Bears suffer tense loss to UT on the road

By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter

In just its third game of the season, and first since being shut down due to a COVID-19 outbreak, Baylor football struggled through three quarters in an ugly 27-16 loss to the Texas Longhorns Saturday at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin.

Although the Bears started fairly sharp in the first quarter, they weren’t able to keep Texas from making big plays in the first half. Despite the adversity Baylor went through on the field, head coach Dave Aranda said the sideline kept a level head and he saw a lot of positives that his team can build on.

“The collective offense and defense, and the players playing off each other, I think this game is an illustration of where it’s at,” Aranda said. “So we have a lot of work to be done there. The ability to put it into our players’ hands where they can play fast, those types of situations will allow us to get better and improve from this game to the next.”

Baylor looked to rally in the third quarter, finally finding the end zone with two touchdown passes from senior quarterback Charlie Brewer to sophomore wideout Gavin Holmes and senior running back John Lovett. But the Bears were unable to complete the comeback.

Brewer threw 30 passes on 43 attempts, accounting for 256 of Baylor’s 316 offensive yards. Brewer connected with Holmes for nine of those completions on 57 yards, one of which was a touchdown.

“That was a big moment for me,” Holmes said. “Just getting back and being able to help my teammates, just knowing that that helped us get back in the game a little bit, that was fun.”

Lovett led Baylor in rushing with 21 yards on four attempts. Texas running back Keaontay Ingram led all rushers with 57 yards on 16 attempts. Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger was responsible for 270 of UT’s 429 offensive yards with 15 completions through the air on 23 attempts.

Holmes said Texas surprised Baylor with coverage it didn’t expect, but that the Bears started playing more freely later in the game.

“I felt like at the beginning, they kind of switched up their defense a little bit and threw a couple of things at us. But, I feel like we adjusted pretty well in the second half,” Holmes said. “I feel like in the second half, we just came out and just started letting it rip and playing no-holds-barred football. I feel like going forward, that’s what we need to do from the beginning, just play with nothing holding us back.”

After starting the game with a six play, 30-yard scoreless drive, Baylor’s defense held the Longhorns to a three-and-out early in the first quarter. Texas punter Ryan Bujcevski struggled with his execution, sending the ball just 20-yards from the UT36 on his first punt. The Bears were held to just three plays on their next drive as well.

Baylor’s defense was able to keep the Horns out of scoring position once more, bringing Brewer and the offense back out, this time to put points on the board. Back-to-back first downs on a Lovett run and a 13-yards pass from Brewer to junior wide receiver RJ Sneed took Baylor past the 50. Another 5-yard run by Lovett and a 9-yard toss to junior wideout Josh Fleeks gave the Bears another first down.

Brewer once again converted on third-down two plays later and put the Bears in the red zone with an 11-yard pass to senior running back Trestan Ebner. The Bears QB tried to battle through in back-to-back rushing attempts to no avail, so Baylor settled for the field goal.

Texas, trying to establish an early run game, finished the first quarter just 37 yards, to Baylor’s 87. Ehlinger had -1 passing yards in the first 15 as compared to Brewer’s 67.

But the Horns would pick up momentum in the second quarter, going on an 11 play, 52 yard scoring drive that ended in a Cameron Dicker field goal to tie the game 3-3.

It seemed like the Bears would retaliate when Brewer launched a 20-yarder to Sneed to begin the following drive. Then a penalty on Texas’ Jalen Green gave Baylor an additional 15 yards. Brewer kept Sneed busy with a 12-yard pass that took the Bears UT 28. But after back-to-back failed rushing attempts and an incomplete pass, Baylor decided to punt.

From the 30-yard line. The Texas 30-yard line.

Aranda said that following the game with West Virginia, the team tried to figure out which game decisions would give them the best opportunities in terms of field position for the defense to come out and pin Texas’s offense down.

“That was kind of a gut call by me, again, have our defense kind of pin them down and play the field position game,” Aranda said of the punt. “At that point it felt like a field-position game. So we were trying to execute that.”

The Longhorns doubled their lead with another Dicker FG on a nine play, 75 yard drive that started off with a sack of Ehlinger by transfer linebacker William Bradley King. Texas overcame second-and-22 with a 72-yard pass to Tarik Black.

Texas found the end zone first with a big pass from Ehlinger to Joshua Moore for a first-and-goal, followed by a 4-yard QB keeper and a 3-yard toss to Moore for the touchdown.

With 1:53 to go in the first half, Brewer flicked a 12-yard pass to Fleeks to start Baylor’s last offensive attempt of the half, and followed it with an 8-yard run. But two back-to-back incomplete passes to junior wide receiver Tyquan Thornton brought sophomore Isaac Power out to punt.

In a moment of confusion, the officials called for a review of Brewer’s pass, saying it had been ruled a “touchdown.” After a lengthy review, it was indeed an incomplete pass.

Texas wasted no time to start the second half, with Ehlinger bulling through for a 1-yard touchdown after marching 75 yards on 12 plays.

Baylor couldn’t get anything going in the third quarter. The Bears had an opportunity to add points to the board but a missed 43-yard field goal by John Mayers kept the deficit at 20-3. Ehlinger led Texas on another long drive to extend the UT lead to 27-3, skipping over the Bears’ defense on a 9-yard rush into the orange.

Brewer ended the third quarter with a 13-yard toss to Holmes and continued the drive with a 13-yarder to Fleeks and another 14-yard pass to Holmes. The Bears then overcame first-and-15 on an illegal formation penalty for Brewer to add an 11-yard completion to Ebner and a 21-yard laser to sophomore tight end Ben Sims. After attempting to rush it in, Brewer connected with Lovett for Baylor’s first touchdown of the day.

The Bears picked up momentum as junior safety JT Woods picked up the interception to end the Horns’ next drive. Baylor capitalized with a five play, 25-yard touchdown drive, with Brewer finding Holmes in the right corner of the goal line. The deficit was then 11 points with just over seven minutes left on the clock. But that would be it for Baylor as its next drive fell short, with the Texas defense holding the Bears to their own 25.

Woods said the Bears knew they had to get a turnover to shift the momentum in their favor.

“We were really stressing another turnover,” Woods said. “We were talking about it on the sideline, getting a turnover and letting the offense get into the end zone. Luckily he threw it right to me.”

The Longhorns ran the clock to seal their win and gathered in front of the student section for the playing of the “Eyes of Texas.” The majority of the players did not raise their hands up in the usual “horns-up” sign.

Baylor returns home to face upstate rival TCU next Saturday at McLane Stadium. Aranda said that while there are a lot of things Baylor will have to work on this week, facing the kind of pressure the Longhorns placed on them will allow his team to learn more about itself.

“I think the ability to struggle initially and not let emotion take over, and find out what’s the problem, what can we do to get better … to work through that in kind of a logical manner and apply it and see some success, I think that speaks well for the future,” Aranda said. “You would not like to have to get punched in the face to have to go through all that. We’ll try our best to get a faster start. I’m proud of how the guys worked through it, both players and coaches.”