Baylor comeback falls short as Bears lose 38-36 to No. 23 West Virginia

Video by Elisabeth Tharp | Broadcast Reporter, Story by Ben Everett | Sports Writer

Baylor football fell to No. 23 West Virginia 38-36 Saturday at McLane Stadium.

The Bears (0-7, 0-4) could not contain the passing game of the Mountaineers (5-2, 3-1) early on, with West Virginia junior quarterback Will Grier finishing with 375 yards and five touchdowns through the air.

Freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer and freshman running back Trestan Ebner engineered a Baylor comeback in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Mountaineers 23-0 in the final period, but came up short on a two-point conversion.

Ebner finished with 163 total yards and three touchdowns.

Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said Ebner has turned into a tough, reliable back for the Bears.

“For a guy that’s never played running back before, he’s certainly doing a heck of a job,” Rhule said. “He’s shown some toughness, some explosive plays. The ability to help fight for extra yardage.”

In the first half, Baylor struggled offensively and had to settle for a pair of field goals.

On the opening drive, sophomore quarterback Zach Smith completed back-to-back passes to sophomore receiver Denzel Mims to start the game to put the Bears at the West Virginia 41-yard line, but Baylor couldn’t muster anymore offense and turned the ball over on downs.

Grier completed a 42-yard pass to junior receiver Gary Jennings on third down to put the Mountaineers in scoring position in the first quarter.

The Bears defense came up with the red zone stop, forcing a 27-yard field goal from senior kicker Mike Molina as the Mountaineers took a 3-0 lead with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Mountaineers extended their lead on a 35-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Will Grier to junior receiver David Sills to make it a 10-0 game after one quarter.

Baylor got on the board with a 23-yard field goal from Baylor sophomore kicker Conner Martin to make it a 10-3 game with 11 minutes remaining in the half.

After a sack got the ball back to the Bears, Smith found Ebner for 24-yard gain and then connected with Mims for a 45-yard completion to place the Bears at the 25-yard line, setting up a 42-yard field goal to cut the lead to 10-6 with four minutes left in the first half.

The Mountaineers made one final push up the field with one minute remaining as Grier found Sills once again on a 16-yard touchdown pass to put West Virginia up 17-6.

On the first play of the second half, Grier and Sills connected for their third touchdown of the night, this time from 53-yards out to push the Mountaineer lead to 24-6.

The Baylor crowd came back to life on a 56-yard pass from Smith to freshman receiver Gavin Holmes followed by a 7-yard touchdown run from freshman running back John Lovett to cut the lead to 24-13 with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.

West Virginia sophomore receiver Marcus Simms caught a pass from Grier and broke a tackle en route to a 40-yard touchdown to put the Mountaineers up 31-13 with six minutes left in the third quarter.

Grier continued to find his receivers deep, this time tossing a 51-yard pass to Jennings followed by a six yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Ka’Raun White to make it a 38-13 game near the end of the third quarter.

To start the fourth quarter, Brewer found Ebner for a 52-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 38-20.

Baylor freshman kicker Jay Sedwick successfully performed an onside kick to give the Bears a second straight possession starting at the 50-yard line.

Moments later, Ebner broke free for a 40-yard rushing touchdown to make it a 38-27 game with 14 minutes remaining in the game.

Brewer led the Bears down the field once again, converting on a crucial fourth-and-three at midfield to continue a drive that ended in a 23-yard field goal from Martin to cut the lead to 38-30 with six minutes left.

After another stop by the Baylor defense, Ebner scored his third consecutive touchdown for the Baylor offense, catching a 9-yard pass from Brewer with 17 seconds left.

Brewer scrambled right on the two-point conversion, looking for a receiver, but was sacked. The Mountaineers then recovered the onside kick with 17 seconds left to seal the 38-36 win for West Virginia.

Brewer said the Bears came together as a team to mount the comeback and the offensive line was a major part of the offensive success in the fourth quarter.

“I mean, we just kind of all got together, and you know, said let’s come back,” Brewer said. “It starts with the offensive line. They battled all night. They really put us in the position where we were.“

Mims put together his third 100-plus yard receiving game of the season with 132 yards in the loss.

The Bears face Texas at 11 a.m. on Oct. 28 in McLane Stadium.