Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Cactus Bowl: Baylor vs. Boise State Recap

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
After an extremely tumultuous regular season, the Baylor football team looked to earn their seventh win over Boise State in the Cactus Bowl. In honor of interim head coach Jim Grobe and the senior class, the team aimed to pull out a win after six consecutive losses. With nearly a month of practice time, the Bears pulled out all the stops to send the seniors and coaches off with a victory. Although the 10-2 Broncos were the projected winners of the bowl, mistakes in the red zone consistently stopped them from scoring. A dominant 31-12 performance provided the Bears with an extra win and a final hurrah for a large portion of the team.

Baylor QB Zach Smith entered his fourth game as a starter with poise and maturity. He completed 28 of 39 pass attempts for 375 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. RB Terence Williams and WRs Chris Platt and KD Cannon achieved first downs for 7, 30 and 11 yards respectively. A couple incomplete passes and an interception on the BSU 2 yard line followed, ending the first Baylor drive. The Baylor defense stepped up and put pressure on BSU QB Brett Rypien to force the Broncos to punt the ball back. Another stalling drive caused Baylor to punt before NB Travon Blanchard (a beautiful human gummy bear) intercepted Rypien's pass and returned it for 14 yards to BU's 19. A beautiful 49-yard pass from Smith to Cannon and a 17-yarder to Platt paved the way for this incredible 30-yard touchdown catch:


While KD has seemingly been absent from any action in 2016, he proved how talented he is through catches like this. The Baylor defense again was all over their opposition, putting pressure on the QB and forcing him to make errors. While BSU marched down the field for the rest of the first quarter, a big defensive stop forced them to kick a field goal and make the score 7-3. Baylor OC Kendal Briles referenced his old pass-happy offensive scheme for the first BU drive of the second quarter with four passes to Platt, Ishmael Zamora and Cannon for 5, 7, 5 and 68 yards respectively, and the last pass got the touchdown. Baylor LB Taylor Young was flying all over the field making tackles and putting pressure on the offense. His 17 tackles made a statement and provided a flashback to his star freshman season. After making tackles left and right, it was S Orion Stewart who again stopped the Broncos from scoring in the red zone with an interception. This being Stewart's last collegiate game, he made huge plays and recorded five tackles, two for a loss of six yards, one fumble recovery, one interception and one sack. Stewart's interception set up a 99-yard drive where a roughing the kicker penalty gave Baylor an extra chance to score. And score they did! A combination of passes and T.Will rushing gave RB JaMycal Hasty the opportunity to punch the ball in for a 5 yard touchdown. With a linebacker-heavy presence, Baylor put immense pressure on BSU and stopped them from success in the end zone. The Broncos were only able to kick another field goal before the end of the first half to finish the second quarter at 21-6 Baylor.

The Broncos consistently marched the ball down the field and in their first drive of the third quarter, turned the ball over with a fourth down stop (pass incomplete with CB Ryan Reid on coverage). A 21 play Baylor drive ended with a simple field goal, but the Bears never took their foot off the gas. They gave the ball back to BSU where BU DE K.J. Smith collected a sack and DE Greg Roberts forced a fumble, which was recovered by Stewart for 15 yards. While Baylor's offense shined, it was the defense who kept the team in the running. A monster game for Stewart, DE Tyrone Hunt, Taylor Young and CB Grayland Arnold provided miraculous assistance for Zach Smith and co. Baylor capitalized on BSU's turnover with a 14-yard Zamora touchdown to start the fourth with a 31-6 score. Four punts created a lull for a bit before back-to-back sacks by Stewart and BSU's Sam McCaskill led to BSU's first touchdown of the night (at the end of the game no less). At this point in the game I'm screaming, running around the house, making weird leg and hand movements and probably annoying the hell out of my neighbors/family. The game's fate was sealed as BSU went for two and Taylor Young intercepted the pass in the end zone. It was another fabulous red zone read. The clock ran out as the team doused interim head coach Jim Grobe, Briles and DC Phil Bennett in Gatorade before celebrating in the ceremony. Cannon was named offensive MVP with 14 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns while Hunt was given the defensive title with five tackles, two for a loss of 15 yards and two sacks for a loss of 15 yards. Congratulations Bears, you deserve all the good things in the world! Also please don't leave us Coach Grobe I will become a human rain cloud when you do.

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