a good plan. I did not make enough plays when they brought a lot of people, so they kept doing it.”
Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4) scored twice in the second quarter, though, and cut the Baylor lead to 24-17. J.W. Walsh scored on a 1-yard run for the Cowboys and Chelf, who finished 30-of-51 passing for 333 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, partially made up for his earlier mistakes, hitting Josh Stewart for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 6:50 left in the half. Baylor scored three minutes later on a 3-yard run by Florence, who had a season high 18 carries for 71 yards and was 23 of 39 passing for 296 yards.
Both teams settled for field goals in the third quarter as the defenses finally settled into the game. Oklahoma State finally got into the end zone with 5:31 left, when Walsh ran for his second touchdown to pull the Cowboys within a score.
Baylor ended its drought 20 seconds later.
Seastrunk burst through the middle of the Oklahoma State defense for his 76-yard touchdown run to put the Bears back up by two scores.
“When I did cramp up, I felt my leg go back down and keep pushing,” said Seastrunk, adding that the injury was not his hamstring. “I did not even feel like I was limping. It was just tightness. … I felt it. It was like I was in ‘Call of Duty’ and someone sniped me.
“My team called for me and I did it for them.”
Contact Nick Talbot at email@example.com or (254) 501-7569