By Bailey Brammer | Editor-in-Chief, Video by Elisabeth Tharp | Broadcast Reporter
Baylor football fell to No. 23 West Virginia University 38-36 Saturday at McLane Stadium during its homecoming game.
Despite the loss, the Bears (0-7, 0-4) came back from a 25-point deficit at the end of the third quarter to give the Mountaineers (5-2, 3-1) a challenge in the fourth quarter. Baylor had an opportunity to tie the game at 38 and send it into overtime, but a failed two-point conversion ended the Bears’ hopes for their first win.
Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said that while he was impressed with his team’s performance in the fourth quarter, their efforts were ultimately too late to secure a win.
“We, unfortunately, let the game get too far away before mounting that comeback,” Rhule said. “I was proud of their effort, proud of their ability to rally. I was proud of the defense. I think basically having a shutout in the fourth quarter, so a lot of young guys stepped up, a lot of new guys stepped up, and for that, I’m proud of them. We’ll continue to try to work with them.”
Rhule said the switch was because Smith had come down with the stomach flu and wasn’t feeling well prior to the game. He added that Brewer brings the ability to run and move to the game and definitely proved his potential in the fourth quarter.
Freshman running back Trestan Ebner also stepped up against the Mountaineers, recording 163 total yards and three touchdowns, one rushing and two receiving.
Ebner said it was a big deal to have so many freshmen from the same recruiting class perform so well and that the Bears are going to continue to work toward a win.
“We’re just always trying to build this program,” Ebner said. “We’re going to keep going up. We’re going to keep going up the next week, the week after that, off-season, the year after that, the year after that. As long as Coach Rhule’s here, we’re going to keep going up. The man knows what he’s doing, and we’re 100 percent behind him.”
Along with the offense’s 23 points and 13 first downs in the fourth quarter, the defense held West Virginia to zero points and one first down, as well as forcing two punts and recovering an onside kick. Freshman defensive tackle James Lynch had the Bears’ only sack of the night for a loss of 10 yards.
Despite being shut down in the fourth quarter, West Virginia put up 375 total passing yards and 118 rushing yards, along with five touchdown passes by junior quarterback Will Grier.
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said he recognizes Baylor’s attempts at a comeback win because the Mountaineers were in a similar situation last week when they fought back from an 18-point deficit to beat Texas Tech 46-35.
“We know how that feels because it happened a week ago. We were on the positive end of both,” Holgorsen said. “So we got a good comeback, and we prevented a good comeback. So give Coach Rhule credit and Baylor credit for believing. At the end of the third quarter, they weren’t in a very good spot, and they came out in the fourth quarter and played great and scored a lot of points on us.”
Although the Bears struggled in the first half, putting up only a pair of field goals, their strong second-half performance has the team excited to take on the University of Texas on Saturday.
Rhule said he especially wants a win for the seniors who have stuck with the program through all its ups and downs.
“I really hurt for our seniors,” Rhule said. “And I’m proud of them and proud to know them. Hopefully we can send them out on the right note. All I want to see is down the stretch I want to make sure we honor our seniors who are out there fighting with us. Send them off on the right note and continue to build momentum for the guys on the football team where they learn how to win.”
The Bears will face off with the Longhorns at 11 a.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium.