By Jordan Smith | Sports Editor
The Baylor Bears football program was able to end their 2016 campaign on a high note and send off the seniors and coaches with a smile on their faces and a trophy on their backs. They defeated Boise State by a final of 31-12 at the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl on Dec. 27 in Phoenix at Chase Field.
Former Baylor head football coach Jim Grobe commented about what he found exciting about the game.
“The one thing that was really fun for me tonight is our kids enjoyed it,” Grobe said. “You know, a lot of smiles on the sideline. A lot of kids playing hard and enjoying being out on the field. Our guys looked like kids out there playing, and that was fun.”
For a lot of the seniors and the coaching staff, this was their last game as a Baylor Bear. However, there is a healthy amount of starters that are Freshman. In fact, Freshman quarterback Zach Smith is one of those players as he started the last half of the season after senior quarterback Seth Russell suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
Smith said he believes that the bowl win will give the team a much needed boost of confidence heading into next season.
“To go out and lose the last six games and then come in and win this game, I think it’s huge going into next year,” Smith said. “We’re going to have a lot of confidence knowing what we can do. And we just showed a little bit of what we can do tonight. So, that’s huge going into next year, and we’re going to build on it.”
Smith played in 10 games in the 2016 season, throwing for 1,526 yards, scored 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He started in four games during the regular season , including the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl game.
Grobe finished the 2016 season with a record of 7-6, good enough for seventh place in the Big 12 as they went 3-6 in conference play. As Grobe looks forward to retirement (for good), he complimented Baylor AD Mack Rhoades on the hire of new Baylor football head coach Matt Rhule said he believes that the program is in great hands.
“I don’t think Mack could have hired a better guy than Matt Rhule. I think Matt Rhule’s going to do a great job here. He’s going to do great things,” Grobe said.
Baylor starts their 2017 season against the Liberty Flames on Sept. 2 at McLane Stadium. No time has been announced for the game yet.