WACO, Texas – Baylor has accepted an invitation to play in the 2012 Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, marking the first time in program history the Bears have earned bowl bids in three consecutive seasons.
Baylor will face UCLA from the Pac-12 Conference when the nationally televised (ESPN) Holiday Bowl is played at 8:45 p.m. CST on Dec. 27. Both Baylor and UCLA will be making their Holiday Bowl debuts, and the teams will be meeting for the first time on the gridiron.
"It is very exciting to be going to a bowl game for the third straight year and the Holiday Bowl is widely recognized as one of the best in terms of hospitality, student-athlete experience and atmosphere," said Ian McCaw, Baylor's Director of Athletics. "We need Baylor Nation to rise up and support the Bears by contacting the athletic ticket office to make arrangements to purchase tickets and come to San Diego to be a part of this special event. This is Baylor's first out-of-state bowl game in 20 years, so it is imperative that we have a great turnout to cheer on the Bears against UCLA."
UCLA (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12) started the season 9-2 before dropping consecutive games to Stanford, including Friday's Pac-12 Championship Game. The Bruins are ranked No. 17 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll released Sunday.
Baylor (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) finished the regular season with three consecutive Big 12 Conference victories. The Bears knocked off No. 1 Kansas State on Nov. 17, 52-24, defeated Texas Tech 52-45 in overtime on Nov. 24, and they closed the regular season Saturday with a 41-34 win over No. 23 Oklahoma State. The win over OSU improved Baylor's record to 5-0 in home games against ranked teams over the last two seasons.
"I'm extremely proud of our team for getting us into a bowl game, especially a bowl with the national reputation that the Holiday Bowl has earned through the years with all of the great games played there," Baylor head coach Art Briles said. "It's an honor for Baylor to play a really good UCLA football team."
Baylor has won seven or more games in three straight seasons for the second time in program history and first time since 1949-51, when the Bears combined for 23 victories. Entering the Holiday Bowl, Baylor has 24 wins over its last three seasons, which ties 1985-87 for the most victories over a three-year span in Baylor's 114 seasons of football. The Bears are also 10-1 in the months of November and December over the past two years, and BU is 12-1 at home since the start of the 2011 season.
Baylor's balanced offense leads the nation in total yards (578 ypg), ranks third in passing (353 ypg) and 19th rushing (226 ypg), making it one of three programs nationally (Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M) ranked in the top 20 in both rushing and passing offense.
Baylor has continued to produce big numbers despite losing five offensive starters to the 2012 NFL Draft. The Bears have scored 40 or more points in nine of 12 games this year and 18 of 25 games dating back to the start of the 2011 season. BU's quick-strike attack, which ranks fifth nationally with 44.1 points per game, has totaled nine one-play TD drives this season (16 TD drives of three plays or fewer) and scored 20 TDs on drives of one minute or less (40 of two minutes or less).
The high-octane offense is led by senior quarterback Nick Florence, who leads the nation with 387.7 yards of total offense per game. Florence's favorite target is senior All-American wide receiver Terrance Williams, who leads the nation with 147.0 receiving yards per game. Williams, one of three Biletnikoff Award finalists, has already broken the Baylor single-season receiving yards record (1,764), and he needs 236 receiving yards in the Holiday Bowl to become the second 2,000-yard receiver in NCAA history.
The Bears' late season run has coincided with the emergence of a strong one-two punch in the backfield featuring sophomore Lache Seastrunk and junior Glasco Martin. Seastrunk has 874 rushing yards on the season, including 693 yards and five touchdowns in his last five games, while Martin is second on the team with 791 rushing yards and leads the way with 12 TDs.
Baylor's defense has also stepped up late in the season, intercepting 11 passes over the past five games. The Bears are now 15-2 when forcing two or more turnovers during defensive coordinator Phil Bennett's two seasons.
"These bowls are the fruits of the labor," Briles said. "It's an opportunity to extend your season, to give your fan base an opportunity to travel and support you, and you do all you can do to take full advantage of the opportunity. It'll be a great experience for our players. To be able to go see a new part of the United States, that's what makes bowl games great. It's a new adventure."
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