WACO, Texas -- The wait is over. After three long years of losing to their in-state rival, the Texas Longhorns finally reclaimed their rightful place in the college football pantheon: spoilers to the Baylor Bears.
Coming into Saturday's game in Waco, once-proud Texas was 4-7 and had lost four of its last five games against rival Baylor. The Bears entered the game 9-2, needing just one more win to lock up a Sugar Bowl berth and picked by handicappers to win big against the hapless Longhorns.
But Texas ran out to an early 20-0 lead and fended off a fierce second half rally to do what Texas once assumed as a birthright: eking out a surprising victory against heavily-favored Baylor.
"This used to be a gimme game," said Texas Athletic Director Mike Perrin. "Everyone just assumed Texas would beat Baylor to finish the Longhorns' dismal season on a high note while spoiling the Bears' chances at a Top 5 finish."
"At Texas, you're supposed to beat the Baylors of the world," added head coach Charlie Strong. "That's the expectation."
Texas met that expectation and more on Saturday, with a stunning upset over Baylor that propelled the Longhorns into sole possession of seventh place in the Big 12.
The injury bug certainly helped the Longhorn cause this time around. With its top three quarterbacks sidelined, Baylor was forced to play back-up wide receiver Lynx Hawthorne under center. Although Hawthorne's lack of experience and arm strength limited the Bear's offensive playbook, Baylor mounted a feverish second-half rally that fell just short of closing the gap.
"We did what we were supposed to do," said Strong. "When you think Texas Football, you think 'Holding on for dear life to barely beat a Baylor team led by a noodle-armed wide receiver forced by an improbable string of injuries to play quarterback.'"
According to coach Strong, this was the kind of high-stakes December rivalry game Texas fans are used to.
"The Longhorns are expected to win the big games," said Strong. "This one was for all the marbles: pride and the satisfaction of knocking Baylor into a slightly less prestigious bowl game. And maybe an outside shot at being one of the 5-win teams they have to let into a bowl this year."
"It's been a long road," added Strong. "But Texas football is back to where it's supposed to be: unexpectedly beating Baylor."