The Baylor Bears are 7-0.
Say it louder for the people in the back.
The. Baylor. Bears. Are. Seven. And. Oh.
It’s rather incredible, isn’t it? We knew these Bears had all the makings of a very good team. Before the season, I thought they had a legitimate chance at a nine or 10-win season. Following Baylor’s stunning 45-27 win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater, it’s apparent that prediction may have been too conservative. As wakeup calls go, this one thundered like an air raid siren.
It wasn’t just that the Bears won. It was how impressive they looked in doing it. They demonstrated considerable resolve in rallying from a 20-10 deficit to close the game on a 35-point tidal wave. They plugged into some shocking backup power, as understudies delivered star-worthy efforts.
Baylor coach Matt Rhule commented that after Oklahoma State snookered the Bears with a fake punt in the third quarter, the Bears’ reaction was almost one of a delighted chuckle. Kind of a, “OK, good one, guys. You got us on that one. Now it’s our turn.”
“We’re a fourth-quarter team. We’re fighters, I guess,” said receiver Josh Fleeks. “That’s it.”
The Bears live in the moment. The coaches model that idea to the players, who have wholeheartedly adopted it as their own. And it works for them. Ask them about the future and you’ll invariably hear, “We’re just looking to go 1-0 this week.” C-3PO would be less robotic.
The rest of us have the luxury of looking ahead. Here’s the reality: Baylor, which moved up to No. 14 in the AP Top 25 following the Stillwater show, is a win or two away from being a Top 10 team. The Bears should be favored in both of their next two games, at home to West Virginia on Oct. 31 and in Fort Worth against TCU on Nov. 9.
That means the Bears stand a reasonable chance at being 9-0 when fifth-ranked Oklahoma comes calling to Waco on Nov. 16.
That’s not a bad place to be. These Bears have won behind a consistent defense that has kept the team in games during moments when the offense has sputtered. They’ve won behind an offense that features track-star speed. (It’s not hyperbole – check out their high school sprinting stats.) They’ve won with mettle and moxie and a “next man up” mentality, as they label it.
“I think we’ve got a resilient group, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” quarterback Charlie Brewer said.
That balance of work and play permeates from every corner of Baylor’s locker room. When they win, they enjoy it.
For about five seconds. OK, maybe 10. Then it’s kind of like, we’ve got practice tomorrow. There’s film to watch. Another game awaits. We’ve got to get back to work.
Consider the response of Fleeks when he was asked about being 7-0: “It feels real good to be 7-0. We do have a week off, but I don’t think we’re going to take it as a week off. It’s going to be a regular week, as any other week would be.”
I’m not making any bold predictions of a Big 12 championship trophy presentation in Waco yet. The Sooners are still the favorites, with good reason. But I’m not ruling it out, either. Baylor has at least put itself in position.
Two years after a 1-11 season, that’s quite the resounding statement.
Can you hear them now?