No. 7 Baylor capped off a remarkable turnaround with a few more milestones: the program’s first-ever 12-win season and a major bowl victory.
In 2020, Dave Aranda’s first season in Waco, the Bears managed to win only two games. A year later, Baylor won 12 of them. That included a Big 12 title, the program’s first outright conference championship since 2013 and the Sugar Bowl over No. 8 Ole Miss on Saturday night in New Orleans.
The 21-7 win over the Rebels is the first in a New Year’s Six bowl game since 1979, when Baylor beat Clemson in the Peach Bowl. The win also gives the Bears a program record for most wins in a single season.
Baylor got the job done on Saturday night with a stalwart defensive effort and a bruising ground attack. Early on, after Ole Miss lost star quarterback Matt Corral to an injury, Baylor opened up the scoring with a 96-yard pick-six by Al Walcott.
Luke Altmyer was in the game for Corral and led the Ole Miss offense to the BU 12-yard line, but had his pass tipped at the line. That ball then fell right into the hands of Walcott, who then sprinted nearly the length of the field for a touchdown.
That was the only score of the half. And in the third quarter, Ole Miss managed to tie the score at 7-7.
Early in the fourth quarter Ole Miss missed a potential go-ahead field goal and BU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes reached into his bag of tricks when the Bears went back on offense. Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon was struggling, so Grimes got the ball into the hands of speedy receiver Monaray Baldwin on an end-around.
Baldwin exploded through the Rebels defense for a 48-yard touchdown, giving Baylor a 14-7 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Baylor’s defense intercepted Altmyer for a third time and did so deep in Ole Miss territory. The offense cashed that turnover in three plays later when Bohanon hit Tyquan Thornton for a quick two-yard score.
That touchdown came with 7:24 to play and the two-score advantage proved to be too much for Ole Miss to overcome.
In the win, Baylor rushed for 279 yards, registered nine sacks, had three interceptions and held Ole Miss to just 6-of-22 on third down. That’s a heck of a way to end a historic season.