Ted Miller, ESPN Senior Writer 631d

Tumultuous season at Baylor ends with bowl victory

PHOENIX -- New Baylor coach Matt Rhule is inheriting plenty of problems as he takes over at Baylor, but he's not inheriting a losing streak.

The Bears, a touchdown underdog and losers of six in a row, overcame a sloppy start to upset the Broncos 31-12 in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, with receiver KD Cannon playing a starring role.

Cannon caught 14 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns -- he did the vast majority of his work in the first half -- as the Bears (7-6) ended a miserable season of tumult with a victory that means Rhule inherits a winning team.

Boise State, which finishes 10-3, helped the Bears by being hapless in the red zone. Boise State scored just six points on its first six possessions inside Baylor's 30-yard line, three of which were first-and-goal situations. Those failures included two interceptions and a fumble -- all from QB Brett Rypien -- as well as one turnover on downs.

While some might attribute that to inspired defense from the Bears, it's noteworthy that the unit yielded 43.7 points per game during their six-game downturn after a 6-0 start. The Bears were also minus-13 in turnovers during the losing streak. They were plus-2 against the Broncos.

Baylor will try to move on from an awful 2016 under Rhule, who inherits a team that began the season with fewer than 70 scholarship players, well below the NCAA FBS limit of 85.

The Bears' season was played out under a dark cloud after coach Art Briles was fired in May. The law firm hired to investigate the school's handling of sexual assault cases found evidence of significant misconduct in the athletic department and the football program.

Briles had built a national power and won two Big 12 titles for a once-feckless program, but the Bears cratered under interim coach Jim Grobe in the season's second half after rising to No. 8 in the AP poll.

The controversy didn't die as the fans, assistant coaches and administrators were significantly and often publicly divided on how Briles' situation was handled.

On this night, however, Baylor fans could cheer again, knowing that Rhule, who did his media rounds during the game, will try to rebuild a fallen program -- both on and off the field.

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