Big 12 Media Days was at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the dais for coaches was set up in the same end zone where Baylor won the 2021 Big 12 Championship.
It was an odd juxtaposition for head coach Dave Aranda. He sat in that same place in July of 2021 with his Bears being picked eighth in the Big 12.
Aranda admitted that as the final seconds ticked down on Baylor’s 21-16 win over Oklahoma State there was a “fair amount of chaos” on the sideline.
“That whole drive, I have to imagine, if it felt like that where we’re at, I can only imagine some Baylor alumni and Baylor fans sitting at home watching it on TV, kind of what it felt like in the living room,’ Aranda said. “So you could kind of feel something like this was coming.”
What came was a Baylor defensive goal-line stand. On fourth down, Oklahoma State running back Dezmon Jackson took a handoff from quarterback Spencer Sanders and darted to the left side. He had room to operate and just one Baylor tackler to beat — McVea.
On paper, the safety was NOT the Bear you would expect to make the biggest play of the game. He had been at Baylor since 2016. While he made consistent contributions on special teams, he didn’t crack the starting lineup until the 2020 season. Even then, he only made a handful in his Baylor career.
But it was McVea who strung out Jackson the edge, forcing him out of bounds just before he could reach the goal line, setting off Baylor’s celebration of its third Big 12 title, but its first Big 12 Championship Game victory.
Aranda reflected on that when asked about the juxtaposition of where he was sitting and what happened there eight months ago with the unlikeliest of heroes.
To Aranda, in hindsight, the fact that it was McVea that made the tackle makes perfect sense.
if there was a door to be opened, Jairon would open it,” Aranda said. “If there was trash on the ground, he would pick it up. If a meeting started at eight, he was there at 7:50. If a meeting started at eight, he’s there with his pencil and his paper open. He’s always been that guy.
“So, it’s kind of illuminating, really, that when maybe stuff is kind of going crazy in all of it, the one guy that’s always kind of been that guy was the guy. So I’m thankful for that.”
The Bears went 12-2 last season and beat Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl.
The Bears return 11 starters overall, but many of Baylor’s top returnees are on defense, including linebacker Dillon Doyle, who has now played 23 games for Baylor, and massive nose tackle Siaki Ika, who once played for Aranda’s defense at LSU. The Bears must replace some top talent on defense, though, including safety Jalen Pitre and linebacker Terrel Bernard, both of which were All-Big 12 last season.
The Bears open the season on Sept. 3 at home against Albany, followed by a road trip against future Big 12 foe BYU.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.