In just head coach Art Briles' third season at Baylor, the Bears broke a decade-and-a-half bowl drought when they were selected to play in the Texas Bowl against Illinois, to be held Dec. 29 at Houston's Reliant Stadium. (Baylor's last bowl game came in 1994, when the Bears lost to Washington State, 10-3, at the Alamo Bowl.)
The bowl appearance is only one of many Baylor team firsts and "not since" achievements this season:
Plenty of individual records have also been shattered this year, including the single-season records for passing yards and rushing yards. To sum up this historic season, Baylor Magazine is taking a look at seven individuals - one for each win - who have helped the team get to where it is today.
Contribution: In 2009 and 2010, Briles brought in Baylor's two best signing classes of the Big 12 era as judged by Rivals.com. That recruiting is already paying off, as seen in the Bears' sharply improved win total. For his efforts, Briles received honorable mention recognition as Big 12 Coach of the Year and was named the American Football Coaches Association's Regional Coach of the Year.
Key stats: Baylor finished the regular season ranked among the nation's leaders in total offense (12th) and scoring offense (29th); the year before Briles' arrival, the Bears finished 90th in total offense and 110th in scoring offense (out of 119 teams).
How he got here: Briles came to Baylor in Nov. 2007 after leading Houston to four bowl games in his five years as head coach. He first made a name as head coach at Stephenville [TX] High School, where he led the Yellowjackets to the playoffs 11 times in 12 years, including four state titles; he was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
Did you know? In the last four NFL drafts, Briles protégés include the third quarterback selected in 2007 (Kevin Kolb), the first receiver selected in 2008 (Donnie Avery), the first lineman selected in 2009 (Jason Smith) and the second center selected in 2010 (J.D. Walton).
Robert Griffin III
Copperas Cove, Texas
Contribution: Baylor's first Heisman contender in decades, more than any other individual player, Griffin has helped put Baylor football back on the national radar. Big 12 coaches voted him the league's second-best quarterback, and he was one of three selections for honorable mention Offensive Player of the Year. His performance also made him a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Award and the Maxwell Award (each recognizing the nation's top player) and the Davey O'Brien Award (top quarterback) and earned him a spot on the Manning Award watch list (top quarterback).
Key stats: Though known as much for his legs as his arm, RG3 in 2010 became the first Bear ever to top 3,000 yards passing in a season, and his 20 touchdowns through the air are second on the single-season chart. Overall, Griffin was third in the Big 12 and seventh nationally in total offense, averaging 315.5 yards per game (266 passing/49 rushing). Though not quite finished with his sophomore season, he has already accounted for more career touchdowns than any other player in Baylor history. Griffin also ranks among BU's career leaders in passing touchdowns (1st), passing efficiency (1st), completion percentage (1st), touchdown-to-interception ratio (1st), total offense (1st), passing yards (2nd) and rushing touchdowns (4th).
How he got here: Rated the nation's No. 3 dual-threat QB by Rivals.com as a high school senior, most schools still preferred Griffin at another position. Briles was among the few who saw a standout quarterback in Griffin, and the Central Texas native committed to play for Briles at Houston. When Briles took the job at Baylor, Griffin quickly followed
Did you know? Griffin graduated high school a semester early (No. 7 in his class) to enroll at Baylor and will receive his degree in political science this December, finishing in just three years. He will begin graduate school at Baylor this spring.