By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer, Video by Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
No. 12 Baylor football overcame three turnovers and allowing eight sacks to hold on to a 17-14 win over West Virginia Halloween night at McLane Stadium. The win kept the Bears unbeaten and on top of the Big 12 with an 8-0 record thanks to a strong defensive effort against the Mountaineers.
Baylor only allowed 14 yards rushing and 219 total yards, 83 of those coming in a long touchdown pass to senior transfer wide receiver George Campbell that tied the score at 7-7 in the third quarter.
Although the defense made a statement by shutting down the Mountaineers offense, sophomore linebacker Terrel Bernard, who led the Bears with ten tackles and a sack, didn’t feel it was enough, early in the matchup.
“I think especially the 2017 season, but also the 2018 season, gave us a little bit of perspective,” Bernard said. “Some people lose focus of that too, but we also look at how we play football, and some first part of the game, we didn’t play how we wanted to play. […] And I think the film will show some of the game we didn’t play as well as we could have.”
Campbell’s touchdown marked the first of two comebacks by the Mountaineers, following a pair of touchdown passes by junior quarterback Charlie Brewer.
The first Baylor scoring drive was an eight play, 4:13 drive that began on their own 14 yard line. With the help of senior wide receiver Denzel Mims, senior running back JaMycal Hasty and sophomore receiver R.J. Sneed, the Bears found themselves in opponent territory for the first time.
After Brewer found sophomore wide receiver Tyquan Thornton in a middle slant for 26 yards the team was then set up in the red-zone. Two plays later, Baylor found points. Alone in the upper left end zone, Sneed caught a 13-yard scoring pass on the last play of the first quarter to give Baylor a 7-0 lead.
The offense continued to stall for both teams.
At the end of the first half, the Bears had another redzone opportunity before the Mountaineers defense stood up — holding the Baylor offense scoreless after the Bears had three attempts for a touchdown on the one-yard line.
Head coach Matt Rhule praised the impressive West Virginia stand.
“You don’t get in from the six-inch line, you don’t deserve to score,” Rhule said. “We did three different things. Probably was a little stubborn, but the players were all saying let’s run it and we ran it and they made the play and we didn’t, and congratulations to them.”
Yet, the lack of offensive production disappointed Brewer.
“We, you know, played pretty bad offensively. And you know, that starts with me,” Brewer said. “I got to make sure we’re ready to go and put us in good situations.”
Brewer was able to put them in a good situation, his second touchdown coming in the 3rd quarter, with a 21-yard pass and run over the middle to Denzel Mims to put Baylor on top 14-7.
But on the ensuing kickoff, freshman wide receiver Winston Wright Jr. tied the score again racing 95-yards for a touchdown for the visitors.
That didn’t worry Rhule though, as he said the team is learning that “it’s okay to just play defense” and that if the offense is not clicking, “it doesn’t matter, keep playing defense.”
This led to a fourth quarter shutout. And also marked the game-winning 13-play drive where the Austin-native quarterback led the Bears, and powered his way to one first down near midfield, then scrambling for 12 yards to get his team in position for freshman kicker John Mayers’ 36-yard field goal, which put Baylor on top 17-14 with 10:19 to play.
Later, with a little over four minutes remaining, Baylor’s special teams came up with a big play. After WVU freshman kicker Kacey Legg’s 43-yard field goal was negated by a delay of game penalty, the Bears blocked his next attempt from 48-yards.
The offense then kept the ball until the final 38 seconds to ice the game and give Matt Rhule his 40th straight win when leading or tied going into the fourth quarter. The 17-14 victory broke a three-game losing streak against the Mountaineers and kept the Bears record unblemished.
Now the schedule gets really tough. Baylor faces TCU in Fort Worth Nov. 9 then hosts Oklahoma and Texas in back-to-back home games.