By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor
Baylor football (5-1, 3-1) bounced back from a disappointing performance against No. 12 Oklahoma State University with a 45-20 win over West Virginia University Saturday at McLane Stadium. Head coach Dave Aranda said this game was all about putting their identity on tape.
“We had to run the ball and we had to stop the run,” Aranda said. “We had to play a cleaner game. I think we’re still aiming to do that but I thought there was an effort made to do that. And then we’ve got to continue to play a complimentary game, so if one side starts slow we need the other side to pick it up, and I thought we were able to hit on a lot of those points today.”
The offense was firing on all cylinders as they were able to produce 525 yards of total offense and six touchdowns with multiple big plays.
“Last week, we knew we didn’t play well, like coming in after the game, watching film, everybody knew that wasn’t good enough, that wasn’t our offense, that wasn’t RVO [reliable, violent offense],” junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon said. “This week, we had a really good week, like a really, really good week. We stacked days on days this week and we knew we were going to come on and dominate. We knew that last week, we couldn’t do that anymore. We did not play to our potential and we really felt bad about that, and we knew that there was some work to do. So we came in and we worked and we got rewarded today, so we appreciate that.”
In the first quarter, Baylor’s offense could do no wrong as they scored a touchdown on all three drives, moving the ball for 217 total yards with 182 of them coming through the air.
On just the second play of the game, Bohanon hit senior wide receiver Tyquan Thornton on a slant over the middle in which Thornton turned up the field with nothing but green in front of him for a 75-yard touchdown to make it 7-0.
WVU (2-4, 0-3) responded with a 6-play 75-yard scoring drive after a 53-yard pass from redshirt senior quarterback Jarret Doege to redshirt junior wide receiver Sam James put them in the red zone. A couple of plays later Doege completed a pass to junior wide receiver Sean Ryan in the middle of the end zone for a 12-yard reception to make it 7-7.
After converting a fourth-and-1 on their second drive, Bohanon launched a pass 44 yards down the right side of the field to Thornton to set the Bears up in scoring territory. A few plays afterward, Bohanon found junior tight end Ben Sims wide open in the left corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown, capping off an 8-play 75-yard drive to give the Bears a 14-7 advantage.
On WVU’s next drive Doege forced a throw into a tight window allowing senior safety Jalen Pitre to jump the route and come up with an interception to give the Bears the ball back in great field position. The offense quickly converted the turnover into points as Bohanon pushed through for a score on a QB sneak from the 1-yard line to extend the lead to 21-7.
The deep ball continued to be a weapon for Baylor in the second quarter, as Bohanon connected with sixth year senior wide receiver Drew Estrada for a 58-yard bomb leading to an 11-yard touchdown reception for Thornton to make it 28-7. Bohanon said his eyes “light up” when his receivers break free because he can usually anticipate it happening before the play even starts.
“You watch so much film, it’s like you’re lining up in pre-snap, you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s there,’ so you get excited right away,” Bohanon said. “I really got to try to stay calm, make sure not to mess anything up trying to do it.”
Midway through the second quarter, WVU’s redshirt junior kicker Casey Legg would send one through the uprights from 29 yards out to cut Baylor’s lead to 28-10 going into halftime, finishing off a 11-play 66-yard drive.
Bohanon looked unstoppable in the first half completing 12-17 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns to go along with a score on the ground. Baylor’s defense was able to make life difficult for WVU’s Doege, coming up with three sacks and an interception.
“Coach Ron [Roberts] always has an aggressive mindset so we kind of knew throughout the week what our plan was going to be and kind of what our attack was going to be and a heavy focus was trying to get up to the quarterback,” senior linebacker Terrel Bernard said.
WVU opened the second half with a 12-play, 78-yard drive that resulted in a 27-yard field goal from Legg to make the score 28-13, taking 5:43 off the clock in the process.
After a failed onside kick attempt by WVU left the Bears with good field position at WVU’s 48-yard line, Baylor worked the ball down the field until Sims broke free on the left sideline for a 29-yard touchdown reception, extending Baylor’s lead to 35-13. It was Sims’ seventh career touchdown, tying him in the Baylor record books for the most touchdown receptions by a tight end of all time.
Later in the third quarter, the Bears would find themselves scoring once again as senior running back Abram Smith bursted through a hole up the middle to find paydirt on a 31-yard rush, increasing the Bears’ lead to 42-13.
Baylor’s first drive of the fourth quarter, a 30-yard run from senior running back Trestan Ebner on an option play, put freshman kicker Isaiah Hankins in position to nail a 45-yard field goal to give Baylor a 45-13 lead over the Mountaineers.
Toward the end of the fourth quarter WVU would score one last time on a 12-play 85-yard drive finished off by a 13-yard run up the middle from redshirt freshman quarterback Garrett Greene on a QB keep to make it 45-20.
Thornton led all wideouts with eight catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns while Estrada hauled in four passes for 90 yards. On the ground, Smith rushed for 88 yards and a score on 11 carries.
In what former Heisman winner Robert Griffin III called a “Heisman-worthy performance,” Bohanon finished the game 18-29 for a career high 336 passing yards and five total touchdowns.
“It [was] a good showcase for Gerry and his ability,” Aranda said. “His calmness and his ability to connect on whether it’s play action passes, shot plays. I think he was able to hit on some swing, and outlet routes. I thought he was able to make some yards on the ground [on] speed option keeps and some designed quarterback runs. And so I think we saw everything from Gerry today … His growth and his maturity in that space is going to be huge for us as we want to lean on that more and more as we get into it. But I think for us to have a game like today and for him to be a central figure just gives a growing confidence to our team.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Siaki Ika was a standout on the defensive side of the ball in this one, being responsible for two of the six sacks the Bears were able to get. While it may have been his first time recording a sack as a Bear, Bernard said the team is always aware of Ika’s impact.
“Everybody on our team knows kind of like what [Ika] brings to the table,” Bernard said. “It might not always show up on the stat sheet, I mean it did today, but he’s a game changer. He does a lot of different things that kind of go unseen if you’re not really looking for it.”
Next up for Baylor is a 2:30 p.m. matchup with future Big 12 conference member No. 10 Brigham Young University (5-1), next Saturday in McLane Stadium.