Baylor can make just about any alterations it wants at Floyd Casey Stadium since the facility will be abandoned after this season and the Bears will move into a new football home on campus.
For the Nov. 7 showdown against Oklahoma, a tarp covering end zone seating was removed to allow more fans to squeeze in and comprise a crowd of 50,537. There was actually some who protested the move, fearing the removal of the tarp could be a bad omen.
"We weren't really sure how it was going to go over," said Baylor coach Art Briles, whose team wore black uniforms and the fans obliged by also dressing in black. "It just shows you, if you don't have vision, then you have no opportunity. Our people had a vision, and everybody jumped on board, and I think it made a tremendous difference, without question. We did a great job of having a home field."
Credit Briles for orchestrating a great turnaround. With a 41-12 romp over the Sooners, Baylor finally will benefit from national acclaim and bolt into contention for a spot in the BCS championship game.
At 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the Big 12, they remain in the thick of the league race, which Texas leads by a half-game with a 6-0 conference mark. The Bears do not meet the Longhorns until the final game of the regular season on Dec. 7 when Baylor bids farewell to Casey Stadium.
If that showdown is for every marble, then Baylor at least knows how to prepare for a colossal home game. The matchup against Oklahoma provided the perfect audition considering the Sooners have been the Big 12's predominant power since the inception of the conference and also carry a definitive cache.
In accordance with that buildup, Baylor started slowly. The Sooners used a safety and a field goal over a second quarter span of barely a minute to grab a 5-3 lead as the Bears struggled to get their explosive attack triggered. Yet throughout the game, their overlooked defense thwarted just about anything Oklahoma tried as the Sooners were limited to 237 yards.
"I know that everyone talks about their offense, which is really good," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "I knew their defense was really good with all the seniors they have. Defensively, they were all over us all day. You're not going to come here, get one touchdown and think you're going to win."
Although the Bears lost several key playmakers to injuries, including their leading receiver (Tevin Reese) and leading rusher (Lache Seastrunk), quarterback Bryce Petty steadied the offense. Reserve Shock Linwood offered a huge boost, rushing for 182 yards on 23 carries.
While Baylor had risen to a position where it could boast a Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, he never played in a game that carried quite the stakes as the breakthrough win over Oklahoma
"As far as the whole hype of the game, we haven't had anything like this," Petty said. "We're in the top 10, they were in the top 10. ... I was proud how we handled things. It wasn't the cleanest game we've played. To win even ugly was good."
FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 11 IN THE BIG 12:
1. Baylor gained approval as one of the nation's best teams with its convincing rout of Oklahoma. Stirred by a sellout crowd decked in black, Baylor's defense allowed 237 yards and helped the Bears overcome injuries to key offensive playmakers. Backup RB Shock Linwood sparkled.
2. Texas keeps clinging to a half-game lead over Baylor in the Big 12, surviving an overtime thriller at West Virginia. The OT was the first for Longhorns coach Mack Brown, who watched as LB Steve Edmond intercepted a pass in the end zone to boost UT to 6-0 in conference play.
3. Kansas State has long had a knack for improving considerably over the course of a season under coach Bill Snyder and this year appears to be no different. The Wildcats used a bruising rushing attack to race to an easy win at Texas Tech and pad their winning streak to three straight.
4. TCU halted a three-game losing streak and kept slim hopes alive for extending a bowl streak that dates to 2004. The Horned Frogs scored a touchdown inside the final minute to hold off Iowa State. With two regular backs out, RB Aaron Green rushed for 40 yards on the decisive drive.
5. Oklahoma State treated former Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders, on hand for a reunion, to a glimpse of the prowess he once possessed. Justin Gilbert returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and the red-hot Cowboys went on to throttle hapless Kansas.