College Sports

Baylor’s title hopes must survive the curse of Stillwater

Throughout history, notorious stumbling blocks have surfaced to derail lots of seemingly unstoppable forces or individuals.

Napoleon had Waterloo. Superman struggled with kryptonite. Achilles could not overcome that pesky heel.

And when it comes to Big 12 football, the Baylor Bears have Stillwater, Okla.

No. 4 Baylor (9-0, 6-0 in Big 12), America’s rags-to-riches storyline in this year’s BCS national championship race, needs only a Saturday victory at No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1) to put itself on the fast track toward a 12-0 regular-season record that would keep the Bears in the hunt to play for a BCS title if No. 1 Alabama (10-0) or No. 2 Florida State (10-0) stumbles down the stretch.

The belief is that the Bears’ point-per-minute offense, on pace to set NCAA records for scoring (61.2 average) and yards per game (684.8), cannot be slowed on Texas soil in upcoming matchups against unranked TCU (4-7, 2-6) or unranked Texas (7-3, 6-1). It’s hard to argue with that logic based on how the Bears have throttled teams in Waco and other venues throughout the Lone Star State this season.

But Stillwater is a different story. The Bears are 0-9 in the Big 12 era in OSU’s Boone Pickens Stadium. Baylor has not won in that venue since 1939.

That 74-year span predates the bombing of Pearl Harbor (1941), the birth of Bears’ coach Art Briles (1955) and the advent of today’s unlimited substitution patterns that popularized two-platoon college football (1965). The streak encompasses lopsided losses in 2010 and 2011, when many Bears were part of bowl-bound teams that traveled to Stillwater and fell by margins of 55-28 and 59-24.

The 35-point setback occurred with quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Bears’ 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, at the controls of the Baylor offense. Both losses left some residue on the psyches of veteran players. Running back Glasco Martin, a fifth-year senior, acknowledged there is something unique about the curse of Stillwater when compared to other program-turning milestones the Bears have reached in 2013.

“It does feel different,” Martin said. “We’ve never done that personally and we haven’t done it as a program since the 1930s. I think this team is really anxious to go out there and prove ourselves. People don’t think that we can win on the road, necessarily. I think we’ve proved that. We just need to get that first win for Baylor in Stillwater.”

Martin, who has not played since injuring his knee in the first half of the team’s 41-12 rout of then-No. 10 Oklahoma on Nov. 7, said the swelling has diminished this week and he believes he will be “able to contribute to my team on Saturday.”

If not, uncertainty also surrounds the status of leading rusher Lache Seastrunk (groin), who did not attend last week’s 63-34 victory over Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. That means the focus of the Bear’s ground game in Stillwater could rest with freshman Shock Linwood (812 yards, 8 TDs), who has topped the 100-yard mark the past two weeks with Baylor’s veteran backs sidelined.

Asked about the Bears’ long losing streak in Stillwater, Linwood said: “That surprised me. But like people have been saying, we’re trying to shock the world. This week is a big week for us. If we win this game, it’ll probably set us up for winning the Big 12 championship and getting to a better bowl game.”

In fairness, Baylor has been one of college football’s top closers in recent seasons. The Bears have a 13-1 record in the months of November and December since 2011, the best among FBS schools in that stretch. The Bears’ run includes a 5-1 mark against ranked opponents, which safety Ahmad Dixon is anxious to extend against No. 10 OSU.

“We’ve worked hard for this. We feel as though we deserve to go out there and take full advantage of this opportunity,” Dixon said.

But OSU has won its last six games, along with its seven-decade domination of Baylor in its own building. That last fact has captured the Bears’ full attention for this trip to Stillwater, with the ESPN GameDay crew on site for its pregame show.

“We’ve got to play real clean and we’ve got to be real sharp with our focus,” Briles said. “I think we’re going in there, without question, as a more mature football team than what we have in the past at any other time we’ve gone in there as a program.”

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said: “This is a place we haven’t had a lot of past success a place where I want to win, as a quarterback, to make your mark. This week, I really want to strive for perfection. I know that’s not attainable but it’s something to strive for. I’m going to prepare harder than I ever have. I want to make sure I have all my T’s crossed and all my I’s dotted. That way, I’ve done everything I can to make this team successful on my end.”

If Petty can pull that off, the Bears may end their seven-decade curse in Stillwater.


Mutual respect society

Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro has had an eventful week. The junior from San Antonio was named a semifinalist for both the Biltetnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver, and the John Mackey Award, presented to the top tight end. He also took part in a mutual show of respect with Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, via old and new technology.

Amaro (6-foot-5, 257 pounds), who has 92 receptions for 1,157 yards and six TDs this season, posted a photo Monday on his Twitter account ( @J_ACER22) of a hand-written note he received from Snyder, 74, after Amaro was injured in the teams’ Nov. 9 contest in Lubbock. Amaro eventually returned to that contest and added two touchdowns in last week’s game against Baylor at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

In the photo he posted, Amaro is holding a piece of K-State stationary with a hand-written note in purple ink that says: “You’ve had a great year, Jace. Admire how hard you play & the innate toughness you display to help your team. Hope you weren’t hurt too badly on Sat. Wishing you & your teammates continued success, good fortune & health. Warm Regards, Coach Snyder.”

In the tweet that accompanied the photo, Amaro wrote: “THE utmost respect to Kansas State and Coach Snyder; great program and an even greater coach. Huge fan.”


Consistent Cowboys: No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1 in Big 12) is 9-1 for the third time in the last four seasons, all under coach Mike Gundy. During that four-year stretch, OSU has scored 24 non-offensive touchdowns, an average of six per season. The Cowboys already have hit that mark this season (6). Other than during the Gundy era, OSU’s only other 9-1 start in 102 football seasons came in 1985. The Cowboys also finished 9-0 in 1945.

Ground-gobbling Sooners: No. 20 Oklahoma (8-2, 5-2) heads into Saturday’s game at Kansas State (6-4, 4-3) following its first 400-yard rushing performance of the Bob Stoops era. The Sooners ground out 405 yards in last week’s 48-10 rout of Iowa State, including long-distance scoring runs from RB Damien Williams (69 yards), RB Brennan Clay (63 yards) and QB Trevor Knight (56). It marked the first time since 1988 that OU had three different players score rushing TDs of 50 yards or longer in the same contest.

Streak seekers: Kansas broke a 27-game losing streak against Big 12 opponents during last week’s starting debut by freshman QB Montell Cozart, a 31-19 victory over West Virginia. A victory Saturday over Iowa State would mean consecutive victories by the Jayhawks over league opponents for the first time since the 2008 season (Oct. 4 over Iowa State, Oct. 11 over Colorado).

Burch’s picks

No. 10 Oklahoma State 45, No. 4 Baylor 42 (Saturday, 7 p.m., WFAA/Ch. 8): Bears’ BCS title hopes disappear in Stillwater, a place that has served as Baylor’s kryptonite through the years.

Kansas State 35, No. 20 Oklahoma 31 (Saturday, 11 a.m., FS1): Bowl-bound Wildcats enhance their postseason destination by taking down the Sooners.

Kansas 28, Iowa State 24 (Saturday, 7 p.m., FS1): After breaking a 27-game league losing streak last week, the Jayhawks leave Ames with a two-game winning streak against Big 12 foes.

Last week: 4-1

Season: 53-13

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