Early Saturday evening, Baylor trotted to the locker room down double digits to a Football Championship Subdivision team. Granted it was the nation's second-best FCS team a year ago, but still, Sam Houston State spends its time in college football's minor leagues.
After the game, the truth came out.
"Going around the locker room, we were saying 'You got to take them seriously,'" Bears defensive back Ahmad Dixon told the Dallas Morning News. "At first when we got a three-and-out, we were saying that this was about to be an easy ballgame. The offense goes out there and gets stopped. They came out and got a field goal, and we got our three points, and we realized that we were in a fight."
Baylor is not the first team to underestimate an opponent. It won't be the last. The Bears rallied for a 48-23 win, but if last week's scare wasn't enough, Art Briles' team will get even more help in not overlooking the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks tonight on ESPN at 8 ET.
"You hope your players are always ready regardless of the situation," Briles said. "But with what Louisiana-Monroe was able to do with Arkansas and the national attention they garnered from that, if you didn't have the amount of respect for them you should have, it certainly helped elevate it."
The Warhawks sat onetime Heisman candidate Tyler Wilson down with a concussion and rallied from a 28-7 deficit to beat the Hogs in Little Rock in overtime. That earned them media-darling status for a week, and they were a trendy upset pick a week ago when they went on the road to face Auburn. The Warhawks took War Eagle to overtime but came up just short.
"They're just playing with a lot of effort, attitude, and they’ve got a lot of confidence right now," Briles said. "They’ve played two really good football teams on the road and went to overtime with both of them. So that's not a bad way to start it out."
Now Louisiana-Monroe returns home, and Baylor will be waiting for tonight's game. Monroe fans will be celebrating a whiteout as some 30,000 fans will welcome home the Sun Belt Squad That Could ... go toe-to-toe with the SEC West.
"It's going to be a good atmosphere," Briles said. "It's going to be a good chance for us to bond as a team and grow together in a hostile environment and lean on each other."
Warhawks QB Kolton Browning broke loose for the game-winning touchdown in overtime against Arkansas. He has already accounted for eight touchdowns this season, and the junior will be trying to kick off the 2012 home slate in style against the Bears, who showed some vulnerability against Sam Houston State.
"They do a good job. They spread it out, throw it. He's an extender," Briles said of Browning. "Once a play might be dead for some people, but he's able to keep it alive and make plays. He's really just been uncanny the first two weeks, and he’s certainly the catalyst for their football team."
Louisiana-Monroe should be an intriguing challenge, and Briles' job of getting his squad motivated for a team without much name recognition got a little easier these past two weeks. Combine that with Browning and the environment and Briles knows what's at stake tonight.
"It'll help prepare us for later on down the road when we get into Big 12 play," he said.