Baylor University celebrated its 99th anniversary of Homecoming this weekend, making it the oldest Homecoming tradition (featuring the largest Homecoming parade) in the country.
It is not only a time of rich traditions but also fond memories. In 1909, Baylor won its first Homecoming game.
More recently, in 2006, the Bears put on a show by overcoming an 18 point deficit to upset Kansas.
Still, few expected No. 14 Missouri, coming off a 58-0 blowout of Colorado, to be struggling to win it in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Especially when Missouri was already up 14-0 in the first quarter and ready to strike another touchdown.
But when LB Joe Pawelek stepped up and intercepted what would have been a Chase Daniel TD pass, the game began to shift.
Baylor completed its first sustained drive of the game, going 80 yards for a touchdown. Then Missouri would score once more to extend their lead to 21-7 entering the half.
However, the Bears came out of halftime electrified, scoring two touchdowns with four successful fourth down conversions to even it up at 21-21.
Missouri and Baylor had each scored another touchdown to even it up at 28-28, when Baylor FS Jordan Lake intercepted another Chase Daniel pass.
The Missouri defense remained stoic though, forcing Baylor to try to convert on 4th-and-4 to keep the drive alive.
But a devastating false start penalty on guard James Barnard forced the Baylor coach, Art Briles, to call in the punting team. It turns out Barnard was only trying to snap his knee brace back into place.
This, combined with a couple other bad calls in the first half, drove Briles up a wall. “Out of unbelievable respect and admiration for (athletic director) Ian McCaw, I’m not going to say things I feel like I have the right to say about the way the game was officiated,” Briles said.
Still, the game goes on. After receiving the punt, Missouri drove all the way to the 15 yard line, but couldn't close the deal and had to settle for the FG (now 31-28 Missouri).
The Bears get the ball back with 2:31 and no timeouts. The game was now in the hands of freshman QB Robert Griffin.
But tragically, on third down, Griffin tossed the first interception of his career, sealing Missouri's razor thin victory.
"It was a very emotional, very devastating non-win," said Briles, who, according to the official Baylor website, "refused to utter the word loss."
Griffin had a more positive outlook. “They probably thought we were going to roll over,” he said. “But we know what we have and we came back and fought. I don’t believe in moral victories, but we showed that we come to play every day.”
Indeed, it was an unlikely shootout that brought all of Baylor's Homecoming fans to their feet.
"I feel very fortunate," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel graciously said. "At the end of the game, they sounded like there were 100,000 people in that place.”
The crowd aside, Pinkel should feel fortunate. Missouri did not play like the No. 14 team in the country, and they very nearly played into Baylor's hands.
The game showcased two of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Chase Daniel went 31-for-39 (79% comp.) for 337 yards. Griffin went 26-for-35 (74% comp.) for 283 yards.
Both teams also had balanced running games with 155 rushing yards for Baylor and 153 for Missouri.
Griffin demonstrated the versatility of the Baylor offense by hitting 9 different receivers—including himself, when he caught a pass that was deflected back into the air by a Missouri lineman.
Even Griffin's interception in the closing minutes that ended a 209 pass attempt streak without an interception has a silver lining.
That sets the record not only for a freshman, but for any career start regardless of classification. He passed USC QB Brad Otton's record of 202 attempts.
Griffin also became the first player in Baylor history with 10 rushing touchdowns and 10 passing touchdowns in a single season.
LB Joe Pawelek, picked up another game with more than ten tackles, giving him 105 on the season. While this leads the Big 12, he still has quite a ways to go to eclipse Baylor Alum Mike Singletary's single-season record of 232 tackles.
The NCAA currently ranks the Bears' schedule as the nation's 13th toughest. The loss to Missouri puts Baylor at 3-6 (1-4 Big 12).
However, Baylor's remaining schedule is tied with Texas Tech's as the nation's toughest. They have to play No. 5 Texas in Austin, Texas A&M in Waco, then No. 2 Texas Tech in Lubbock.
In order to be bowl-eligible, Baylor would have to win all three of these games.
So, Baylor's only remaining satisfaction might lie in beating its rival, Texas A&M. That win would put them ahead of the Aggies in the Big 12 South for the first time.