Because this is the “20 most important plays” and not the “20 greatest highlights” or the “20 plays that show just how far Baylor has come since Art Briles took over” it should reflect Baylor’s season. And Baylor is 11-1 entering its Fiesta Bowl date with UCF, so that means that of 20 plays, 1.66 are going to sting a little for Baylor fans. And it just so happens that I rounded up and made it two plays and those two plays came in rapid succession in, obviously, Baylor’s only loss of the season.
Could I have left those two plays off the list? I don’t think so. Could I have made them plays No. 1 and 2? If you think they made the difference in Baylor playing in the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS National Championship, then yeah. But I didn’t. I decided they tied for sixth.
Here’s the rest of the list:
10. Lache Seastrunk’s 29-yard TD run in the first quarter against Kansas. This is highest-ranking successful rushing play on the list. That’s probably the biggest flaw in this list as Baylor’s ability to control the game with its rushing attack was a huge factor. But touchdown passes and interceptions returned for touchdowns are sexier (and they change momentum more dramatically).
9. K.J. Morton’s first-quarter interception against Texas Tech. Google the words “Baylor Art Briles miraculous” and this play is the top result. That’s because Briles referred to this play as miraculous on several occasions. As far as I remember, that’s the only play all season he described in such a specific way. I have to admit I missed it because I stood up from my press box seat to get a 30-second jump on using the bathroom between the first and second quarters. By the time I reached the star-level bathroom at Cowboys Stadium, Baylor had taken a 21-20 lead over Texas Tech before the beginning of the second quarter.
8. Eddie Lackey’s second-quarter interception against Oklahoma. Baylor was headed for a 17-5 halftime lead against the Sooners. That would’ve been good. But Lackey made a play in the final minute of the second quarter that allowed the Baylor offense to take over and boost it to 24-5, exponentially increasing momentum. “Eddie’s interception right before half was something that kind of propelled us,” Briles said. “It allowed us to be us because we didn’t really feel like us the first quarter-and-a-half of the game. A lot of that has to do with who you’re playing.”
7. Orion Stewart’s 82-yard interception return for a TD in the second quarter against TCU. Speaking of grabbing momentum before the half, this was massive. Baylor needed both of its interception returns to outlast TCU. If this one doesn’t happen, the second one probably doesn’t either. Instead, Stewart started a trend of reading Horned Frogs QB Casey Pachall like a poorly written book. “They like to isolate us and run out routes,” Stewart said. “I just kind of had a feeling that he was going to run an out route and when he did I just jumped it.”
T6. Bryce Petty tripping and falling one yard short of the goal line in the first quarter against Oklahoma State. It’s tough to put too much emphasis on one play, that’s why I’m leaving this one at No. 6, though the argument could be made for it being easily No. 1. One moment, Petty was cruising toward the end zone with the chance to seize momentum in a huge game. The next he’s inexplicably on the turf, a yard short of the end zone. Baylor still won the Big 12, but national championship and Heisman hopes began to fade on that play. The best I can offer my Baylor friends is the Cormac McCarthy quote “You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.” As for Petty, he was brave in taking the heat. “It was big,” Petty said “That’s not Shock’s fault, that’s my fault. I have to finish that, it was a funky deal.”
T6. Shock Linwood’s subsequent fumble at the Oklahoma State 1. This is too bad, too, because it was an effort play reaching the ball for the goal line. But, see above entry.
4. Ahmad Dixon’s fourth-quarter interception against Kansas State. This play along with Burt’s interception against TCU tied for the plays that did the most to make the difference between winning and losing all season. A lot of little things go into winning and losing. But when the opponent is driving toward a possible go-ahead score and a defender takes the ball away, that can’t be underestimated. “The play broke down and guys were scrambling around,” Dixon said. “I knew I had to stay with the tight end. When I saw the ball, my eyes got big and I came up with the play.”
3. Terrell Burt’s interception of TCU QB Casey Pachall with 11 seconds left. Batting this one away might not have been enough. TCU probably still would have tied it with a field goal, and no one knows what happens in overtime. Burt had to catch it and by catching it he preserved the win.
2. Bryce Petty’s second-quarter 24-yard touchdown pass to Antwan Goodley against Oklahoma. If there was one thing Baylor did well as a team, it was cohesiveness between offense and defense. Whenever the Baylor defense came up with a big play, the offense was quick to make matters much worse for the opponent. The reason Lackey’s interception ranks in the top 10 of this list is because Petty found Goodley for the touchdown. If you’ve reached this point of the list and feel like this play is too much like so many others this season to be ranked so high, remember this: winning the Big 12 means getting past Oklahoma and Texas. And this play was crucial to defeating the Sooners.
1. Bryce Petty’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Antwan Goodley in the third quarter against Texas. Goodley caught three passes to convert third downs on Baylor’s opening drive of the second half against Texas. They were all huge, but the one-handed grab on which Goodley reached out with his right hand to haul in a Petty pass on third-and-nine from the Horns’ 11 was the most important. That catch essentially put momentum on the Bears’ side for the duration. “He makes me look a lot better than I make him look,” Petty said. “Like that one-handed catch. That was absolutely huge. That basically, to me, turned the whole game around.” And by turning the game around, Baylor waltzed to a Big 12 championship and turned the lights out in Floyd Casey Stadium in an unforgettable way.