With the temperature in the 20s and the wind chill in the teens, it wasn’t surprising to see Texas and Baylor both looking a bit cold at the start of Saturday's game. Following Oklahoma's last-minute 33-24 upset of Oklahoma State earlier in the afternoon, a conference championship was on the line. Eventually, the Bears thawed out enough to defeat the Longhorns 30-10 and capture the school’s first-ever Big 12 title.
Everyone in Waco, except Baylor coach Art Briles -- who sported a crewneck sweatshirt and a baseball hat -- looked miserably cold. Texas attempted to control the clock by running the football. Tailback Malcolm Brown scampered for 118 yards in the first half (the most in a half by a Longhorns running back since Jamaal Charles in 2007) and finished the game with 131 rushing yards on 25 carries.
The teams headed into the break tied 3-3, and for a moment it seemed as if Mack Brown had a chance to make good on the statement he made after Texas' 44-23 loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 14. Back then, it had seemed unlikely that the Longhorns would be in position to win the Big 12. They fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after an ugly loss to BYU on Sept. 7, lost two of their first three games and dealt with a variety of injuries amid rumors that Brown would soon be out of a job. A conference championship might have ended the speculation about Brown, but Texas' 8-4 record means that the conversation regarding his future in Austin is sure to continue.
Brown has been with Texas for 16 years. But after back-to-back disappointing seasons and the hiring last month of new athletic director Steve Patterson, the Longhorns may feel it's time for a change. Whether the decision on Brown's future is made by the coach or by Patterson (or by somebody else) remains to be seen. But there is a certain set of expectations associated with Texas football, and it’s clear those have not been met.
On the Bears' side, this victory gave the team a single-season record 11th win. Baylor will play in a BCS bowl, something that seemed virtually impossible before Briles was hired in November 2007. Quarterback Bryce Petty, who announced he would return for his senior season earlier this week, completed 21-of-37 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll likely be on the shortlist of preseason Heisman Trophy hopefuls entering '14.
“Coach Briles started it all,” Petty said in postgame interview on Fox. “There was a vision in his offense that he told me about five years ago and this was it. He means everything to this program. We’re so happy and excited he’s a part of it for not only this year but 10 more years. We love that guy."
Earlier in the fall, Briles' offense put up points at a record clip. But injuries in the backfield and along the offensive line -- as well as a wrist injury to star wide receiver Tevin Reese -- slowed the Bears late in the season. The losses took a toll on Baylor as the Bears' quality of competition improved down the stretch. Briles and company are likely set for a Fiesta Bowl date with American Athletic Conference champ UCF. Baylor's time off the bowl could bring the Bears back to midseason form, which could spell trouble for the Knights.