By Greg DeVries
Both Baylor and Texas came into Saturday night’s game in a minor state of panic. Both teams started the year strong, but each has lost its last two games. 106 points and 1,132 points later, the Bears fell to the Longhorns 50-56.
“I was really proud of the team and how they fought. We challenged them this week to be tough physically and mentally, to have a tough man’s mentality,” head coach Art Briles said.
Baylor’s defense continued their season-long struggle on the first play from scrimmage. The Longhorns’ freshman wide receiver Daje Johnson carried the ball around the end for 84 yards and the touchdown to give Texas the early 7-0 lead.
The Bears’ offense failed to respond and punted on their fourth play, but the defense responded well. The Bears forced a fumble to set the Texas offense back. On fourth down, the snap went over the Texas punter’s head.
On the ensuing play, Baylor faked the handoff to the right, and senior quarterback Nick Florence took it to the house himself around the left side to tie the game at 7.
Texas marched the ball down the field on their next possession. Texas’ sophomore running back Joe Bergeron leaped his way into the end zone to cap off a 15-yard run.
Baylor responded on their next opportunity, however. Junior running back Glasco Martin finished Baylor’s drive with a two-yard touchdown. With just over four minutes to go in the first quarter, this game began to look like the West Virginia game; there was a lot of offense, but defensive stops were few and far between.
Senior wide receiver picked up right where he left off last week. On first and 10 on Baylor’s own 20-yard line, senior wide receiver Terrence Williams got behind Texas’ secondary, caught the pass from Florence and won the sprint to the end zone.
To respond, Texas stuck with their game plan: run the ball. Every now and then, Texas sophomore quarterback David Ash would mix in a pass to catch Baylor’s defense off guard, but after the first quarter Texas had recorded 84 rushing yards, but that included the 35 yards lost on the snap that went over the punter’s head.
When Darrell K. Royal coached at Texas, the Longhorns ran the ball to the left, ran the ball to the right, or ran it up the middle. That was about the extent of their offensive playbook.
Texas head coach Mack Brown must have taken a lesson from Royal because that was most of what Texas did against Baylor.
Defensively, Texas also shot themselves in the foot with penalties. The Longhorns finished the game giving the Bears just 52 yards on penalties, but they seemed to pile up on drives that were dead. In the second half, the roles were reversed, and Baylor couldn’t keep the flags in the referee’s pockets.
With 11:45 to go in the second quarter, Florence took the snap and rolled out left for what looked like a quarterback keeper. Texas’ defense filled the holes, so Florence pulled back and found senior wide receiver Lanear Sampson all by himself in the end zone. This put the Bears ahead 28-21.
Bad tackling reared its ugly head for the Bears again on the ensuing kickoff. The Longhorns returned the kick all the way to Baylor’s 30-yard line. The Longhorns then gained a first down after Longhorn junior wide receiver Mike Davis danced through arm tackles.
Bergeron scored his third touchdown of the day after Baylor failed to bring him down in the backfield. This tied the game at 28 with 9:38 left in the first half.
The Longhorns forced Florence to throw an interception and then marched the ball down the field and into the end zone. Texas freshman running back Jonathan Gray ran right past junior safety Sam Holl to give Texas the 35-28 edge with 6:18 left in the first half.
On Texas’ next drive, Ash tried repeatedly to take the ball deep over the secondary. Baylor defended these passes well, but the plays opened up everything underneath the secondary for the Longhorns. Texas used these plays and their typical running plays to get into the end zone for the sixth time in the first half.
Towards the end of the first half, Florence threw a fade to Williams, but the referees called the pass incomplete because Williams landed out of bounds. The replay, however, indicated that Williams may have landed in bounds, but the replay official did not decide to review the play, and Briles opted to not challenge the play.
“I had tried to tall him that I saved room,” Williams said. “I kind of figured they were going to look at it up top just because, but they didn’t.”
Baylor and Texas returned to their respective locker rooms with the Bears down 42-31. Florence finished the first half 11-15 with 164 yards, one passing and one rushing touchdown. The Baylor defense gave up 352 total yards and 7.5 yards per play.
The Bears received the ball to start the second half. Baylor, aided by some Texas penalties, marched down the field and into the end zone. Florence fumbled the ball near the goal line, but junior tight end Jordan Najvar was there to dive on the ball in the end zone.
Baylor tried the two-point conversion, but Florence’s pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage. Texas led 42-37.
With Texas ahead 42-40, Ash lobbed a 67-yard pass to Davis right over the top of the Baylor defense to bring up first and goal from the eight-yard line. On the next play, Bergeron ran into the end zone untouched for his fifth touchdown of the day.
As the close of the third quarter approached, Martin fumbled the ball on Baylor’s 41-yard line. Texas started the first quarter in Baylor territory with a 49-43 lead.
The Longhorns took advantage of the good field position by extending their lead to 56-43. Ash connected with Davis for his first touchdown pass of the day.
Baylor added another touchdown towards the end of the game. The Bears tried an onside kick, but Texas was able to recover the ball and run out the clock.
“It’s no fun to lose. We played hard, but we made some costly mistakes as an offense and it cost us the game,” Florence said. “It’s not the defense’s fault. We take it upon ourselves. It’s a team game.”
Defensive struggles continue to haunt the Bears week after week, and there doesn’t seem to be any statistical improvement.
Junior nickel back Ahmad Dixon maintains that the defense still believes in the coaching of defensive coordinator Phil Bennett.
“[We trust him] A hundred percent. Players play. Coaches coach. Cheerleaders cheerlead. It’s as simple as that.”