|RB Lache Seastrunk's 43-yard touchdown run was part of a dominant first half from Baylor. (US Presswire)|
Baylor's offense had shredded opponents for much of the season, but its defense made plays early to give the Bears an insurmountable lead by halftime of Thursday night's Holiday Bowl, a 49-26 win over UCLA in San Diego.
The Bears had only 13 sacks in the entire regular season, finishing tied for 112th in the nation in that category. But Baylor's defense sacked UCLA QB Brett Hundley five times in the first half alone, killing the Bruins' drives. Baylor (8-5) took complete advantage, racking up 342 yards and 35 points by halftime with near-perfect balance (174 passing yards, 168 rushing yards).
Everything worked for Baylor. Senior QB Nick Florence was spectacular in his final college game, throwing for 188 yards and two touchdowns on only 13 attempts. Running backs Lache Seastrunk (16 carries, 138 yards, TD) and Glasco Martin (21 carries, 98 yards, 3 TDs) both found plenty of room to operate as well.
It was a 35-10 evisceration by halftime, and UCLA (9-5) never made a serious push in the second half. This was a strong performance from a Baylor defense that came into the game ranked 119th nationally in total defense and 115th in scoring defense.
When the game turned: After the first two possessions of the game ended in punts. Baylor scored touchdowns on five of its next seven drives while the defense continued to surprisingly put the clamps on UCLA's offense. The Bears had five sacks in the first half alone after registering only 13 sacks during the entire regular season. If not for a fumble from Baylor TE Jordan Navjar deep in his team's territory, the Bruins may not have scored a touchdown in the opening half.
Highlight moments: Florence's 55-yard TD pass to WR Tevin Reese early in the second quarter was a thing of beauty, as Baylor took advantage of man-to-man coverage on the outside. Reese badly beat the defender, and Florence could not have placed the ball any better. That score gave BU a 21-0 lead and all the momentum … Seastrunk's 43-yard TD run showed that maybe he isn't crazy for saying he should be a Heisman contender next season. He got to the second level, hesitated enough to make two defenders take bad angles, then outran a third to the end zone. It was a stunning run.
Video highlights via ESPN
Significance of Baylor's win: This showed the Bears weren't just a flash in the pan late in the regular season. Baylor finished the season with five wins in its final six games, including wins over three ranked teams. The lone loss was a 42-34 setback at Oklahoma. The program is quickly becoming one to be reckoned with, as this season showed Baylor football was more than just Robert Griffin III. Art Briles turned in a masterful coaching job, and he has a potential star coming back next season in Seastrunk.
Significance of UCLA's loss: Combined with back-to-back losses to Stanford to end the regular season, this has to take at least some of the luster off Jim Mora's first season at UCLA. The offense regressed against a Baylor defense that came into the game among the nation's worst statistically. And Mora won't have star RB Johnathan Franklin (who struggled against Baylor) back next season, as the senior's career is now over. Still, the Bruins should be a force in the Pac-12 South for years to come with USC still under scholarship limits, Utah and Colorado struggling and both Arizona State and Arizona still rebuilding.
-- Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk: 16 carries, 138 yards, TD.
-- Baylor RB Glasco Martin: 21 carries, 98 yards, 3 TDs.
-- Baylor QB Nick Florence: 10 of 13, 188 passing yards, 18 carries, 37 rushing yards, 3 total TDs.
-- UCLA QB Brett Hundley: 26-of-50, 329 yards, 3 TDs.
-- UCLA WR Jerry Johnson: 5 receptions, 116 yards
Numbers you should know:
67 -- Of Baylor's 80 offensive plays, 67 were runs. Seastrunk and Martin chewed up yards so effectively that there wasn't much need for Florence to air it out. Baylor attempted only two passes in the entire second half. 3 -- Six of UCLA's first 14 drives covered three yards or fewer.
1 of 17 -- UCLA converted on only one of its 17 third-down situations. The Bruins had moved the chans on 41 percent of third-down tries in the regular season.
34 -- Bruins RB Franklin rushed for only 34 yards on 14 carries. He came in averaging 130.77 yards per game.
(For more on the Holiday Bowl, check out the Eye on College Football blog)
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).