By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
Another defensive battle, another slow offensive game. In the end, the then No. 12 Baylor football team still managed to scrape out a 17-14 win in a strange Halloween game against West Virginia.
On a night when the offensive line and special teams played under the standard set by head coach Matt Rhule, Baylor’s defense continued to be elite, especially in the fourth quarter.
“They are a tough, resilient group,” Rhule said. “We are still learning that it’s okay just to play defense and not worry; if the offense is not clicking, it doesn’t matter, keep playing defense. Had a fourth quarter shutout which is important to us.”
For the first time in seven games, the Bears did not give up any points in the final quarter and held the Mountaineers to just 14 net rushing yards and 219 total offensive yards. Taking the lead on a field goal by freshman kicker John Mayers early in the final quarter, Baylor had to keep West Virginia from sparking an offensive drive late in the game when sophomore wide receiver RJ Sneed muffed a punt, turning the ball over.
But the Mountaineers weren’t able to take advantage of the miscue. Backup kicker Casey Legg hit a 43-yard field goal that would have tied the score had the Mountaineers not been flagged for a delay of game prior to the snap. After the five-yard penalty, senior defensive tackle Bravvion Roy blocked Legg’s 48-yard attempt. The block was Baylor’s fifth of the year and ninth in the last 13 games.
Senior linebacker Jordan Williams said the defensive line can “bend but never break.”
“We’re not giving up anything in the red zone. And it’s the fourth quarter so we got to get a fourth quarter shutout,” Williams said. “So, we’re going to hold them to whatever it may be. And we know they need the field goal, and they weren’t going to put it in on us.”
The only plays that the Mountaineers were able to get past Baylor were an 83-yard touchdown pass to to start the second half and a 95-yard kickoff return by freshman wide receiver Winston Wright to tie it up 14-14 at the end of the third quarter. But in the end, West Virginia ran out of time and chances, starting its final drive at the 5-yard line with a little over half a minute on the clock and were held at the 39 to end the game.
Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown said he hurt for his team after they “laid it all out” in search of the upset, but the Bears just believed in themselves more to grind out the win.
“Here’s what I think,” Brown said. “They are undefeated. They are in year three of a really good turn around. I don’t think their kids ever lost faith. They have a lot of confidence in their ability. I think it goes back to their quarterback because he’s a tough kid and he competes.”
Junior QB Charlie Brewer had to be tough on Thursday night after being sacked eight times for a loss of 50 yards. Three of those sacks were completed by WVU junior defensive lineman Darius Stills for a loss of 11. But despite being taken down time after time, Brewer passed for 277 yards and two touchdowns. The Austin native said that when it comes to “crunch time” he’ll put his body on the line for his teammates.
West Virginia’s defense proved almost as resilient as Baylor’s with its biggest stop of the night coming at the end of the second quarter, keeping the Bears from pushing through to the end zone on three attmpts. At that point Rhule said his team didn’t deserve to get the score.
“You don’t get in from the six-inch line, you don’t deserve to score,” Rhule said. “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.”
Even though the Bears have a lot to work on before they head up the road to face TCU on Saturday, Rhule still wants his team to enjoy the feeling of being undefeated while still remaining focused on their goal of improving each week.
After struggling through a season that saw Baylor lose all but one game in 2017 and then becoming bowl eligible in 2018, Rhule quoted Rudyard Kipling saying he wants his players to treat “triumph and disaster” just the same.
“At the end of the day only you know you gave all you had out there … So if I put everything on the line and they ran that last play back for a touchdown, I can live with myself and if we won and I didn’t put it all in it, I’m a fraud,” Rhule said. “Just trying to get our guys to understand, hey, analyze it and enjoy the win. Go enjoy the win and I’ll see you on Sunday.”
Rhule and his newly minted No. 10 (coaches poll) Bears will head up to Fort Worth for an 11 a.m. matchup Saturday to face a Horned Frog team that has had Baylor’s number.