December 6th, 2016 is a day that Baylor fans should all remember. On that very day, Matt Rhule was announced as the head coach of Baylor and while the future of the program was as shaky as can be, Rhule said that he felt a higher power that called him to Waco. It wasn’t always pretty at first but over time, things continued to get better. From a 1-11 finish in 2017, to a 7-6 and a Texas Bowl victory in 2018, the program finally saw some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. Heading into 2019, nobody was sure what to expect. But it didn’t matter what we thought or expected because as the season went on, Baylor just kept winning and winning. No matter how pretty or how ugly those wins were, the Bears powered through and found themselves finishing the regular season at 11-1 and a Big 12 title birth.
Now we all know how the Big 12 championship game went but when selection Sunday rolled around, Baylor had an opportunity to right that wrong down in New Orleans to take on SEC runner up Georgia who finished 11-2 fresh off their own conference championship loss to LSU. As magical as the 2019 regular season was, sometimes the magic suddenly runs out or as some would say, they simply ran out of gas. Whether the gas tank was empty, or the magic ran out, there is no question that Baylor was overmatched on Wednesday night in New Orleans.
From just about start to finish, it was Georgia’s night in the big easy. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 19-0 lead at halftime as they outgained the Bears 272 to 97 in the first half. As crazy as that stat was, Georgia wide receiver George Pickens caught eleven passes for a whopping 165-yards and a touchdown. Pickens absolutely torched the Bears in the first half, and it was obvious that Baylor had no answer for him or the Georgia defensive front who overpowered the Baylor offensive line that had quarterback Charlie Brewer running for his life most of the game.
However, the third quarter was much better for Baylor as they would find their first score of the night as Charlie Brewer hit Denzel Mims for a 12-yard touchdown. Georgia would respond to extend their lead 26-7 but Baylor tried to make the big comeback as Brewer would find pay dirt from a sneak down by the goal line to get it back to a two-score game with 4:10 left in the third quarter. In less than one full quarter, Baylor already had more yards in the third quarter alone than they did in the entire first half.
Just as things were starting to look bad, they became worse as quarterback Charlie Brewer was knocked out of the game with about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter due to a late hit that likely resulted in another concussion. Backup quarterback Jacob Zeno would have to step in but there wouldn’t be any late game heroics this time around as Baylor fell 26-14 to Georgia in a scoreless fourth quarter.
“I am very, very proud of what these guys have done this year. We went from one to seven (wins). Then from seven to eleven (wins) in year three.” Said Baylor head coach Matt Rhule after the loss. “Those guys who started in 2017, they got so much better. What an honor it has been to coach them. They have rebuilt and got us to this point and set the example for us moving forward.”
I could slap on my laptop keyboard and scream until I am blue in the face about how this game went but I would be doing you a disservice by doing that. Sometimes people say that you are only as good as your last performance and in some cases, that is true but not in college football. You must look at the big picture and the body of work.
Whether you are a Baylor fan or not, you must give credit where credit is due. 2019 was a heck of a year for Baylor and not only did Matt Rhule turn the program around quickly, he did it the RIGHT way. No mess, no scandals, no drama. While 2020 will bring on plenty of questions regarding if Matt Rhule will leave or not but as of right now, I would encourage you not to think about that. Think about this season and just how special it was for Baylor. Nobody knows if Rhule will go or stay but Baylor just played in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1957. The outcome certainly didn’t go as planned but this program is in good shape no matter who the head coach is next season and if Matt Rhule stays in Waco, New Orleans won’t be an unfamiliar place for Bears fans.