In just two seasons, Matt Rhule has taken Baylor from a program reeling after a national scandal to one on the precipice of challenging for titles.
The Bears tied the biggest turnaround in NCAA history this season and capped off the year with an offensive 45-38 win Texas Bowl on Saturday night in Houston.
Baylor won one game a season ago and finished this year 7-6.
“It’s been just this slow process and the thing is that we want to be a program that's built on something and built on rock,” Rhule said. “Our senior class last year, the senior class this year and then the guys that are sitting next to me and many more like them, they are building the program on the right things. That will hopefully just continue from here.”
Baylor’s sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer threw for 384 yards and two touchdowns and had the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, going for 108 yards and a touchdown. Tristan Ebner had 109 receiving yards and a touchdown and 90 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Four different players rushed for a touchdown, the first time a Baylor team has accomplished the feat since 2015.
The Bears’ 668 total yards are the third-most in a bowl game in program history and the most in a game since Rhule took over.
“So many different guys are stepping up, and that's what was fun about it for me was watching it,” Rhule said. “We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way; the way our season's gone, the way we battled back. We didn't want it to be easy, and that was a great football game.”
Baylor under Rhule, who was a candidate for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts’ head coaching job last season, will have a lot to look forward to next season and in the coming years.
Both Brewer and Ebner return to lead an offense that ranked fifth in the Big 12 during the regular season, and all-conference players James Lynch and Clay Johnston are set to return to Waco and anchor the defense.
“We have great receivers, and it's really just a matter of quarterbacks doing a great job of getting the ball to the right guys,” Rhule said. I thought it was an opportunity for a lot of our guys to maybe step in there and fill that role and build some momentum going into next season.”
Celebrating is still new to the Bears, too.
Instead of dousing their coaching in Gatorade following the dramatic postseason win, they hit him in the head with the bright orange container.
“No one knows how hard we work,” Rhule said. “(The players) sacrifice a great deal and I want them to celebrate it and I want all of Baylor and the fans, I want them all to have bragging rights. I want them all to smile and have fun. You sit back, thinking about how far you've come and everybody is happy.”