WACO, Texas — Richard Melendez carries hope for the future.
Melendez, an event staff personnel who manned the gate behind Floyd Casey Stadium's south end zone, has seen a smattering of highlights and plenty of lows.
He calls Baylor's 35-34 overtime victory over then-No. 16 Texas A&M in 2004 the greatest game he has attended at Floyd Casey Stadium. On that day, then-Baylor coach Guy Morriss elected to attempt a two-point conversion after his team scored a touchdown during its first overtime drive.
The decision paid dividends. Quarterback Shawn Bell completed a pass to wide receiver Dominique Zeigler. The sequence sent the green-and-gold masses into an excited panic: fans rushed the field, ripped down the goalposts and carried them along Valley Mills Drive to the Baylor campus, about a four-mile walk.
In recent years, such celebratory moments have been scarce. The Bears' last finished with a winning record in 1994, when they ended the season with a loss to Washington State in the Alamo Bowl. Baylor hasn't appeared in the postseason since.
But Melendez has faith the future will become bright under first-year coach Art Briles.
"I think we have a pretty good coach," Melendez said.
"He's a motivator. He brought a lot of recruits in. it's just his first year. Just like with any coach, you work with (players) their first year. The second year, you get better. By the third year, I'm pretty sure we're going to be ranked in the Top 25."
BAYLOR LINE: Students continued a proud Baylor tradition on Saturday.
During pregame warmups, freshmen lined up in a tunnel under Floyd Casey Stadium's southeast corner. Eight minutes before kickoff, they rushed the field and positioned themselves in front of the west stands as players walked through the crowd before taking the field.
Each student wore a gold jersey with a green No. 12 printed on the back. The "12" represents 2012, the year they will graduate. Once the game began, the students positioned themselves in a designated cheering section behind Missouri's bench on the east side.
The Baylor Line tradition began in 1970. It was exclusive to males until 1993.
HOMECOMING TRADITION: Baylor presented the latest version of its proud homecoming tradition.
Baylor boasts holding the "nation's oldest and largest collegiate parade" which began in 1909. The parade started at 8:30 Saturday morning and included bands and the school's numerous student and civic organizations.
"It's a fantastic parade," said Todd Patulski, Baylor executive assistant athletic director. "We have a bonfire and a pep rally Friday night. Then they've got a list of things that go on all week long for bringing back the alumni and celebrating Baylor."
Another time-honored tradition includes the "Pigskin Revue" presentation. On Friday and Saturday nights, the top eight acts from the previous spring's All-University Sing talent show performed in the campus' venerable Waco Hall.
Acts resembled Broadway musicals and a majority of participants came from the school's Greek system.
FAMILY FRIENDLY: It's not the typical Division-I football tailgating environment.
Children's obstacle courses, a basketball shooting contest and a live band may be mainstays at block parties, but they're not as common for fans preparing to watch college football.
But at Baylor, they make up Touchdown Alley, which is as much a part of the game-day experience as the green tarp in the south end zone that proclaims Floyd Casey Stadium as "Bear Country."
"It's great for our students, and for families that come out," Baylor executive assistant athletic director Todd Patulski said. "It's a great pregame environment."
Patulski added that one of the biggest positives about Baylor's tailgating experience is how close the student tailgate area is to Touchdown Alley.
"You've got a lot of fraternities and sororities that are over there," he said. "It really puts everybody together and makes a festive environment. It's fun. We just need to continue to get people to come out."
A Baylor employee working in Touchdown Alley admitted attendance is a struggle.
"(It's) not as big as I would like," marketing worker Jason Draper said. "(But) it's not bad."
BAND LOVES THE SCENE: At the end of Touchdown Alley, the Far Side Band, a classic rock band from north Texas, provides the musical entertainment.
The Far Side Band performs for about half of the Bears' home games, despite having no ties to either Baylor or Waco, Texas.
"I'm a college football fan," drummer Johnny Courtney said. "I love college football, and I'm hoping Baylor will turn it around."
Courtney and Gary Hollis, who plays keyboard, said the band also performs at some TCU football games in Fort Worth, Texas.
Courtney might be hopeful that Baylor can improve, but he wasn't expecting that to happen on Saturday.
"I watched (Missouri quarterback) Chase Daniel in high school," Courtney said. "That kid is tough."
LAUDING A LEGEND: Mike Singletary, one of Baylor's most famous alums and a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, took over as head coach for the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 21 after former coach Mike Nolan was fired.
Singletary, reportedly back in Waco while the 49ers enjoyed their bye week, inspired plenty of Baylor fans to voice their approval of the hire on Saturday.
Jo Muir, 77, said she was "tickled pink" when she heard the news. Singletary was a candidate in the Baylor coaching search after last season, but, after an interview in San Francisco, Singletary turned down the Bears and remained with the 49ers as defensive coordinator.
"They're really going to enjoy his work out there," said Jo Muir's husband, Don Muir, also 77. "It was a wise choice."
The Muirs' grandson, James Barnard, is the starting right guard for the Bears and often brings Matt Singletary, a redshirt freshman receiver and the 49ers' coach's son, 75 miles south of Waco to Georgetown, Tex. for a home-cooked meal at the Muir home.
Mike Singletary made headlines earlier this week when he revealed that, during a halftime speech in the locker room, he dropped his pants in front of the team, leaving only his boxers.
Hanging on a stadium wall at the south end of Floyd Casey Stadium is a blown-up photo of Singletary, the former Bears (Baylor and Chicago) linebacker. In the photo, Singletary is fully clothed.
PHOTO SHOOT: A hundred or so Tiger fans crowded around the north end of the stadium about two hours before kickoff to wait for the team to arrive.
Beforehand, the group posed for photos on the stadium steps and fans and players' parents took turns being the photographed and the photographers. A few confused Baylor fans milled about the group, forever immortalized on film headed back to Columbia.
One fan even asked for a photo of the Derrick Washington clan, an 11-member family cheering section for the sophomore running back.