Bears fall short in Austin in defensive showdown with Longhorns

Story by Adam Gibson | Sports Writer, Video by Noah Torr | Broadcast Reporter

AUSTIN –– Since 2014, Baylor football hasn’t found a way to defeat the University of Texas, and that continued today for the (4-3, 2-2) Bears who, with seconds left on the clock were unable to score after multiple attempts, lost 23-17 to the No. 9-ranked Longhorns Saturday in Austin.

After the loss, head coach Matt Rhule said failing to pull off the last-minute win took a toll on the players and the opportunities were there for the team to take the lead.

“Kids are beat up emotionally right now,” Rhule said. “They put a lot into that game. I think the biggest thing is they recognize they were good enough to win it. They recognize they were good enough. I tell them you’re going to be there in the fourth quarter. I think they believed it. We had our chances. Just weren’t able to do it. I think they looked at it and saw the amount of times just self-inflicted wounds … For our defense to shut them out in the second half was just an amazing step forward.”

The Baylor defense, after giving up 23 points in the first half, managed to hold the Texas offense to no points in the second half, giving the Baylor offense a chance to fight its way back into the game after being down 23-10 at halftime. Junior defensive end Blake Lynch had 10 total tackles on the day with one being a tackle for loss. Lynch said the defense found its rhythm after the first half that put them into the position of holding Texas to a shut out in the second half.

“We really just settled down and started playing better football, playing better defense and doing what we’re supposed to do,” Lynch said. “When we did what we were supposed to do, I feel like we were clicking on all cylinders.”

Rhule said while the defense played well today, there were several times it could have shut down the Texas offense, but certain players did show up and have a great day.

“We weren’t able to really hit the quarterback,” Rhule said. “We hit him once or twice. They did a nice job keeping some drives alive. We played a lot of base defense today. We didn’t pressure, didn’t do a ton … Feel like we matched up well with this football team. Our linebackers looked from the field like they probably played their best game.”

Sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer finished the day completing 20 of his 39 passing attempts, for 240 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also led the team in rushing, which was a difficult part of the game for the Bears to get anything done in, as he lead the rushers with 22 yards. Brewer lead the Bears down the field on the final drive of the game, starting from their own three with 1:47 left in the game, to the Texas 17-yard line, where two incomplete passes to the end zone closed out the game. Brewer said with the game being so close, the Bears should have closed out the win with the chance they had at the end and they were “so close,” and need “to find a way to finish.”

This week, Baylor struggled with penalties, several of which helped further along Longhorn drives and keep the Longhorn offense moving. With 10 penalties for 92 yards, that makes it harder on the team to get the ball back down the field and score. Senior offensive lineman Blake Blackmar said the penalties were hard on the Bears because it in a way forced them to take a step back and hurt the team.

“The first step of the plan for us every week is don’t beat ourselves,” Blackmar said. “To come in here and make a lot of little mistakes gives them all the more edge and giving them free yards like that is just very frustrating because 99.9 percent of the time it’s all controllable stuff on our part. It’s all things that we should have under control…”

After a first half where junior quarterback Shane Buechele and the Texas offense put up 23 points with a touchdown pass, touchdown run and three field goals, Rhule said the Bears came back out ready to play and, even though the game didn’t end with the result they wanted, the team showed just how talented it can be when everything clicks.

“I thought at halftime we settled down,” Rhule said. “Still a ton of things we gave them. As I told them, they have one more chance to play a top-10 team in West Virginia. But we’re getting better. We’re getting tougher. We’re starting to figure it out. I told them, I said, That’s the good news. Wait till we figure it all the way out. Not many teams are going to be excited to play us because we play kind of a physical brand.”

As Baylor prepares for an off week before heading to Morgantown to face the No. 6-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers at 7 p.m. Oct. 25, Rhule wants fans to know the team has come a long way from the beginning of the season to where they are now. The game against Texas was something that proved this team is one who can compete with the best and the fans saw that today.

“It’s the same message,” Rhule said. “But we’ll look back and say to ourselves, My goodness, if we didn’t do this, this, this, and that … I want the seniors to leave here knowing they helped turn it … I hope everybody that’s a Baylor fan is proud of the way our team played … We’re hurting because we feel like we should have won the football game, but we didn’t.