November 28, 2009
Big sendoff for three seniors
Like many games in Baylor's recent past, the Bears entered Saturday's game against Texas Tech with the odds stacked against them. But despite playing with the pride gained through countless hours of practice and preparation, the motivated Bears fell to the heavily favored Red Raiders, 20-13.
The game was the last for several keystone leaders, like linebacker Joe Pawelek, safety Jordan Lake and quarterback Blake Szymanski, who completed 22 of 35 passes for 234 yards in his career finale.
For Pawelek, the time between his first action against TCU four years ago and Saturday's game seems to have evaporated.
"I think we look at each other and say, 'Man, that flies by,'" he said. "As a fifth year guy, you'd think you'd be itching to get out of here but with the way the program's going, we're wishing we had another four years."
Pawelek's unit held the potent Texas Tech offense to a field goal in the first half, forcing the Red Raiders to settle for three after having 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard-line. They later surrendered two touchdowns on drives beginning on the Baylor 36 and 32.
Those touchdown plays, along with other plays like the four fourth-down conversions Baylor conceded, were ones that the team would have liked back. After all the time devoted to the program, though, Pawelek and the seniors left the field with no regrets.
"I think that we would have regrets if we didn't put in all the hours and work. I think that we would have regrets if we left work undone," Pawelek said. "All the seniors leaving know we put it all into the program."
Leading the offensive side was fifth-year senior Szymanski, who was not named Baylor's official starting quarterback until a half hour before kickoff. Given one last chance to leave his mark on Baylor football, he came out firing and found fellow senior David Gettis for a 57 yard pass on the fourth play of the game.
His assault continued in the first half as he connected 12 of 16 passes for 142 yards and passed for four of Baylor's 10 first downs. A career 56 percent passer, Szymanski made some mistakes Saturday night but worked to play like the team preached during the week.
"We talked at the team meeting last night and throughout the week about leaving it out on the field. People were writing us off, like the season's over, we're not going to a bowl game," said Szymanski. "We played our hearts out."
Art Briles' second season at Baylor did not end as he envisioned, but his pride in the seniors remains as steadfast as his belief in the season.
"They're great young men and will be great husbands, fathers and citizens. They've disciplined themselves and directed themselves into an opportunity to be successful," Briles said.
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