SAN ANTONIO — Dean Jackson could barely contain his excitement when he heard Baylor was bound for the Alamo Bowl.
The San Antonio attorney expects the Alamodome to be crammed with Baylor fans anticipating the football team’s first bowl win in 19 years.
“This town is abuzz about Baylor,” Jackson said. “I’ve done my best to get as many tickets as possible. I think San Antonio is going to be covered with green and gold.”
Jackson isn’t just thrilled to see Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin and company go for their 10th win of the season in Thursday night’s matchup against Washington.
He’s got a vested interest in the game because he played linebacker for Baylor’s only other Alamo Bowl team, which dropped a 10-3 defensive battle to Washington State on Dec. 31, 1994.
He’s certain the Bears will put up many more points with Griffin leading the offense.
“They’ve gone from being a good team to a great team,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t just good that Robert Griffin won the Heisman, it was wonderful. I was impressed with the way he handled himself at the Heisman ceremony and the professionalism he showed. My wife and I both got teary eyed. I call it a sports cry.”
Jackson expects a big group of San Antonio-area players from Baylor’s 1994 Alamo Bowl team to be in attendance. Jerod Douglas, a star running back for the Bears in that era, is also counting down the days to Thursday night’s kickoff.
“I’m just excited about Baylor righting the ship,” Douglas said. “They’re winning big games and playing good football, and RG3 winning the Heisman put the cherry on top. Now that they’re going to the Alamo Bowl, they’re putting two cherries on top.”
When the Bears reached the Alamo Bowl 17 years ago, they never dreamed it would be the program’s last bowl appearance until last year’s Texas Bowl berth.
The Bears regularly made bowl appearances from 1974 through 1992 under Grant Teaff, and it appeared Chuck Reedy was on track to continue the tradition when he led the Bears to a 7-4 regular season record in 1994.
The Bears were excited to receive the Alamo Bowl berth, and get a shot to play before fans in their home state.
“It was a great week because I got to come back to my hometown,” said Douglas, a former all-state running back at Converse Judson High School. “We got catered to, and that usually doesn’t happen unless your mom’s around. It was great doing a lot of things during the week and getting exposure for your school.”
Leading up to the bowl game, some nasty weather put a damper on some activities.
“It was cold, so there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the Riverwalk,” said former Baylor linebacker Robert Mason, who manages rental property in Waco. “I remember going to Fiesta Texas, and we couldn’t ride all the rides because of the weather.”
With Washington State and Baylor featuring two of the top defenses in the nation, it was no shock that it was a low-scoring game.
The Cougars put together the best drive of the game in the first quarter when they marched 91 yards on 13 plays with Kevin Hicks finishing it off with a 1-yard touchdown run.
That turned out to be the only touchdown of the game as the Bears finished with just 151 yards and eight first downs while Washington State picked up 293 yards and 14 first downs. Baylor freshman quarterback Jeff Watson hit just eight of 22 passes for 77 yards with two interceptions.
“They had a real good defense and Jeff Watson was just a young kid,” Jackson said. “It was a real defensive battle, but if we could have made a couple of plays here and there it would have turned the game. We had a good defense, but they were able to move the ball better than us.”
Washington State quarterback Chad Davis delivered a solid performance as he hit 27 of 35 passes for 286 yards.
“That was the first time we lined up against a West Coast offense,” Mason said. “They were primarily a passing team, and it was a lot different from anything we had seen. Teams like Texas A&M and Texas ran the ball a lot.”
Trailing 10-0 at halftime, the Bears finally broke through with with a Jarvis Van Dyke field goal late in the third quarter.
The Bears made a final threat in the closing minutes when Watson threw a 33-yard pass to Kalief Muhammad to Washington State’s 11. But the Bears couldn’t finish off the drive as Todd Jensen intercepted Watson’s pass to tight end Damon Rhynes in the end zone with 30 seconds remaining to seal the win.
“Our defense was exceptional like it was all year, but we couldn’t hold up our end of the stick,” Douglas said. “If we had RG3, it might have made the difference.”
After its third bowl appearance in four seasons, Baylor thought it would continue the tradition. Instead, the Bears suffered through a bowl drought that finally ended with last year’s 38-14 Texas Bowl loss to Illinois.
“I never could have imagined that would be our last bowl game in 16 years,” Jackson said. “When I was there, we were getting great recruiting classes. I thought we were on an upswing, but we had so many disappointing seasons. When you see what we’re going through now, it makes it that much more impressive.”
With two straight bowl appearances, players from the 1994 Alamo Bowl team believe the Bears have a great future under Art Briles.
“We were on a downward trend for quite a while, but now we’re back on track,” said Douglas, a manager for a San Antonio-area wireless company. “Lo and behold, we’re back in the Alamo Bowl. Coach Briles has a track record of winning, and that’s all we need.”