By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor, Video by Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
No. 13 Baylor football clinched their first Big 12 Championship game berth with a 24-10 victory over Texas Saturday at McLane Stadium.
The last time the Bears defeated the Longhorns at home was in the final game played at Floyd Casey Stadium in December 2013 when they clinched their first Big 12 title.
According to head coach Matt Rhule, the Senior Day win this weekend was two years in the making.
“I just have so much respect for [Texas] — to beat them, I don’t want our guys to let that go by,” Rhule said. “As I said earlier, two years ago it wasn’t a pretty game. Last year was four shots from the 20 and we couldn’t get it. For us to win this year and win that way…This didn’t happen tonight. It happened every morning (of workouts) over the last two years.”
The defense had another stellar afternoon, holding Texas to a field goal at the end of the first half and only giving up one touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter. Junior defensive tackle James Lynch broke the Baylor record for most career sacks with 19, passing Shawn Oakman’s 17.5 on the school list.
“People had been telling me every week, ‘Get one more,’ or whatever,” Lynch said. “I’m not focused on that, I’m more focused on getting a sack to end the drive. Obviously when I got the sack, people congratulated me and all that, and it was awesome, but we needed to finish out the game and close it out. We let them score at the end, so that was kind of frustrating, but as a defense, I’m very happy how we played.”
Lynch took down Longhorns junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger twice for a total loss of 12 yards, with the Bears sacking Ehlinger a total of five times for 23 yards. Junior cornerback Grayland Arnold continued his quest for turnovers with his fifth interception of the season and added six solo tackles.
Sophomore linebacker Terrel Bernard amd senior linebacker Jordan Williams each had eight tackles, five of them solo.
Ehlinger said that Baylor did a good job at taking away the Longhorns’ weapons.
“Hats off to them. They’re flying around, making plays and we didn’t execute,” Ehlinger said.
Junior quarterback Charlie Brewer was responsible for 296 of Baylor’s 391 offensive yards, 221 through the air with one passing touchdown, and one rushing touchdown while leading the Bears’ ground attack with 75 yards. The Austin native, who’s father and grandfather played for the University of Texas, was 16-for-25 in completions and had 18 carries.
For the Longhorns, Ehlinger completed his 11th straight game with at least 200 yards passing, completing 22 of his 37 attempts. The Texas QB finished with 79 rushing yards and led the Horns on the ground with 19 rush attempts. An Austin native as well, Ehlinger has been competing against Brewer for quite some time.
“He’s continuing to play at an exceptionally high level and he has for his whole career so competing against him has been great,” Ehlinger said of Brewer. “What an incredible quarterback as well as friend — my hat’s off to him and his team.”
Brewer left the game four and a half minutes into the fourth quarter after a helmet-to -helmet collision on a 5-yard rush. Redshirt freshman Gerry Bohanon took over for the rest of the game.
Brewer’s one touchdown pass was caught by senior wide receiver Denzel Mims, who completed his fourth 100-plus-yard game with 125 yards on seven receptions. The coaches were unsure the senior would play on Saturday. Mims would not confirm what the issue was but said he worked hard during the week to get back on the field for his last home game.
“I knew that my brothers needed me,” Mims said. “I was at the facility all hours of the day. I’d wake up at six, wouldn’t leave ‘till eight o’clock, just getting treatment, practice…trying to get right.”
Mims now has 177 career receptions and sits sixth on Baylor’s records list, passing Corey Coleman who had 173 catches.
Unlike their last game against Oklahoma, the Bears didn’t start fast offensively. Graduate wide receiver Chris Platt pulled in a 44-yard pass from Brewer on the second play of the game, but fumbled it at the UT 20-yard line. The fumble was recovered by Texas defensive back Chris Brown to start the Longhorns first drive of the game. But Baylor put the stop on the drive, completing a first quarter shutout for the 10th time in the last 11 games.
Junior running back John Lovett put the Bears on the board with a 28-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter. He cut behind right tackle Blake Bedier, who cleared Lovett’s path with a textbook block of two Texas defenders, screening several others out of play. Lovett then bulled over another defender and into the end zone.
Ehlinger was sacked three times in the second quarter. Williams and senior defensive end James Lockhart put an end to Texas’ first drive of the quarter, combining for a 2-yard takedown of the Texas QB, and then senior linebacker Ross Matiscik completed his first career sack to end the Longhorns’ next drive. Bernard got the third one on the following drive.
But just before they could complete a first half shutout, the Bears gave up a 68-yard run to Texas running back Keaontay Ingram, which set up a 48-yard field goal for the Longhorns to end the second quarter.
Baylor learned from its loss to the Sooners last week and held Texas scoreless through the third quarter while adding to their lead.
Brewer made it 14-3 with a 1-yard rush, taking a few strides before hopping onto the back of sophomore OL Khalil Keith for the touchdown. On the next Baylor drive, Mims snagged a SportsCenter-worthy catch on a 16-yard pass from Brewer and then collected a 12-yard pass four plays later for a touchdown, hiking the lead to 21-3.
Freshman kicker John Mayers added a little bit of security with a 24-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
The Bears were close to shutting out Texas in the second half, but Ehlinger put his feet to work, engineering a five play drive with 43 seconds left in the game, ending with a 4-yard dash by Daniel Young into the end zone for the Longhorns’ only TD.
Now 4-4 in conference, Texas returns to Austin to host its own Senior Night against Texas Tech next week. UT head coach Tom Herman wished Baylor luck in the championship during his opening statement.
“They’ve got a special season going,” Herman said. “You can tell there’s a lot of chemistry on that team.”
While the Bears will celebrate this victory and look forward to their rematch against Oklahoma in two weeks, Rhule said the team will focus on going 1-0 against Kansas next Saturday.
“I had the seniors take a lap around the field,” Rhule said. “I wanted them to remember that. I wanted them to remember they won not just on Senior Day, but the way they played the game…as I said, this game, this win, two years in the making, two years of process, two years of one day at a time, two years of grind. Doesn’t mean we relax. Next two years have to be even better, grind even more.”