NEWS RELEASES

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Baylor Working for What it Hopes is a Big Finish

Photo By: Photo by Bill Patterson, CBAA

Competing in a major bowl game is no longer new to Baylor. Now the Bears want to experience winning one.

That was the predominant storyline Tuesday as players went through media day for the 79th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic after a light practice at AT&T Stadium.

Baylor was heavily favored but lost to UCF in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. So it’s easy to understand the primary motivation for the No. 5 Bears (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) as they prepare to meet No. 8 Michigan State (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) on Thursday.

“For me personally it’s just to finish,” quarterback Bryce Petty said. “Last year we didn’t finish. That’s a long time, six months of a bad taste in your mouth. So my whole thought process and drive on this game is just to finish and be the best team that’s ever gone through Baylor.”

It’s been natural to wonder whether the Bears are disappointed in being left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff. For the record, they are. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been able to channel that emotion in the right place and practice at a high level, coaches and players said. Memories of the Fiesta Bowl loss are enough to remind them that they can’t allow themselves to be distracted.

“With our guys, I haven’t noticed any drop-off,” Head Coach Art Briles said. “Their mentality is honest because of how we performed last year in the BCS bowl. First time we had been to one and been conference champs. Now we have done it back to back. We are a little more disciplined mentally than we were a year ago at this time.”

One sign that the players might be more focused than last year is that they’ve been spending more time in the hospitality room at the team hotel than out on the town, several players said. They also have visited a nearby mall and movie theater.

“Really, that’s about it,” tackle Spencer Drango said. “Especially now that we’re getting close to the game, we’re staying in the hotel just hanging out, getting off our feet and relaxing.”

Linebacker Bryce Hager said the biggest difference is “how our team is handling ourselves this year compared to last year. Everyone seems a lot more focused, a lot more willing to sacrifice going out and all of that kind of stuff.”

The Goodyear Cotton Bowl celebrates its 79th edition on New Year's Day and kicks off a new era as a member of the College Football Playoff. Airtime on ESPN is set for 11:30 a.m. CST with kickoff slated for 11:45 a.m. For the first year, the Classic joins ESPN’s bowl lineup with Dave Pasch and Brian Griese on the call from the booth with Tom Luginbill reporting from the sideline.

For the third consecutive year, ESPN Radio returns as the Classic's national radio partner. Brad Sham, the "Voice of the Dallas Cowboys," teams with Kelly Stoufer in the booth and Ian Fitzsimmons from the sideline to describe all the action from AT&T Stadium. This will be Sham's 18th straight year as the Classic's play-by-play man and his 22nd overall.

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