Baylor Michigan JY 09

Baylor’s LaQuan McGowan rumbles forward for a touchdown against Michigan State. The 390-pound lineman received cheers for his score.

Staff photo— Jose Yau

ARLINGTON — It rained intermittently outside AT&T Stadium on Thursday, but the biggest rumble played out indoors on LaQuan McGowan’s thunderous touchdown.

McGowan caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Petty in the third quarter of Baylor’s 42-41 loss to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, fooling the Spartan defense and sending the Baylor sideline and stands into joyful hysterics.

McGowan, a junior offensive guard who is listed at 6-foot-7 and 390 pounds but admitted after the game that he’s an even 400, said he wasn’t surprised when the play call came in for a tackle-eligible pass to him. It had planned for weeks, he said.

“We were going to run it against Kansas State, but I guess we decided not to because it was a different ball game then,” McGowan said. “But tonight I guess Coach Kendal Briles wanted to break something out. We’ve been practicing it, we ran it once or twice in practice. We got used to running it. It came to game time, and I was real surprised at how nobody was around.”

No defender was within five yards of McGowan when he caught the ball, allowing him to safely advance into the end zone untouched. He said he showed off all the speed he had, because he didn’t want to get caught from behind.

“I’m thinking, ‘Get to the end zone,’” McGowan said. “Because what was going on in my head when I caught the ball was, ‘OK, somebody small and fast is coming up behind me. I need to make sure I get to the end zone.’”

After he scored, McGowan was mobbed by his teammates. Antwan Goodley, a “fellow” receiver, even appeared to lift the big man into the air momentarily, though McGowan said it was all an act.

“OK, here’s the thing. I had a little celebration dance I was going to do,” McGowan said. “I’m not a big dancer, but I’ve been working on this dance for probably two weeks. I was about to do it, and as soon as I turned around I saw Antwan Goodley right in my face. He told me to jump, he said, ‘Jump up,’ and I was like, ‘OK.’ I went for it. I jumped.

“He’s strong, a strong kid. I don’t know. He may have picked me up another half-inch.”

Petty offensive MVP

Though Michigan State captured the trophy Baylor really wanted, the Bears didn’t come home empty-handed.

Baylor senior quarterback Bryce Petty won the Sanford Trophy, presented to the game’s most outstanding offensive player. Petty hit on 36 of 51 passes for a Cotton Bowl-record 550 yards passing and three touchdowns, and also ran for a 1-yard touchdown.

Meanwhile, Baylor linebacker Taylor Young claimed the McKnight Trophy as the game’s top defensive player. Young tallied 15 tackles and an interception.

The awards are based on a vote of media covering the game.

New play caller

Petty’s pass to McGowan was just one of many creative plays called by Kendal Briles, who took over as Baylor’s offensive coordinator after Philip Montgomery accepted the Tulsa head coaching job three weeks ago.

Another surprising play was wide receiver Jay Lee’s 53-yard touchdown pass to Corey Coleman in the first quarter. It was the first pass of Lee’s career.

“I’ve got an arm on me,” Lee said. “I just tried to give it to Corey in the best possible way to score.”

The Baylor players were impressed by Kendal Briles’ playing calling after he previously served as the receivers coach.

“It was plays we had in store the whole year and we really needed them in this last game, so why not throw them out?” senior receiver Levi Norwood said.

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