Thursday, January 1st, 2015

McKnight Trophy Winner (Defensive MVP) – Baylor LB Taylor Young

Photo By: Photo by Bill Patterson, CBAA

Taylor Young may be small in stature, but in Thursday’s 79th annual Cotton Bowl Classic, he left little doubt he plays a big game.

The redshirt freshman played the best game of his young career by racking up 15 tackles and taking a fourth-quarter interception to the house that would have likely sealed the Baylor win if it weren’t for penalty on the return. Instead, the Bears lost in the final minute, leaving Young to accept the McKnight Trophy representing the game’s outstanding defensive player as a consolation prize.

In a game highlighted by record-breaking offensive performances, there wasn’t much defense going around AT&T Stadium on New Year’s Day. But while both teams racked up more than 500 yards of offense, Young made a number of big stops that frustrated the nation’s 7th-ranked offense when the Bears were building their 20-point lead.

As they’d done all year Michigan State’s primary game plan depended on using tailback Jeremy Langford to hit holes hard and break off big runs that would open up receivers downfield.

It couldn’t have started any better when – on the third play of the game – Langford burst around the left side and broke a tackle to take it all the way down to the 1-yard line. It seemed as if the team averaging 43.1 points per game was about to take off and run away.

Instead, that’s when Young and the Baylor linebacking unit proved their mettle by plugging gaps and frustrating the Spartan rushing attack as America’s top offense took control for most of the way.

It’s just another case of Young proving his doubters wrong. Having been spurned by bigger programs in the area coming out of DeSoto High School 20 miles away from AT&T Stadium, the 5-foot-10 linebacker earned a spot in the Baylor program based on his penchant for making big plays.

From making goal-line stops in a pivotal high school playoff game – a goal-line stand on fourth down against perennial power Southlake Carroll – to jumping a Connor Cook pass and taking it back for a touchdown on Thursday, Young’s star is just beginning to shine.

After beginning the season in a backup role, his production on the field forced Baylor coaches to plug the freshman into the starting lineup six games into the year. Against a top-10 offense in Thursday’s Cotton Bowl, he showed why he represents a formidable force in Baylor’s linebacking unit for the next few years.

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