08: Miracle on the Brazos

While the "Miracle on the Brazos" in 1974 did not require anyone to walk across the surface of that historic river, Baylor's seemingly heaven-sent football championship that year could have sparked a close debate about which of those two amazing events was the more improbable.

By the 1970s, even the most loyal Baylor football fans were beginning to wonder if--not when--their Bears would win another Southwest Conference title. The last time they’d done so was way back in 1924, when Calvin Coolidge was president, a loaf of bread cost nine cents and Model Ts still made up half of all automobiles sales.

The low point had to be during the frustrating years between 1969 and 1971, when Coach Bill Beall led the Bears to a 3-28 record.

The hiring of Grant Teaff as head coach for the 1972 season proved to be the key to putting Baylor back on track. In his first season, Teaff guided the Bears to five wins, including a victory over Texas A&M at Homecoming. After the Bears slumped to a 2-9 finish in 1973 without a single conference win, the expectations for 1974 were guarded.

The season didn't begin well, as Baylor dropped its first two games. But that's when the miracle began. The Bears went on to win all but one of their remaining nine regular season games--four of those wins coming against teams ranked in the AP Top 20.

The game that proved to the world that there was something almost supernatural about the 1974 Bears was the Nov. 9 contest against the Texas Longhorns in Waco. Baylor had not beaten the Longhorns since 1956, and few people expected the Bears to knock off a team then ranked No. 12 in the nation.

After Baylor fell behind 24-7 at halftime, some disappointed fans left the stadium, sure that the Bears were fated to fall to the Longhorns. During the second half, Baylor quarterback Neal Jeffrey confidently led his team and the Bears blocked punts, forced fumbles, intercepted passes and all but shut down the Horns.

When the final buzzer sounded, Baylor had secured an historic come-from-behind 34-24 victory against Texas. School officials left those incredible numbers blazing on the scoreboard all night, and some supporters even spent the night in Baylor Stadium, savoring the moment.

"I thought, well, that's pretty indicative of how important that game was," Teaff said later. "(That win) never goes away because it was so dramatic."

Baylor would go on to compile a 6-1 record in conference play, giving the Bears their first conference title in 50 years. The long championship drought was over. And all it had taken was a miracle.