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Tostitos Fiesta Bowl 2014: Baylor's Bryce Petty makes Don Trull's day

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It took 50 years to do it, but Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty's pinpoint passing in the second half helped Baylor to a 30-10 victory against the University of Texas and the conference championship......and in the process removed some of the sting from Don Trull's disappointment at not beating the 1963 national champion Longhorns. Baylor and Darrel Royal's Texas team were both undefeated in conference when they met in Austin and the conference championship was on the line on Nov. 9, 1963 similar to the situation the teams were facing December 7, 2013 in Waco.

Except the winner of this year's showdown would receive a bid to a BCS bowl.....the prestigious Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Arizona to kick off at 7:30 p.m., Jan. 1, 2014. Back in 1963 the winner won the championship of the Southwest Conference, which no longer exists. The winner also won the national championship which does still exist.

Making this year's game even more dramatic was the fact Trull, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1963, was attending this year's game at Floyd Casey Stadium along with his All-American receiver Lawrence Elkins, to see if this year's Baylor team could accomplish what their team had not half a century ago in Austin.

When he was inducted in the College Hall of Fame in New York City recently, Trull admitted his biggest disappointment was losing to that powerhouse Texas team 7-0. The Longhorns were really loaded with All-American defensive lineman Scott Appleton and All-Universe Tommy Nobis at linebacker.

There was certainly no disgrace in losing to that Texas juggernaut led by quarterback Duke Carlisle who would later clinch the national championship with a 28-6 dismantling of Roger Staubach and Navy in the Cotton Bowl. Navy was No. 2 in the nation when it faced off against No. 1 Texas.

But it was on defense that the versatile Carlisle made the game-saving play against Baylor that preserved the perfect season. Don Trull drove the Bears all the way to the Texas 13-yard line with time running out. Elkins ran a typical perfect pattern into the end zone and appeared wide open when Trull flung the pigskin toward him for what he thought would be the tying touchdown.

Carlisle, though, who was playing safety on this particular play, recalled that he saw Trull glance to his left when he threw the ball so he sprinted as hard as he could in that direction and made an over-the shoulder catch for the game-winning interception. David McWilliams, who would later coach Texas, said he was rushing Trull and he also saw Elkins wide open. McWilliams said he was already wondering if Baylor would go for a two-point conversion for the win or settle for a tie.

In those days there were no overtimes in college football. A tie might have knocked Texas out of the national championship picture. After the game Baylor coach John Bridgers said he would've gone for two on the conversion if they scored the touchdown.

Trull said the loss was particularly frustrating to him because the Bear offense passed the ball up and down the field all day, but when they neared the end zone something would always happen to stop their drives. He recalled missing a possible touchdown pass to Elkins earlier in the game and then Carlisle's spectacular interception as the biggest plays.

Baylor slumped the next week in a loss to Kentucky but regrouped and won the rest of its games to finish second in the SWC and earn a berth to the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, which was one of the best bowls of its day. Trull came through with a big day and Baylor defeated LSU 14-7 to finish 8-3.

The parallels between Trull and Petty are interesting. When Trull arrived on the Baylor campus after being an All-State quarterback in Oklahoma, he was told he was fourth string quarterback on the freshman team. Through hard work and perseverance he led the nation in passing two years and was named first team All-American both years.

Petty also had a rough start in college. Originally promised a scholarship to the University of Tennessee by head coach Philip Follmer, he soon discovered the man who liked him had been fired only days after his commitment. The new coach let Petty know he no longer had a scholarship. Bad news for the Midlothian High School graduate, but great news for Baylor and Art Briles.

While Trull went on to lead Baylor to two bowl victories in New York's Gotham Bowl in 1961 and the Bluebonnet Bowl in 1963, Petty could take the first step in duplicating that feat with a victory in the prestigious Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. He will return next year as a senior and hopefully emulate Trull by winning two bowl games.

While Trull led the nation in passing in his day, Petty has led the top-scoring offense in the nation in 2013 frequently scoring more than 60 points in games.

Royal would go on to lead Texas to three national championships and come close on other occasions as one of the most respected coaches in the nation. Ironically, Bridgers was an innovator in the passing game as Briles is today. Bridgers coached the great Johnny Unitas at Baltimore and brought the pro style offense with an emphasis on passing to Baylor when most teams would only pass as a last resort.

Briles won four state championsips at Stephenville High School, Texas, as he developed his wide open spread the field offense which often scatters receivers from one sideline to the other.

Trull noticed the similarities, saying that of course we couldn't run as many plays back then as they do now because of the up tempo game they have now, but it is ironic " we were on the cutting edge of the passing game 50 years ago just as Baylor is today."

Fans who watch the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will probably see the most exciting game this year. The quarterback for the University of Central Florida is a highly-rated pro prospect who led his team to victory against the powerful Louisville Cardinals this year. With both teams having the ability to score almost at will, they may create a scoreboard malfunction.

And it has been a good year for Don Trull who was finally elected to the College Football Hall of Fame after half a century of waiting. Next year could be even better if his Baylor Bears can win the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

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