By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
No. 7 Baylor had no other option than to throw its third-string quarterback into the belly of the beast during Saturday’s 30-23 loss to No. 6 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game.
With junior starting QB Charlie Brewer in the concussion protocol and redshirt freshman quarterback Gerry Bohanon pulled after the third quarter due to discomfort in his knee, Baylor’s hopes fell on true freshman Jacob Zeno to finish the game for the Bears.
With Zeno having only thrown three passes all season prior to the rematch against the Sooners, head coach Matt Rhule didn’t know what would happen if he entered the young QB into such a high pressured situation, but said that’s what the game came to.
“I couldn’t sit here and tell you I thought he could [handle that pressure],” Rhule said. “I have confidence in him. We were down, Gerry was hurting all week, and he was trying to gut it out … We said, ‘Let’s turn to Zeno,’ and he had three, four throws last week — maybe had three or four in his career — and we turned to him and he certainly hit some big plays and it was more of a function of that’s where we were at.”
But Baylor has been all about that “next man up” mentality all season long. Even though he was not expecting to play, Zeno said he had to do whatever he could to help his teammates.
“My number got called and you know I had to step up,” Zeno said. “I had to be there for my teammates…I really didn’t wrap my mind around it. I’ll just go out there and just have fun playing football.”
Zeno was sacked during his first play in but immediately got up and hit junior running back Tresten Ebner with an 81-yard touchdown pass to cut Oklahoma’s lead down to three points. The freshman followed it up with a 78-yard pass to senior wide receiver Chris Platt to put the Bears within the OU 20 and set up a John Mayers field goal to tie the game at 23-23 and force an overtime.
Oklahoma, however, was victorious in the end.
Despite the loss, Rhule was still proud of his backup quarterbacks for the fight they put up against the Sooners.
“Really proud of Gerry, went in for Charlie, scored twice in the first half,” Rhule said. “That knee from last week really was bothering him, so we turned to Zeno and for a guy that was running the scout team, was Jalen Hurts all week for the scout team and I thought he did a great job — he got in there for a big play and gave us a chance to go to overtime.”
As for his starting quarterback, the third-year coach said that referee Matt Defee asked him to have Brewer looked at in the second quarter. The official was concerned after Brewer took a hard hit from OU cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles and was sacked by linebacker Kenneth Murray. The trainers took Brewer to be checked by a doctor and the junior was ruled out of the game.
“I’m sad that Charlie — obviously sad that he’s hurt but sad that he didn’t get a chance to play,” Rhule said. “He’s one of the main reasons why we’re here and I would have loved to give him the opportunity to play that game.”
The Bears are guaranteed one more game this season and will find out Sunday afternoon which bowl matchup they will have to prepare for during the College Football Playoff selection show. The four playoff berths will be announced at 12:15 p.m. and each of the New Year’s Six bowls will be revealed at 3 p.m followed by the rest of the bowl slate.