WACO, Texas — Nick Florence and other Baylor seniors have told Lache Seastrunk over the past few months to finish strong on his runs.
The sophomore running back took that advice to heart Saturday.
Seastrunk rushed for 178 yards, including diving in to complete a 76-yard touchdown run after cramping up, and Florence passed for 296 yards to lead Baylor past No. 24 Oklahoma State 41-34.
Oklahoma State had cut Baylor’s lead to 34-27 when Seastrunk broke free up the middle on a play that looked similar to his 80-yard touchdown that sealed an upset win over Kansas State on Nov. 17.
Seastrunk raced past three Cowboys defenders before he began to pull up about 25 yards short of the end zone. After stumbling just past the goal line, Seastrunk remained on the ground for a couple of minutes before limping off the field.
Bears coach Art Briles said Seastrunk experienced leg cramps on his last carry of the game.
“We’ve been harping on him about finishing,” Florence said. “For someone to cramp and pull up like that, that’s inspiring. He’s an outstanding player.”
Baylor (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) has won at least seven games in three straight seasons – the first time the Bears have done that since 1949-51.
After Baylor lost at Oklahoma on Nov. 10, it didn’t appear a third straight bowl game was in Baylor’s future.
The Bears pulled off a 52-24 upset over Kansas State, which took over the No. 1 spot in the BCS rankings before traveling to Waco, and then rallied from an early two-touchdown deficit to win in overtime against Texas Tech.
Baylor finished off its regular season by beating Oklahoma State for only the second time in their last 17 meetings.
“The food is going to taste good for the next three weeks,” Briles said. “The guys feel good about the way they finished the season.”
J.W. Walsh rushed for two touchdowns and Josh Stewart had 147 yards receiving for Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4), who was coming off a 51-48 overtime loss last weekend to Oklahoma in the Bedlam rivalry.
Clint Chelf threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to David Glidden to make it 41-34 with 1:16 left in the game.
Baylor recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock to secure its third straight victory. The Bears had lost six in a row to the Cowboys by an average of 31.7 points.
“In order to be a good football team like we’ve been the last few years here where we’ve won so many games, you have to be able to win on the road,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “That comes with experience and maturity. We didn’t really have that today.”
Bears linebacker Eddie Lackey returned an interception for a touchdown in the first quarter to help Baylor jump out to a 21-point lead in the first half.
Florence threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Reese and the senior quarterback also rushed for 71 yards and a score in the final home game of his career.
Florence has thrown for 4,121 yards this season and is 172 yards shy of breaking the school’s single-season passing mark, which Robert Griffin III set last season.
“To be playing our best ball at the end of year is what you want to do,” Florence said. “We want to carry on the streak and get to eight wins. We’re hot right now and our goal is stay hot.”
After sputtering offensively most of the second half, Oklahoma State drove 88 yards to make it 34-27 on Walsh’s 4-yard touchdown run with 5:30 left in the game.
On the next play from scrimmage, Seastrunk broke loose for his 76-yard touchdown. As soon as he crossed the goal line, the Baylor crowd began chanting his name.
The Baylor medical staff rushed onto the field when Seastrunk stayed down on the ground. Seastrunk remained on the sideline the rest of the way after limping off the field, but he didn’t return to the game.
“We gave up big plays because we were not in the right position,” Oklahoma State senior linebacker Alex Elkins said. “They capitalized. It’s going to happen.”
The Bears took the lead for good early on Lackey’s second interception return for a touchdown in two games.
The junior linebacker picked off a short pass in the flat and ran untouched for a 26-yard touchdown that gave Baylor a 10-3 lead with 7:58 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bears scored on their next two possessions to build a 24-3 lead. Glasco Martin powered in for a 2-yard touchdown run to cap a 16-play, 98-yard drive.
Florence then found Reese for a 75-yard touchdown pass. Reese caught the ball at the 40 and raced past three Oklahoma State defenders into the end zone.
The Cowboys got within 24-17 with consecutive touchdowns. Walsh had a 1-yard run and Chelf threw a 15-yard scoring pass to Stewart.
Chelf was 30 of 51 for 333 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Florence’s 3-yard touchdown run made it 31-17 with 3:33 left in the first half.
Oklahoma State tight end Blake Jackson dropped two potential touchdown passes in the game. He had one on the Cowboys’ first drive of the game and again early in the third quarter.
The Cowboys were able to kick field goals after the drops, including Quinn Sharp’s 43-yarder in the third quarter that made it 31-20.