Offensively challenged: Longhorns pound struggling Bears, 38-7
Playing the first morning game at McLane Stadium this season, the Baylor offense looked like it just rolled out of bed.
Of course, Texas’ punishing defense can make a lot of teams look half asleep, sluggish and uninspired.
The Longhorns’ defense went on the offensive when they scored the game’s first touchdown as DeShon Elliott returned an interception for a 43-yard touchdown in the opening minute.
The rest of the day, the Longhorns rarely gave the Bears a glimmer of light as they picked up a season-low 249 yards total offense. Though Baylor’s defense played admirably, Texas didn’t need a lot of offense to finish off a 38-7 win Saturday as the Bears remained 0-for-2017.
“Obviously, overall it’s a very disappointing day for us,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “We went into that football game feeling like it was a game we could win, feeling like we had a good game plan defensively. We just weren’t able to get enough going offensively, and penalties and turnovers really kind of stopped that at an early point.”
Rhule started sophomore quarterback Zach Smith and brought in freshman Charlie Brewer, but both walked away from the game banged up after taking numerous hits from a physical Texas defense.
Brewer has quite a Texas legacy since his father and grandfather played quarterback for the Longhorns, but there was little chance for an upset because the Bears couldn’t move the ball with any consistency and committed three turnovers as they dropped to 0-8 overall and 0-5 in the Big 12.
“They’re a good defense, but I just didn’t think we executed very well on offense,” Brewer said. “It’s disappointing to not come out fast today. A lot of stuff didn’t go right. We’ve got to attack it, respond in a positive way, which I know we will, and go get a win next week.”
There was one upside for the Bears after the game: Now they can focus all their attention on Kansas when the Big 12’s two remaining teams with winless conference records meet Saturday at 11 a.m. in Lawrence.
But the Bears will need to show a lot more consistency from start to finish than they had against Texas (4-4, 3-2).
“It’s disappointing to lose, no matter who it is,” said Baylor cornerback-receiver Blake Lynch. “But to lose to Texas is more disappointing. I give a lot of credit to Texas’ defense. I think they’re good. But we did a lot of things to hurt ourselves. The toughest thing about it is we know we can win and we can play with anybody. We’re just not doing it.”
Making his sixth straight start, Smith was off target all day as he hit just four of 11 passes for 37 yards with the big early interception that Elliott returned for a touchdown. Brewer used his mobility to create some plays, and hit 17 of 27 passes for 181 yards, but he was sacked three times.
Compounding Baylor’s quarterback issues was a running game that picked up just 31 yards on 37 carries against Texas’ swarming defense.
“They’re a big, fast, athletic group,” Rhule said. “I thought they rallied to the ball and tackled and made plays on the ball. There were a couple of times when we had a chance to make a catch, and they were there. When the blitzed, they brought it.”
With freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger out after suffering concussion-like symptoms following last week’s 13-10 overtime loss to Oklahoma State, Texas sophomore Shane Buechele hit 27 of 34 passes for 256 yards with an interception and a touchdown pass and a 28-yard scoring run.
Freshman Toneil Carter led Texas’ rushing attack with 70 yards on 15 carries, including a 19-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Longhorns took the lead on Baylor’s first possession when Elliott intercepted Smith’s deflected pass and returned it 43 yards for the touchdown.
With Brewer stepping in for Smith, the Bears picked up a pair of first downs on the next drive before John Bonney and Malik Jefferson sacked Brewer for a 15-yard loss.
“We thought we’d play Zach the first drive and do some more traditional things,” Rhule said. “We wanted to try to make some throws down the field that his arm can make and then we thought the second series we’d come out in sort of three-back option stuff with Charlie. But Charlie kind of got dinged up pretty quickly, and that sort of took us out of maybe running him as much.”
Bonney was on the spot again later in the first quarter when he recovered a fumble by Baylor running back Terence Williams at the Bears’ 16.
But Baylor’s defense delivered a great stand as defensive lineman Greg Roberts batted down Buechele’s pass on third-and-four at the 10. Roberts made another big play when he blocked Joshua Rowland’s 27-yard field goal attempt.
The Longhorns put together their best drive of the game when they moved 90 yards on 11 plays to open up a 14-0 lead with 9:42 left in the second quarter.
Buechele was at his best on the drive as he hit all six passes for 85 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
On Texas’ kickoff, a scuffle broke out on the Baylor sideline as Antwuan Davis was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct to give the Bears the ball at their own 45.
Switching from cornerback to receiver, Lynch grabbed a 52-yard pass from Brewer along the right sideline to Texas’ 3. Two plays later, John Lovett rammed across for a two-yard touchdown as the Bears cut Texas’ lead to 14-7.
The Bears couldn’t move the ball on their next possession, and made a huge mistake when punter Connor Martin fumbled the snap to give Texas the ball at Baylor’s 28.
The Longhorns quickly took advantage of the mistake as Buechele ran up the middle for a 28-yard touchdown to push the lead to 21-7 with 3:51 left in the first half. Buechele has been plagued by an ankle injury this season, but looked mobile against the Bears.
“He’s not a statue by any stretch of the imagination,” said Texas coach Tom Herman. “He’s not quite the runner that Sam (Ehlinger) is, but he is definitely serviceable.”
Bonney continued to make big plays for Texas’ defense when he picked up Lovett’s fumble and returned it 13 yards to Baylor’s 16 in the third quarter.
Once again, the Bears’ defense made a good stand as Henry Black stopped Lorenzo Joe after a 5-yard gain to the 1. Texas elected for the field goal as Rowland nailed an 18-yarder to push Texas to a 24-7 lead with 5:55 remaining in the third quarter.
Trying to make something happen, Baylor tried to get a first down on fourth-and-two at its own 28. But Brewer’s pass to Trevor White fell incomplete to give the Longhorns great field position as the third quarter ended.
Carter blew up the middle for a 19-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter as the Longhorns extended the lead to 31-7. The Longhorns scored their final touchdown when Daniel Young got loose on a 31-yard run with 1:57 remaining.
Now the Bears will turn their attention to Kansas, which appears to be their best shot at a win this season with four games remaining.
“It’s tough, but you’ve got to be mentally strong,” said Baylor cornerback Grayland Arnold. “You’ve really got to trust in the process. You’re either all-in or you’re not in at all. You can’t be halfway there. We need everybody out there ready to go, preparing for Kansas. We’ve got to be trying to go 1-0 against Kansas this week.”