By Shehan Jeyarajah
No. 5 Baylor football did not look like the most productive offense in the league on Saturday. For stretches, senior quarterback Bryce Petty’s play was hardly recognizable.
“I was, for the lack of a better word, terrible,” Petty said. “Some games are going to be like that. At the end of the day, it wasn’t my day, but we are still celebrating here.”
But despite a sloppy game across the board on offense, the Bears pulled off a convincing victory against the University of Texas 28-7 on Saturday to keep its College Football Playoff dreams alive.
The game against Texas marked one of Petty’s worst games of his career. The senior leader completed only seven of his 22 pass attempts for 111 yards. His previous career low in yardage was 161 against SMU, but that came in a half before leaving the game with a back injury.
With the normally reliable passing game sputtering, the Bears stepped up in every other facet of the game.
Head coach Art Briles called junior defensive tackle Beau Blackshear an “unsung hero” for his performance on both defense and special teams. The Waco product blocked a 52-yard field goal early in the first quarter, and junior cover safety Terrell Burt picked it up and returned it for a 62-yard touchdown.
With Texas driving down the field with only seconds left in the first half, Blackshear recovered a fumble from Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes to prevent Texas from getting on the board.
“That was huge because otherwise they are getting the ball back after the half, and it’s a 7-7 ball game,” Briles said. “It was a huge turnover.”
Senior punter Spencer Roth also had a pivotal fake punt in the third quarter that eventually led to Baylor’s first offensive touchdown.
Baylor’s running game also stepped up with the passing game struggling. After failing to hit triple-digits in his first four games, sophomore running back Shock Linwood went for 148 yards and a touchdown.
The defense posted yet another elite performance against a Texas offense grasping for straws. After the blocked field goal and goal line fumble, Texas did not score until just over two minutes left in the game, when it was already decided.
“That’s just that gang green mentality: we’re not here to let you score,” junior defensive end Shawn Oakman said. “We’re here to take the first punch and we’re here to keep punching. We’re not going to stop for anybody.”
Baylor had seven sacks for loss, including a highlight-reel sack from Oakman. Sophomore safety Orion Stewart added two interceptions.
Baylor was ranked No. 7 in the week five Associated Press poll. Four of the six teams ahead of Baylor in the poll lost in week six: No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 6 Texas A&M.
With all the losses, Baylor moved up to No. 5 in the AP poll. The Bears are one of only 10 teams with a perfect record left in college football, and one of only two Big 12 teams without a loss.
“It means a lot because being at Baylor, that hasn’t happened very often,” senior receiver Levi Norwood said. “At the same time, if you look at the games that happened last week, it doesn’t mean anything. You’ve still got to win.”
In 2013, Baylor made it as high as No. 3 in the AP poll before losing to Oklahoma State on the road, a game that destroyed Baylor’s championship aspirations. Briles is focused on making sure the same does not happen again this year.
“I think we are a better team than last year, and that’s just the bottom line,” Briles said. “We are not where we need to be or have to be to have a chance to win the conference again, but I do think we are a better football team than we were a year ago this time.”
The Bears will try to prove themselves in the first true test of the year at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday against TCU at McLane Stadium.