WACO, Texas (AP) — After 14 seasons of futility and lopsided losses in the Big 12, Baylor finally gave its fans a reason to celebrate Saturday night.
Jay Finley rushed for a school-record 250 yards, Robert Griffin threw for a career-high 404 yards and four touchdowns and the Bears became bowl eligible for the first time since joining the conference, beating Kansas State 47-42.
Baylor (6-2, 3-1) has not played in a bowl game since 1994, back when the Bears were a member of the now defunct Southwest Conference.
Seconds after the game ended, hundreds of jubilant students climbed out of the stands and stormed the field to party with Baylor players and coaches. A few even made a run at the goal posts before being turned away by security.
These were sights many Baylor followers probably never expected to see. Not after watching the program lose 30 straight Big 12 games at one point and go 14-98 in league play from 1996-2009.
“We’ll cherish this moment,” Griffin said. “This is a day we’ll always remember.”
Griffin was 26 of 38 passing and Finley averaged 9.6 yards per carry to key an offense which gained 683 yards, breaking a school record that was set three weeks ago.
Baylor’s offense was clicking from the start. The Bears ripped off 10 plays of 20 yards or longer and scored on eight of their first 10 drives.
Josh Gordon and Kendall Wright each had two receiving touchdowns for Baylor.
Finley broke Griffin’s rushing record, which he set with 217 yards against Washington State in 2008. The senior running back became the fourth player in Baylor history to rush for more than 200 yards.
“The offensive line was making big holes, great holes,” Finley said. “We just played great as a team today.”
One week after thumping rival Kansas 59-7, the Wildcats (5-2, 2-2) missed out on becoming bowl eligible. Kansas State hasn’t played in the postseason since 2006.
William Powell returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and Daniel Thomas rushed for 113 yards and two scores for the Wildcats, whose next three opponents are currently ranked in the Top 25.
“This wasn’t just the defense,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “This was a team loss. We were inept at times when we needed to have success on both sides of the ball.”
Powell’s kickoff return brought the Wildcats within 34-28.
Kansas State caught a break when Finley fumbled just before getting to the end zone on an 82-yard run. Finley was originally ruled down, but Kansas State got the ball after the call was reversed.
The Wildcats didn’t score on their next two drives and the Bears were able to pull away.
Finley powered in for a 2-yard touchdown run, his second of the game, and Griffin threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Wright to extend Baylor’s lead to 47-28 early in the fourth.
Quarterback Carson Coffman’s 1-yard touchdown run made it 47-42 with 7 seconds left. Baylor recovered an onside kick and took a knee on the final snap to clinch things, setting off the big celebration.
Baylor is the only Big 12 school that hasn’t played in a bowl game.
“We wanted them to rush the field,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “We wanted that type of victory, and we felt like if we took care of business, that would happen. It’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.”
The game was delayed 1 hour, 47 minutes because of a thunderstorm. Four plays into the game, lightning was spotted in the area and players and coaches were sent back to their locker rooms.
When play resumed, Baylor’s big-play offense went to work as it piled up 387 yards in the first half.