Video by Elisabeth Tharp | Broadcast Reporter, Story by Collin Bryant | Sports Writer
Baylor football (0-1) lost its opener Saturday to Liberty 48-45 at McLane Stadium. The loss is Baylor’s first non-conference regular season loss since a 30-22 loss to Connecticut in 2009.
Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said that the result was disappointing but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
“I’m proud of them, they worked hard, this was not what we wanted tonight, but it does not mean that I am not proud of them,” Rhule said. “I’m proud of their effort and I put this on me, I put this on the coaches it’s our job to get it fixed.”
The Flames opened up their game with a mix of running and passing leading to a 27-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Alex Probert after a 73-yard drive. Liberty’s defense, shut down the Bears’ opening drive, holding them to only 17 yards of offense.
Baylor senior quarterback Anu Solomon then threw his first touchdown of the year to sophomore wide receiver Denzel Mims, a 45-yarder, following a successful fourth down conversion, putting the Bears up 7-6.
Following the touchdown, the Bears’ defense allowed a Liberty a 40-yard passing touchdown from sophomore quarterback Steven Calvert to fellow sophomore wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden. Liberty then successfully ran the ball for the two-point conversion, putting the Flames back on top 14-7.
Solomon responded by compiling a 49-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Pooh Stricklin that led to a short 14-yard rushing touchdown by sophomore running back JaMycal Hasty.
Both teams exchanged field goals to end the tied at 17.
In the second half, Liberty set the tone early.
Junior cornerback Chris Turner, jumped the route and intercepted the Solomon pass and returned it for a touchdown to put the Flames up 24-17. But Baylor had the answer as Solomon connected with sophomore wide receiver Chris Platt for a 20-yard touchdown.
After a field goal by Liberty put the Flames on top once again, Baylor used a quick strike offense by hitting on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Solomon to Platt, the duo’s second touchdown hookup of the game.
Liberty did not blink or shudder. Instead it had the answer. First, Calvert hit Gandy-Golden for a 13-yard scoring strike. After a Baylor three and out, Calvert then used his legs to put the Flames up 41-31 with an eight-yard rushing touchdown.
Baylor freshman running back John Lovett added two late touchdowns for the Bears, one from three yards out and the second from 34-yards out.
With 4:27 left in the game, Calvert scrambled around and found sophomore wide receiver spencer Jones for the 26-yard backbreaking touchdown.
At times, Baylor’s offense looked like it coming into focus as Solomon lofted perfectly placed passes for long touchdowns or used his legs to extend plays. On the flip side, at times, it looked out of sync. One of the issues was that of dropped passes from the receivers.
Platt said this would not be an issue going forward.
“I felt like there were a lot of catchable balls, but we will clean that up when practice comes Tuesday,” Platt said.
Liberty also was efficient on third down, converting 15 of 24 and both of its fourth down conversions. The Flames tallied 585 yards of total offense including 447 yards through the air. Baylor finished 532 yards of offense but was just four of 12 on third down conversions.
Baylor will look to get its first win when it hosts UTSA at 7 p.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium.