Story by Adam Gibson | Sports Writer, Video by Noah Torr | Broadcast Reporter
One thing Baylor football head coach Matt Rhule has persistently preached since he first arrived to Baylor in the spring of 2017 was to trust the process of rebuilding the football program. Baylor fans are now getting to see that process come alive this season, even after the loss to Texas.
Baylor took to the field at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin on Saturday to face the then-No. 9 ranked Longhorns and lost 23-17. In the loss, the Bears proved to be a physical, tough team that could keep up with top-10 team. This season, Texas has taken out three top-10 ranked teams. The Longhorns are not a team to mess with, and the Bears went into Austin to show they can keep up with the big dogs in the conference. Rhule said the team knew a victory was possible and was within reach, but they fell just short.
“They put a lot into that game. I think the biggest thing is they recognize they were good enough to win it,” Rhule said. “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.”
The Bears’ defense showed up ready to stop the Longhorn offense and help to keep the Baylor offense in the game with a chance to win over the Texas defense. Both teams’ defenses held the other under 400 total yards. Baylor had averaged almost 500 yards of offense on the season and averaged allowing 411 going into Texas. Junior safety Blake Lynch led the team in tackles with 10, increasing drastically from his previous season high of three. Lynch said what the fans saw from the defense is what has been going on during the week in practice and it all came together against Texas.
“The whole defense practices really hard and I think it’s starting to show,” Lynch said. “I think we’re starting to click and we’ve just got to get in the film room, see what we did wrong and get ready for West Virginia.”
The Baylor defense not only held the Longhorns to 23 points and under 400 yards, but also held the explosive Texas offense to no points in the entire second half. The Longhorns owned the whole first half, allowing Baylor 10 points and the first touchdown with 3:08 to go in the first quarter. After a field goal in the second quarter, Baylor could not find a way to score again going into half while Texas drove down the field for two touchdowns and a pair of field goals heading into the locker room. Rhule said even though the team was down 23-10, the feeling was different than other games have been; there was a feeling of hope and by the end of the day and Texas recognized how hard the Bears fought.
“We had a different feel in the locker room at halftime,” Rhule said. “I think our guys knew, I don’t mean this with any disrespect, they’re a really good team, but so are we. One of my players as he walked off, he said to me one of their players said to him, ‘Man, you guys, we haven’t played anybody that plays as hard and physical. I know this hurts, but you guys are a really good football team.’I have said, ‘I’ve been saying that to you’. Don’t wait till after the fact to figure it out.”
Sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer had 240 yards passing for a touchdown and interception, as well as lead the rushers with 22 yards on Saturday. The defense got the offense a final chance to go win the game as Brewer headed out to lead the team from its own three-yard line, 97 yards down the field. After two incomplete passes to the end zone and the clock expiring, Brewer said he was “disappointed.”
Even though Brewer and the offense drove down the field to the Texas 17-yard line to give Baylor fans hope, they fell just short. Despite it being a heart-breaking loss, what fans did see is how far the team has come from a year ago, where they lost at home 38-7 to the Longhorns. The process is showing just how great the Bears can be and, after seeing players so hurt by the loss, Rhule said the team is realizing its talent and the potential it has.
“If they keep doing what we ask them to do, we’ll be a really good team,” Rhule said. “We were a really good team today for a lot of the game. Not all the game, but we were an okay at times, but a really good team for a lot of the game … First time since I’ve been here, I saw tears in guys’ eyes. I saw older guys telling people they were hurting. That’s a step in the right direction.”