By Jeffrey Swindoll
AUSTIN — Special teams and the running game stepped up for No. 7 Baylor football during the absence of their usually terrific pass offense in a 28-7 conference win over the University of Texas on Saturday. It is only the third time in over 25 years that the Bears have won in Austin. The game was expected to bring high-powered offense, but it turned out to be much different than expected.
It started slow for the Bears’ offense in the first half, but a 19-yard fake punt run from senior punter Spencer Roth and a late spark from sophomore running back Shock Linwood overpowered the Longhorns in the second half.
Roth claimed he had never run a fake punt in his entire life and didn’t even go into that play with the intention of running the ball. When he received the snap, Roth took a look at the coverage and made his own judgment to go.
“I thought [the fake punt] changed everything,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “We scored in about four plays and go up 14-0 after not really making first downs quite honestly. It was a field position game most of that quarter and that kind of flipped the field.”
Right after the fake punt, senior quarterback Bryce Petty nailed a pass to senior receiver Antwan Goodley for a touchdown. Petty usually has a touchdown to his name by the middle of the first quarter, but Petty stumbled on Saturday.
Petty went 7-22 with no turnovers, threw two touchdowns and was sacked three times in the game. That was the first time Petty was taken down in the backfield since returning from his back injury earlier in the season. Goodley’s touchdown was a breath of fresh air a sloppy game, Petty said.
“I can’t even tell you. It was a relief,” Petty said. “As a quarterback, especially on this offense, we want to go deep, we want to have those big plays. When you’re struggling to get those shots, it gets tough. That kind of thing makes you feel little bit better about the day.”
It was a 21-point victory for the Bears, but the game was there for the taking for nearly three quarters. The first half was a bizarre one for both teams — a blocked field goal, a 99-yard Texas drive that ended with a fumble recovery on the goal line, and the nation’s top offense held to just one touchdown in the first half.
Baylor anticipated a fight from the Longhorns, and called them a disciplined and well-coached team led by UT head coach Charlie Strong ahead of Saturday. Texas showed their grit in the first half with a stunning goal-line stand. The Bears couldn’t convert in four downs with the ball on the half-yard line. The crowd went nuts in Austin and the Longhorns offense took the field with a momentum swing.
“It was big that we didn’t score,” Briles said. “We get down there and we’ve got six inches on third down and fourth down and go through that scenario on the field, not just the play, but the assessments of the play.”
The Longhorns rode that momentum, driving down the field 99 yards before failing to break through on Baylor’s goal-line. Texas looked very likely to score with a massive drive to the red zone, but it turned out to be a disaster for the Longhorns.
Just one yard shy of tying the score before the half, Texas quarterback Tryone Swoopes fumbled the ball in front of the goal-line and Baylor recovered it with under a minute left in the half.
“They took it 99 yards. They just didn’t take it 99 and a half,” Briles said. “That was huge because they are getting the ball at half and it’s a 7-7 ballgame.”
Junior defensive lineman Beau Blackshear was at the center of two impactful plays for the Bears in the first half to keep Texas off the board. Blackshear blocked Nick Rose’s 52-yard field goal attempt that was returned 62 yards by junior safety Terrell Burt for a score. Blackshear was also the player who recovered Swoopes’ fumble on the 1-yard line.
Briles called Blackshear “an unsung hero” after the game and said the block and fumble recovery from him greatly aided the Bears in maintaining momentum in a game that was closely contested for three quarters.
“It was still there,” Texas assistant head coach for offense Shawn Wilson said. “We went out in the first half and did a really nice job. Same thing in the second half. It’s a lot of fundamental execution.”
Baylor’s passing offense was not nearly as successful as expected with the full roster of receivers back in rotation. The Bears made with what they had though. Realizing their offensive line had taken control, the Bears decided to run the ball much more in the second half and it paid off.
Thanks to the offensive line manhandling the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter, Linwood took Texas’ defense to the woodshed and dealt the dagger shot in Austin. Baylor netted 278 rushing yards, averaging 4.6 per carry. Linwood held the biggest chunk of those yards with 150 total yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
Linwood’s touchdown in the fourth quarter made it 21-0 with 10 minutes left in the game. With a three possession difference, less than a quarter remaining and fans already heading to the door, the game was sealed by Linwood’s touchdown run.
“What’s key for us is we just have to learn how to win,” Strong said. “We don’t know how to finish. We cause our own destruction, and we can’t do that.”
The Bears return to McLane Stadium to face No. 25 TCU for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff time to be nationally broadcast on ABC.