Bears attempt to end skid with Cactus Bowl win over Boise

The success of the Baylor Bears will depend on freshman QB Zach Smith. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
The success of the Baylor Bears will depend on freshman QB Zach Smith. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports /

The 6-6 Baylor Bears will face Boise State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl and they may be the nation’s most desperate team for victory.

If you were to look purely at the win-loss record of the Baylor Bears, it doesn’t seem too far off from preseason projections. While winning just six games could be considered a slight disappointment, it’s less about the end and more about the means.

A solid start

Baylor began the season as one of the NCAA’s strongest teams. They reeled off six straight victories and looked unflappable in doing so. They were on a roll.

The Bears blew out a competitive SMU team that ended up 5-7. Then, they scooted up the polls to number 13 after taking down eventual Alamo Bowl team Oklahoma State 35-24. It was the Cowboys’ last loss before winning seven straight games.

By the season’s mid-point, Baylor found themselves 6-0 and ranked eighth. They were flying high, despite what was taking place off-the-field.

A turning point

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It all started with a trip to Austin. The reeling Texas Longhorns were 3-4 and about to find themselves in the midst of a major coaching controversy. Yet, they brought it all together that late October day and handed the Bears their first loss of the season. That’s when it all started to turn.

As if a switch had been flipped, the Baylor football team went on a downward spiral.

They lost their second straight in the following game to a reloading TCU Horned Frogs team. Then, eventual Big XII Champion Oklahoma handed them a sizable beatdown.

It didn’t help things when senior quarterback Seth Russell injured his ankle to end his season early. After that, the Bears couldn’t recover.

The weeks rolled by and the losses mounted. Before they knew it, they’d lost six in a row and fallen to a 6-6 record. After clinching bowl eligibility in the shortest timeframe possible, they found themselves near the bottom of all bowl-eligible teams. But thanks to a great opponent selection, the Bears have a chance at redemption and an opportunity to finish the season on a high note.

A golden opportunity

Baylor will face the 10-2 Boise State Broncos in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl on Tuesday. While the Bears have rapidly fallen downhill in the second half, the Broncos have been impressively consistent.

Sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien, nephew of former NFL great Mark Rypien, leads a powerful Broncos offense. With receivers Thomas Sperbeck and Cedric Wilson to throw to, he has a great pair of weapons in his arsenal. On the ground, Jeremy McNichols gives the Baylor defense even more to think about. This game has the makings of an offensive slugfest if the Bears can keep up.

For Baylor, freshman quarterback Zach Smith looks to earn his first collegiate win as a starter. While he’s amassed a nice amount of passing yards, he’s been interception-prone. This is why finding junior receiver KD Cannon will play a huge part in his potential success.

If running backs Terence Williams and Shock Linwood can find some running lanes, they could further alleviate pressure on the young signal-caller. He’ll rely on them heavily to keep the offense moving and the chains progressing.

A sad ending

In the end, there Baylor will find themselves pitted against way too much talent. The Broncos might be the best team in the country outside the top 25.

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The Bears will hang with Boise through the first half. But when both teams return to the field, the Broncos will pull away quickly. When all is said and done, Baylor will fall to 6-7 at the hands of a 48-28 Boise win.