Oklahoma State faces a scary Baylor offense
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
11/27/12 at 5:25 AM
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A Big 12 doormat no longer, Baylor will be a scary opponent for Oklahoma State in a regular-season road finale Saturday.
Baylor - bowl-less from 1995-2009 - clinched bowl eligibility last weekend and will go bowling in three consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.
The Bears rank second nationally in total offense and fifth in scoring. Quarterback Nick Florence is the country's individual leader in total offense. Receiver Terrance Williams leads the nation in receiving yards.
History suggests OSU won't be awed. The Cowboys have won six straight in the series, and the margin of victory on each occasion was 27 or more points.
But, lopsided series aside, when did Baylor graduate from preferred homecoming opponent to team you shouldn't want to play?
Best guess: Sept. 18, 2010.
The turning point wasn't so much a game played that day (Baylor lost 45-10 at fourth-ranked TCU), but what occurred afterward.
As sullen Baylor players climbed a stairwell from the field to the locker room, an adult TCU fan stood at the edge of the stairwell and peppered players with comments like:
"Good job, Big 12."
"If you had that much fun on the field, it might not have been 45-10."
"Enjoy the bus ride."
And when someone in Baylor gear responded by complimenting a TCU fan's "good" ankle tattoo, the heckler said, "Thanks. That's a good score. 45-10 is a good score."
Enter Muadianvita Kazadi.
A former University of Tulsa linebacker known for his toughness (he played the last nine games of his senior season with a torn biceps and once worked as a detention officer at the Tulsa County Jail), Kazadi is Baylor's strength coach.
Kazadi confronted the heckler and, using choice words captured in a Youtube video, challenged the fan to step on the other side of the fence and say the same things.
Of course, that didn't happen.
But what did happen was Baylor won five of its next six games to end a streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons. The Bears secured bowl eligibility that year, and winning became the new normal.
To be clear, Kazadi isn't taking a shred of credit for the turnaround. He said it's all about the kids. And, during a Monday telephone interview, he talked about why he felt compelled to defend them from the heckler.
"The players that we have, you want them to have a great experience, a family experience," Kazadi said. "And if anybody is popping off to your little brother, they better be in the family."
Kazadi said it's OK for fans to pay $25 to come to stadiums and enjoy games and cheer for their favorite teams. But that doesn't give them the right to belittle or berate student-athletes.
"I think, as a coach, you are supposed to protect your athletes," he said.
"That's part of being part of a coach. The funny thing about it is, I just don't see how it could be otherwise ... The players had just given everything they had for a three-hour game and took the worst of it and a couple of jokers were talking that talk? If security is not going to handle it, then the coach needs to do it. The players need to know the coach has got their back."
Did any players tell Kazadi they appreciated his actions?
"They didn't have to," he said, adding that he could tell by the way they responded.
"If anything, it let them know that we believe in who we have. It's just a confirmation that when coaches tell you it's a family, you have got to show them you are family."
Family business in Waco has been good ever since. Baylor won a school-record 10 games in 2011, and quarterback Robert Griffin III became the Bears' first Heisman Trophy recipient.
Baylor remained relevant even though RGIII was the second pick in the 2012 NFL draft. On Nov. 17, the Bears rampaged to a 28-point victory over Kansas State, which, at the time, was unbeaten and ranked second in the BCS standings.
OSU will be the opponent when Baylor plays its first home game since that shocker.
The Cowboys have the Bears' number, at least recently. But the new-era Bears should have the Cowboys' attention.
11 a.m. Saturday
Radio: KFAQ am1170
Original Print Headline: Baylor no longer a pushover in Big 12
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389
OSU QB Clint Chelf runs during the Bedlam game. The Cowboys prepare to face the Baylor Bears on Saturday after a tough overtime loss to OU. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World