By Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
Chalk it up as an 11-win regular season and a share, at least, of the Big 12 regular-season title for No. 9 Baylor as the Bears charged into Lawrence, Kan. and dominated the Jayhawks 61-6.
Matt Rhule’s 11-1 record in year three juxtaposes the Bears’ 1-11 mark just two seasons ago. With the win, Baylor becomes the first Power 5 program ever to go from 1-11 to 11-1 in the span of two years. Rhule also remains an undefeated 3-0 against the Jayhawks and spoils Les Miles’ first Senior Day, dropping to 3-9 overall and 1-8 in Big 12 play.
Baylor’s 8-1 finish in conference clinches a piece of the Big 12 regular-season championship crown for the first time since sharing the honor with TCU in 2014.
The title was secured in emphatic fashion with a combined score of 85 to 16 during the final two weeks of the season in blowout wins over Texas and Kansas.
As for sharing the championship, the Bears will have an outright claim to the trophy if No. 21 Oklahoma St. upsets No. 7 Oklahoma Saturday night in Bedlam.
The Bears were dominant on all sides of the ball Saturday with 506 total yards and six turnovers forced. They also tied a school record of 40 sacks this season with two takedowns on the day.
Junior quarterback Charlie Brewer finished 13 for 25 with 182 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Ten Bears carried the football with senior running back JaMycal Hasty leading the team with 92 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on just 14 attempts. In all, sophomore running back Trestan Ebner, freshmen QBs Gerry Bohanon and Jacob Zeno, freshman running back Qualan Jones and Hasty each recorded a touchdown on the ground.
With Baylor’s offense totaling 61 points, 243 passing yards, 263 rushing yards and a perfect 9-9 mark in the red zone, the Bears were able to play loosely and freely on the defensive side of the ball.
With constant pressure on Jayhawk quarterbacks Carter Stanley and Manny Miles, the Baylor secondary had a field day with Henry Black, Grayland Arnold, Blake Lynch and Zeke Brown each stealing an interception.
While turnovers were trouble for Kansas through the air, the Jayhawks also muffed two first-half punts, recovered by Ross Matiscik and J. T. Woods, which helped Baylor accumulate 24 points off of turnovers. Combining the myriad of turnovers with a total of just 280 yards, Kansas finished with six total points on a single touchdown.
Senior Day went exactly as planned for Kansas. That is until freshman kicker Noah Rauschenberg’s right food made contact with a football at 3:35 p.m.
The opening drive for the Jayhawks started well. Kansas drove all the way to the Baylor 23 before a Brayvion Roy sack on third and seven left Stanley’s offense with a fourth-and-11 from the 27. Electing to go for it, Stanley’s pass fell idle and Baylor’s offense took off from there.
On the first play from scrimmage, junior running back John Lovett scampered 30 yards to the Kansas 43 to set up a 12-yard completion to sophomore wide receiver Josh Fleeks. Brewer then connected with senior wide receiver Denzell Mims for a 25-yard gain to set up first-and-goal from the six and solidify first downs on each of the first three plays. Bohanon entered the game and took the ensuing snap into the endzone to help Baylor to a 7-0 lead after the PAT from redshirt freshman kicker John Mayers. The drive totaled 73 yards on four plays in 1:29.
Kansas’ ensuing drive ended in a three-and-out with a dismal punt that gave Brewer and company the ball at the Baylor 49. Brewer, throwing with the wind, launched a 51-yard bomb on first down that connected with sophomore WR Tyquan Thornton for his fourth score of the year. The drive took one play and nine-seconds, Baylor led 14-0.
With another Kansas three-and-out, Baylor took the ball at their own 25-yard line and marched into the red zone yet again. With the clock waning in the first quarter, Hasty capped off a 10 play, 75-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown on the ground to give the Bears a 21-0 lead after the PAT going into the second quarter.
The Jayhawks elected to go for it on fourth and one from their own 34 on the ensuing possession with sophomore linebacker Terrel Bernard stuffing running back Pooka Williams, Jr. for no gain to afford Baylor the ball at the Kansas 34 with 14:18 remaining in the second quarter.
Bohanon led the majority of the drive for the Bears, before suffering a minor injury during a run on first-and-goal from the five. Brewer re-entered the game and couldn’t connect on two jump balls to Denzell Mims, leading to a Mayers 23-yard field goal to extend the lead to 24-0.
Another Kansas three-and-out gave Baylor possession deep in its own territory. The Bears struggled to move the football, but a muffed Isaac Power punt gave the ball back to Baylor after senior linebacker/snapper Ross Matiscik recovered the ball at the Kansas 30. Ebner carried all 30 yards on two rushes to put Baylor up 31-0 on a drive that lasted just 42 seconds.
Baylor closed out the first half up 34-0 with 315 total yards on 128 rushing and 187 passing. With Gerry Bohanon healthy, Brewer would not return in the second half, and many Bear starters saw their day end at the intermission.
After eventually accruing a 48-0 lead, Baylor surrendered an 11-yard passing touchdown from Manny Miles, son of Les Miles, to Andrew Parchment. Miles would elect to attempt a two-point conversion, but a quarterback scramble came up short.
The Bears would respond with two more touchdowns on rushes from Jones and Zeno to reach the final score of 61-6.
With the win, Baylor further solidified their case for an appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game or the College Football Playoff. Much of the Bears’ postseason placing will be determined by their performance against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game at AT&T Stadium in Dallas next Saturday.