PHOENIX — KD Cannon had 14 catches for a Cactus Bowl-record 226 yards and two touchdowns, helping Baylor end a difficult season with a 31-12 victory over Boise State on Tuesday night.
Baylor (7-6) went into a downward spiral the last half of the season after opening with six straight wins. Quarterback Seth Russell suffered a season-ending ankle injury, the sexual assault scandal that cost coach Art Briles his job continued to linger and the losses piled up, six straight to end the regular season.
The Bears ended on a positive note by revving up their quick-hitting offense again behind freshman quarterback Zach Smith, who threw for 375 yards and three scores.
"I couldn't be more proud of these guys," Baylor interim coach Jim Grobe said. "We've been through a lot of adversity together. I love every one of these guys and they know that. This is a family win."
Boise State (10-3) tried to keep up with the Bears, but struggled in the red zone: two field goals, an interception in the end zone and a failed fourth down try.
Boise State started with single coverage on Cannon and the Bears exploited it throughout the first half.
The Baylor junior scored on a 30-yard pass from Smith in the first quarter, out-leaping Boise State's Jonathan Moxey in the end zone, then beat him on a 68-yard score in the second to put Baylor up 14-3. Cannon had eight catches for 182 yards and two TDs by halftime.
"We just had to prove a point," Cannon said. "Coming off a bad season, we had to finish strong for Baylor Nation and coach Briles."
Smith had some ups and downs in three games after Russell broke his ankle, but had a month to prepare for the Cactus Bowl. The freshman from Texas was sharp with the extra work, completing 28 of 39 passes. He also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ishmael Zamora in the fourth quarter to put Baylor up 31-6.
Boise State's Brett Rypien moved the Broncos up and down the field, but had his share of mistakes.
He threw an interception at the Baylor 5-yard line on Boise State's second drive and had an overthrow on what would likely have been a touchdown later in the first quarter, forcing the Broncos to settle for a field goal.
Rypien also threw an interception in the end zone in the second quarter. He finished with 305 yards and a touchdown on 32-of-51 passing with two interceptions and a lost fumble.
Baylor will be looking to get back to its winning ways under new coach Matt Rhule. The former Temple coach has already started recruiting, but Grobe coached in the bowl game. Grobe hopes to continue coaching.
Boise State has to replace running back Jeremy McNichols and senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck next season, but Rypien is a sophomore and should only get better.