WACO, Texas -- Big 12 football programs take notice: Baylor is a dangerous team to play in November and December.
Baylor senior quarterback Nick Florence gave a sparkling and gritty performance in his final home game, passing for 295 yards and rushing for 71, guiding the Bears to a 41-34 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium.
Baylor (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) rescued its season in the last month by winning four of its last five, defeating top-ranked Kansas State and now No. 23 Oklahoma State along the way. In doing so, the Bears became bowl eligible for the third-consecutive season, the first time in school history Baylor has done that.
"We had to do it to get bowl eligible," Florence said about the late-season success. "It's a good thing that we're hot right now and we've got to stay hot."
Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4) and Baylor finished with the same season record. The Cowboys were one game better in Big 12 play, but that might not matter in the bowl picking order after the Bears' win over Oklahoma State.
"There are no gimmies in this league for the most part," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "When that happens there is a battle week to week and you're going to see more teams in the 6- 7- 8-win category and not as many in the 10, 11 category."
As in its upset victory over then-top-ranked Kansas State two weeks ago, Baylor put Oklahoma State in a hole like the Cowboys hadn't seen all season.
The Bears grabbed a 21-point advantage early in the second quarter when Florence hit Tevin Reese on a slant pass that went 75 yards for a Bears touchdown. Reese's score put Baylor ahead 24-3. That marked the first time this season that Oklahoma State trailed by 21 in the first half.
"We've done a good job of setting the tone on both sides of the ball," Baylor coach Art Briles said.
The one-play touchdown drive came in stark contrast to Baylor's previous touchdown when it traveled 98 yards in 16 plays, capped by Glasco Martin's two-yard touchdown run.
"That 98 yards was huge," Florence said. "Hats off to our offensive line and everyone just made plays."
The two scoring drives served the same purpose: they illustrated that Oklahoma State was having a horrible struggle to stop Baylor.
And it didn't help the Cowboys that the suddenly menacing Baylor defense got in the scoring act. Baylor linebacker Eddie Lackey picked off Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf and returned the interception 26 yards for a touchdown that gave Baylor a 10-3 lead midway through the first quarter.
"That gave us a great lift," Baylor nickel back Ahmad Dixon said. "That gave us more adrenaline, more momentum. From then on everything went right."
The Cowboys finally began punching back after they fell behind by three touchdowns. Backup quarterback J.W. Walsh, in the game in a goal-line running situation, scored on a 1-yard run and Chelf tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Josh Stewart.
Chelf's touchdown pass to Stewart cut Baylor's lead to seven points with 6:50 left in the first half.
Baylor responded to the Cowboys' second-quarter surge with an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive near the end of the half. Florence ran for 32 yards on the march, including the three-yard touchdown that boosted the Bears back to a 31-17 edge.
Baylor iced the game when running back Lache Seastrunk ran 76 yards for a touchdown with 5:11 left in the fourth quarter. Seastrunk's touchdown came on the Bears' first play after Oklahoma State cut the lead to seven on Walsh's four-yard touchdown run.
Seastrunk finished with a game-high 179 rushing yards on 16 carries.
But that score came at a price as Seastrunk appeared to pull his left hamstring at the Cowboys' 45-yard line. He still managed to outrun the Oklahoma State defense the rest of the way.
Oklahoma State scored with 1:16 remaining in the fourth quarter when Chelf tossed an 18-yard touchdown pass to David Glidden. But Baylor's B.J. Allen recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Cowboys had no timeouts left to stop the clock.
Notes: Baylor is 9-1 in November and December during the last two seasons. ... Lackey intercepted two passes in the previous game against Texas Tech, including one that he returned 55 yards for a touchdown.