Greeson: Baylor team, fans exult in exorcism

Greeson: Baylor team, fans exult in exorcism

October 3rd, 2009 by Jay Greeson in Blogsprepsports

Baylor 24, McCallie 10. That's what the record book will show from this Friday night.

But it was more, much more, than that. It was an exorcism of sorts, a revival and plenty of cautious exhaling for a weary Baylor program that has longed for this moment for more than a decade.

"This means everything," said Baylor senior Channing Gordon, who had two interceptions and a helmet full of tears after the win ended McCallie's recent run of dominance in this series. "We used it as motivation, and (winning) is better than I ever imagined."

The crowd was there in mass an hour before the kick, filling Heywood Stadium long before the sun drifted behind Signal Mountain.

They showed up in force, clad in the familiar Baylor red or the loyal McCallie blue, determined to brave the crowd and the traffic for a chance to say they were there.

They came in waves, filling the stands on each side and overflowing onto the hills.

They arrived intent on being part of the action, accounting for every seat but rarely sitting down.

They cheered passionately for the heroes of real life -- Capt. Nate Rawlings, a Baylor alum, and Capt. Penn Garvich, a McCallie grad, who each served overseas for our country -- and the Friday night heroes of this moment.

And all that was before the game.

This was not about biblical banners or playoff position. No, this mass of Chattanooga humanity showed up in all shapes and decked out in one of two hues for one primary purpose: the streak. It was on the minds of everyone -- the fans, players, coaches, even the mascot.

"We used it as motivation," said Baylor senior Brandon Eaves, who had a crucial fourth-quarter interception. "We talked a lot this week about 'Steal the Streak.' That was our motto."

After Baylor's Jacob Huesman and Sam Williams highlighted a second-quarter flurry, there are no more red faces for the Red Raiders, and Eaves' motto appeared more like prophecy.

"It's a wonderful win for these kids," a relieved and smiling Baylor coach Phillip Massey said, "because they have had to carry this thing. It's a wonderful win for the whole community and the alumni."

It was not easy, though.

The 500-pound monkey on Baylor's back growled early when a high snap and an agressive McCallie defense stopped the Red Raiders' first drive on fourth down inside the McCallie 5.

McCallie landed a series of early jabs -- stuffing two fourth-down tries inside its 35 in the first 18 minutes -- and scored first on Arturo Rocha's 48-yard field goal.

But Baylor did not flinch or fade.

"We talked about being prepared," Massey said. "We talked all week about handling the ups and downs, and I think we did that."

Huesman withstood early pressure and made one big play after another -- including a crucial 8-yard strike to Deosha McColley on fourth-and-4 from the McCallie 14 to set up Huesman's touchdown run that put Baylor in front for good.

Williams gashed the middle and burned the edges of the McCallie defense through the first three quarters. Baylor's defense harassed and hustled, making life difficult for young McCallie quarterback Trent Lusk, who filled in admirably in his first big game for injured senior Keenon Rush, who was forced to watch helplessly from the sideline after his season-ending knee injury in Week 1.

They withstood a late charge, Massey calling his Red Raiders together after T.J. Kemp's 1-yard touchdown cut the lead to 17-10 and awoke the horrors of the last 11 years.

But as the tension grew and the echoes of Blue Tornado storms of years gone by began to ring, Baylor turned a deaf ear to the noise. Eaves delivered his interception that preceded Huesman's 49-yard run that put the nail in the coffin and Nelson Pinkstaff's touchdown run that hammered it home.

Baylor ended the streak by absorbing the pressure and thriving on it. The history, the McCallie mystique of recent years, was eliminated. There were no length-of-the-field interception returns or any crucial missed kicks.

No, there was only Baylor, its players and fans, standing and smiling when the clock finally ran out of seconds and McCallie finally ran out of time.

The streak was gone -- stolen, even.