By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor, Video by Braden Murray | Broadcast Reporter
Baylor football (1-0) kicked off their season Saturday night with a close 29-20 win over Texas State (0-1) in San Marcos. Baylor’s new offensive identity was in full display as the Bears ran the ball 45 times for a total of 238 yards. Senior running backs Trestan Ebner and Abram Smith both rushed for over 100 yards, marking the first time Baylor has had multiple 100-yard rushers since the 2018 season opener vs. Abilene Christian University when the running back duo of John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty did the same.
“I am proud of our identity on offense,” Baylor football head coach Dave Aranda said. “You can get a feel of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Baylor had its fair share of ups and downs on both sides of the ball. The defense looked strong, constantly getting pressure in the backfield causing Texas State’s sophomore quarterback Brady McBride to leave the pocket and coming up with three interceptions. On the other hand, the Bears’ defense committed 10 penalties for a total of 95 yards. Those mistakes extended drives for the Bobcats and allowed them to finish drives with points rather than punts.
“As much as we’ve made an example of it, addressed it in practice, I need to do a much better job,” Aranda said. “I take that kind of personally. You look at stats coming out of the game, whether it’s rushing yards or total yards or any metric you want to look at, it’s tilted in Baylor’s favor. The one stat that was tilted the other way is penalties.”
On the offensive side of the ball the Bears struggled to get going early, committing two fumbles while junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon failed to connect on some deep passes. However, the offense progressed and started to find their rhythm as the game went on with Bohanon finishing the game 15-24 for 148 yards in his first career start.
“I thought Gerry was calm, collected and poised,” Aranda said. “Gerry was great on the sidelines, whether it was [going] good or bad, in terms of encouraging people. Gerry’s got so much to grow as a quarterback. He’s really gifted as a leader.”
Baylor’s defense set the tone to open up the game, forcing a quick three and out on the Bobcats opening drive. Baylor’s offense had a different start to the game as Smith fumbled on his first carry of the game, giving Texas State the ball back. However our defense stepped up on the very next play with a pick-six by senior safety JT Woods to give the Bears a 7-0 lead and Woods his first interception returned for a touchdown.
“We saw on film that when people blitz, [McBride] would try to get the ball out fast, and JT noticed that,” senior safety Jalen Pitre said. “When I was blitzing, I tried to bat the ball down and JT did a great job of matching the route and picking it off and scoring.”
A roughing the kicker penalty by sophomore linebacker Matt Jones on a fourth down punt followed by a holding penalty from senior cornerback Raleigh Texada pulled the Bobcats into field goal range on their next drive, allowing them to get their first points of the night to make it 7-3.
The Bears’ offense continued to struggle on their next drive as freshman kicker Isaiah Hankins missed a 40-yard field goal after a 17-play drive that took over eight minutes.
In the second quarter the Bears and Bobcats traded touchdowns as the Bobcats scored a touchdown on their first drive of the quarter, marching the ball down the field with an 11-play drive to give them a 10-7 lead. Baylor answered back with another long drive, this time finding the end zone after a three-yard run from Smith to give the Bears a 14-10 lead and their first offensive touchdown of the season.
Baylor’s offense started to find their groove in the second half as they put up 222 yards of total offense and 13 points. The Bears were able to score 10 unanswered points in the third quarter with Hankins nailing a 43-yard field goal, followed by a 13-yard touchdown run by Smith to give him his second of the night and the Bears a 24-10 lead.
A late comeback in the fourth quarter by Texas State made it a one-possession game with one minute, 19 seconds left in the game. A wild play on the final possession of the game, that included a fumble and two forward passes, gave Baylor a safety to secure the win at 29-20.
Ebner rushed for 120 yards on 20 carries and became the first player in program history to record 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in his career. Smith tallied 118 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, averaging 6.2 yards per carry, while senior wide receiver R.J. Sneed was the game’s leading receiver with seven catches for 92 yards.
On the defensive side, senior safeties Jairon McVea, Woods and Pitre each came up with an interception. Junior linebacker Dillon Doyle and senior linebacker Terrel Bernard shared the team lead with nine tackles and helped hold the Bobcats to 235 yards total and just 79 yards rushing.
“There were a lot of penalties and a lot of stuff we can correct,” Pitre said. “But we did get the win, and that’s the most important thing. We have next week to go improve on the things we messed up on this week.”
The Bears will host Texas Southern (0-1) at 6 p.m. next Saturday, in the home opener at McLane Stadium. The Panthers opened with a 40-17 loss to Prairie View A&M in Saturday’s 35th annual Labor Day Classic in Houston.