It’s the end of the year and that’s a good time for lists.
For me, the chance to cover an important football team all season long sits at or near the top of my list. And it gives me a chance to make another list. I am not a Baylor fan, as such, so my list is pretty much void of emotional attachment, which I realize is its strength and weakness. I hope my Baylor friends will enjoy this as a Christmas gift to them, but they can also feel free to disagree with me.
Here are plays 20-11 on my list of the “Top 20 Most Important Plays in Baylor’s Football Season” (plays 10-1 will be posted on Tuesday):
20. Bryce Petty’s 61-yard TD pass to Tevin Reese in the first quarter against Buffalo. For starters, this play sent a message to Buffalo, which had just labored to construct an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that successfully gave the Bulls a 7-0 lead. But Baylor snapped its fingers and Reese was cruising to a touchdown. Even though the game was tied at 7, Buffalo had to know it couldn’t keep up at that point. In the bigger picture, the play had to give all of Baylor’s future opponents a sinking feeling in the gut when they saw it on film. That is, until Reese was injured against Oklahoma.
19. Ahmad Dixon’s blasting of Trevone Boykin in the third quarter against TCU. Depending on how you weigh the butterfly effect, this play was either monumental and should be in the top 10, or it shouldn’t even be on the list. The butterfly-effect argument could be made that Dixon’s hit adversely affected Baylor for the duration of the TCU game, but then gave the Bears a massive boost against Texas when he entered the game after his one-half suspension. In the short term, it was pretty important. “It’s third-and-10 and we’re up 17 and they don’t convert,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “Then they go down and score and it’s a 10-point game. So it just changed the whole complexion of the third quarter because we had the momentum. It just flipped it back.” (Also, I’m giving myself bonus point for — I think — using effect and affect correctly in the same sentence, a skill I acquired this year, maybe.)
18. Bryce Petty’s 93-yard TD pass to Tevin Reese in the second quarter against Kansas State. This kind of thing happened a lot during the first two-thirds of this football season. This is the most glaring example.
17. Bryce Petty’s 72-yard TD pass to Antwan Goodley in the second quarter against Kansas State. And this is the the second-most glaring example.
16. Eddie Lackey’s tackle of Dreamius Smith for a 2-yard loss against West Virginia on fourth-and-2 from the West Virginia 49 in the first quarter. Baylor led 14-7 and West Virginia was actually doing the right thing in realizing it had to keep up with Baylor, so the Mountaineers couldn’t afford to punt. Lackey’s TFL stopped the drive, though, and Baylor scored on the next play when Petty threw a 47-yard TD pass to Reese. Baylor went ahead 21-7 and never looked back.
15. K.J. Morton’s fourth-quarter interception against Texas. The Longhorns were behind 23-10 and probably not coming back. Nonetheless, Texas was on Baylor’s end of the field when Morton intercepted Case McCoy and returned the ball 60 yards for an apparent touchdown. A strange, almost phantom personal foul kept Morton’s touchdown from counting. The referees called Ahmad Dixon’s number for the penalty, but prevailing sentiment is that they merely made a mistake on the number. Dixon said Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett confronted him after the play and Dixon’s response, paraphrased, is that it didn’t matter because Baylor was about to win the Big 12 championship. And then Glasco Martin scored on the next play.
14. Eddie Lackey’s 52-yard interception return for a TD against TCU. Lackey’s description of this play shows how smart of a player he is. “I saw the quarterback give kind of a little symbol that gave me a little sense that he was trying to get the slant,” Lackey said. “I just undercut the slant and that’s really all I had to do. Just catch the ball and go down the sideline.”
13. Lache Seastrunk’s 80-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against West Virginia. Seastrunk’s longest run of the season has to be included.
12. Bryce Petty’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Levi Norwood in the third quarter against TCU. Offensively, this was as good as it got in the second half against TCU. But it gave Baylor a 41-31 lead with 17:25 remaining and the Baylor defense made that margin stand up for a victory.
11. Levi Norwood’s punt return touchdown against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders controlled the early part of the first quarter, but Norwood’s punt return made Texas Tech look vulnerable and this Baylor team tends to smell vulnerability like sharks smell blood.