By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
It was a tale of two games Saturday at McLane Stadium as No. 18 Baylor hosted Texas Tech for Homecoming, defeating the Red Raiders in their first trip to the banks of the Brazos 33-30 in a double overtime battle.
Rather than a shootout, the first half was a defensive standoff with very little offensive production from either team. It wasn’t until the second half that the tides changed and the contest became a “shootout in every sense of the word.”
“I’ll say this. I said to Matt [Wells] at the end of the game, ‘I hate for you that you had to lose this game because they played so hard’,” Bears head coach Matt Rhule said in his postgame press conference. “He said to me, ‘You know what, it’s two teams out there spilling their guts.’That’s what it was.”
The defensive line continued to dominate recording a total of 83 tackles, 11 of them for a loss of 38 yards and two interceptions for a loss of 24. And while the Red Raiders had only allowed four sacks on the year, Baylor’s defense managed to get to Tech junior quarterback Jett Duffey five times on the day.
In the 2018 season, the Bears’ D-line recorded 25 sacks. Going into the fourth quarter the Bears had a Big 12-leading 23 sacks and they still have six conference games left to play.
Coming off a record setting three-sack game against Kansas State last weekend, junior defensive tackle James Lynch led the Bears with 2.5 sacks for 17 yards. According to the Round Rock native, keeping Duffey from making plays was imperative.
“I feel like we just came in and we knew we had to affect the quarterback because the quarterback is a good player,” Lynch said. “He was going to try to run around and make plays, and we made sure we did our part and just brand our defense in. And we knew it was going to work.”
In the first quarter alone Duffey was sacked three times. On the very first play Lynch brought down the Red Raider QB for a loss of 9 yards. Four drives later on second-and-1, this time with the help of sophomore linebacker Terrel Bernard, Lynch put Duffey down at Tech’s 45-yard line.
To end the quarter and limit TTU to a field goal, senior linebacker Blake Lynch and transfer defensive end Naidré Zouzoua combined to make the third sack.Senior defensive end James Lockhart and James Lynch got two more solo sacks in the third quarter.
Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells attributed Baylor’s defensive success to the veterans on the team.
“They have eight seniors on that defense […] They are big and strong and that’s what I would like to ours to at some point,” Wells said.
Baylor’s D-line found other ways to disrupt Tech’s offense as well. For the second consecutive home game Jordan Williams recorded an interception. The Bears had just lost the ball through an interception by TTU senior defensive back Douglas Coleman to begin the second quarter, but Williams stole a pass intended for sophomore wide receiver Dalton Rigdon out of the air and took off until he was tackled at the TTU 40-yard line. The Bears proceeded to tie the game up with a field goal.
“Coach [Joey] McGuire preaches all the time, that we need turnovers and we got to make them happen. And he said the night before the game, if we get three, it’s going to be really hard for them to win. We almost got three today,” Williams said.
Senior linebacker Clay Johnston completed his first interception of the season, only the second of his career, on the tipoff by Williams in the fourth quarter. Johnston, who has become a staple for the defense, led the team with 10 tackles, eight of them unassisted, but had to miss the rest of the game due to a knee injury he suffered during the interception play.
But Texas Tech was not going to make it easy for Baylor. The Red Raiders found their own way to unsettle Bears junior quarterback Charlie Brewer. Before Saturday, Brewer had yet to throw an interception, one of only four QBs in the country to keep his passing game clean, but Tech managed to pressure three turnovers out of the Austin native. He was also sacked twice in the second half, first by senior defensive lineman Broderick Washington and then by junior defensive back Eli Howard.
“We knew he was banged up coming into it and we kind of wanted to rattle him a little bit,” Howard said. “I think that’s kind of what we did early. I think we kind of got in his face, made him a little uncomfortable, got him off hi spot, you know. And thankfully we had those turned into some interceptions. They really didn’t turn into sacks.”
But the Red Raiders had thrown Brewer off enough that they led 6-3 at halftime. Rhule knew it was time to make some adjustments.
“I take pride in the way we play,” Rhule said. “When we’re not playing the way we are capable of playing… I went in at halftime, said, ‘Let’s get back to the basics, boys. Everybody go out there, play hard, do your job.’ Boom, the kickoff return. I thought we were rolling from there.”
The Bears were indeed rolling in the third quarter. Sophomore wide receiver Josh Fleeks caught the return kick at Baylor’s 4-yard line and ran it all the way back to Tech’s 60-yard line before being pushed out of bounds. That sparked back-to-back touchdown drives for the Bears, both on short rushes by Brewer who scrambled for three of Baylor’s four touchdowns.
But the Red Raiders matched the Bears blow for blow going on a five play drive for 36 yards to take a three-point lead before Brewer’s second TD.
The score read 17-13 in favor of the Bears going into the final 15 minutes of regulation. And on its second drive of the quarter, Tech took a touchdown lead 20-17. The Bears were down by a field goal, just like they were two weeks ago against Iowa State.
But just like he did against the Cyclones, Brewer once again gave his team reason to trust him by orchestrating a nine play, 88-yard scoring drive to send the game to overtime.
Brewer showed off that he’s more than just a rushing threat by connecting with three different wide receivers during the drive. Wells credited Brewer’s coaching among the things that make him a successful QB.
“The guy has moxie,” Wells said. “He was coached very well in high school. I have a lot of respect for his high school coaches. He has poise, patience, sits in the pocket and then if you don’t have a contained rush; we had a spy on him for a little bit of the game, sometimes the spy got caught up, but the guy is elusive, throws it well on the run once he gets out of the pocket.”
The teams traded scores in the first overtime, the game tied at 27-27. Then Baylor limited Tech to a field goal in the second overtime. Starting the last drive of the game at the TTU 25-yard line, junior running back John Lovett took the handoff up two yards on the rush, then Brewer completed an 18-yard pass to senior running back JaMycal Hasty for a first down. Hasty rushed in the last five yards to give Baylor the 33-30 victory.
With a 6-0 record to start the season, the Bears are now bowl eligible for the second year in a row and second time under Matt Rhule. The head coach said it was an honor for his team to be bowl eligible at this point in the year but that it’s only half the goal.
“We want to be bowl champions. We go into bowl games to win,” Rhule said.
No. 18 Baylor faces Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. next Saturday. The game will be broadcast by Fox.