Baylor ends 8-game home losing streak in 55-27 win over ACU
WACO, Texas (AP) — Baylor is off to a better start in coach Matt Rhule’s second season.
The Bears have already matched their win total from last year after a season-opening 55-27 victory over FCS team Abilene Christian on Saturday night.
“It wasn’t a perfect game. We have a lot we have to correct, but we saw a lot of flashes,” Rhule said. “Our guys can go out there and enjoy a win, and most importantly they can enjoy a win at home. They can walk out and see their family and friends, they can hug their moms, dads and grandparents and know their work was not for naught.”
The Bears snapped an eight-game home losing streak, piling up 606 total yards and scoring their most points since also having 55 in their 2016 season opener. They were 0-6 at home last year, including losses in the first two games of the season against teams that had never won a game against a Power Five team.
Returning starting quarterback Charlie Brewer and graduate transfer Jalan McClendon from North Carolina State combined to throw for 311 yards.
McClendon was particularly sharp, hitting 10 of his 13 passes for 173 yards with touchdowns on his first two drives. Brewer was 8 for 15 for 138 yards with an interception.
“I wouldn’t say it came too easy,” McClendon said. “The receivers did a great job, the running backs did a great job blocking the front. We knew they’d blitz heavily. Everybody just did their job, and I was getting the fruits of their labor.”
Cal transfer Billy McCrary ran for 141 yards and a touchdown for Abilene Christian. Luke Anthony completed 25 of 38 passes for 224 yards with two TDs and an interception.
“I think we did a lot of really good things on offense,” Abilene Christian coach Adam Dorrel said. “We averaged 80 yards rushing last year, and that was a big focus for us this year. To come in and have (220) yards rushing on our opening night against a Big 12 school I think is exciting. It’s a lot to grow on.”
Abilene Christian: This was the first time the Wildcats had tested themselves against a Texas team from the highest level of college football since 1949. They didn’t have the personnel to match the Bears up front, especially on their defensive line, but had some big plays that allowed them to keep the game from getting completely out of hand.
Baylor: The Bears showed balance and explosiveness on offense with 311 yards passing and 295 rushing. They were also able to grind out yardage on the ground when they needed to on third-and-short situations, an area in which they struggled last season. The defense still has work to do, however, after allowing 466 yards (246 passing and 220 rushing).
THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
Baylor junior kicker Connor Martin made both of his field goal tries, including a career-long 50-yarder in the third quarter. That was the first Baylor field goal of at least 50 yards in nearly five years.
Martin is 22 for 26 in his career. That 84.6 percent accuracy is the highest in Baylor history, more than 10 percentage points better than anyone else.
Baylor’s offensive line was a much-maligned unit in 2017. Lack of depth hurt the Bears along the front line, and that will be tested again after an injury to a key member Saturday.
Left tackle Josh Malin went down with a right knee injury on the game’s first drive, and Rhule said it “doesn’t look good.” That thrust redshirt freshman Eleasah Anderson into his first career action, and he helped the Bears roll up 9.5 yards per play while not allowing a sack.
Abilene Christian will open its home schedule Saturday against Division II Angelo State.
Baylor goes on the road Saturday to try and avenge last year’s 17-10 loss to UTSA