By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
No. 9 Baylor was knocked off by No. 21 Brigham Young University 26-20 in double-overtime Saturday night at a sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. On fourth-and-goal, the ball on BYU’s own 11-yard line, following a wild sequence of events, sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen missed the mark over the middle on potentially tying the game and giving the green and gold a chance at victory.
The Bears (1-0) were then left stunned, as they watched the Cougars (1-0) fans storm the field, celebrating its first home win over a top-10 team since it defeated the University of Miami in 1990.
“Very proud of their effort and their heart,” head coach Dave Aranda said. “Right up until that last play, that fourth down, I think everybody on our sideline’s thinking we’re going to win. That’s just way special. There’s going to be wins and losses, but a bigger loss would be if we lose that belief.”
Baylor was called for 14 penalties for 117 yards, two of those resulting in a tougher fourth down conversion on the final play of the game.
“[I’m] disappointed in our lack of discipline,” Aranda said. “[It] reminds me a little of the Oklahoma State game a year ago. We have to be able to not hold on critical pass downs. We have to be able to play through the down and not have a pass interference on critical downs. We had 14 penalties which is way, way too much.
“It’s one thing to be able to play a real worthy and good opponent, but we can’t be playing them and us. We were doing that basically the whole game.”
Sixth-year senior center Jacob Gall agreed with Aranda, saying the penalties hurt the team a lot on Saturday.
“Just discipline, I think, is the big thing,” Gall said. “Coach preaches it all the time. The biggest way you lose games is by hurting yourself, and we hurt ourselves two times in critical situations.”
It was Baylor’s first overtime game since its road loss at West Virginia, 27-21, another double-OT game on Oct. 3, 2020.
The first quarter proved nothing would come easy for either side, as BYU mustered the period’s only points, a 27-yard field goal on its opening drive. The next 17 minutes of action saw a series of punts, as the Cougars retained the three-point advantage deep into the second period.
The Bears, however, responded before halftime with a 13-play, 68-yard drive that was capped off by a goal-line punch from junior running back Qualan Jones. The extra point was missed and Baylor clung to a 6-3 lead with under two minutes left in the second quarter.
The Cougars fired right back with an impressive eight-play, 75-yard march to retake the tally with two seconds left on the clock. The touchdown came on a 20-yard strike from junior quarterback Jaren Hall in the back corner of the end zone and BYU took a 10-6 lead going into halftime.
Hall finished the game 23-of-39 for 261 yards and one touchdown.
Baylor opened the ensuing half with a quick counterpunch, as Jones cruised into the end zone following a seven-yard run. The touchdown capped off a nine-play, 77-yard drive that only took four minutes. Jones finished the night with 67 yards on 16 carries, scoring twice.
Still in the third quarter, the Cougars answered with 10-straight points to the tune of a 20-13 lead.
First, BYU connected on a 39-yard field goal before it turned to some trickery. Hall threw the ball to freshman wide receiver Chase Roberts, who then launched it back to Hall. Behind a logjam of blockers, the Spanish Fork Utah native, cruised to the 22-yard score.
Within the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, Shapen and the Bears knotted the tally at 20 apiece with a four-yard bullet to fifth-year senior tight end Ben Sims. A pair of punts ensued before BYU had a chance to walk-off with a three-point victory.
Hall led an 11-play, 72-yard drive down to Baylor’s 18-yard line, giving his group a chance to end the game in heartbreaking fashion. Junior kicker Jake Oldroyd failed to connect on the 35-yarder, thus sending the game into overtime.
Shapen and the Bears started with the ball first and couldn’t muster anything significant. A holding call paired with a sturdy BYU defense put Baylor in a 4th-and-10 situation on the Cougars’ 25-yard line. Sophomore kicker Isaiah Hankins missed the goalposts by a mile on the 43-yard attempt, turning possession to BYU.
A chance to end the game with just a field goal, the Cougars played it conservative, only gaining five-yards, and set up Oldroyd with a shot at redemption: A 37-yard chance this time. Oldroyd lined up the kick and missed it again.
On to overtime part two.
BYU started with the ball and wasted no time, as on the second play from scrimmage, Hall found a Cougar wideout for 20 yards down the left sideline. Two rushes later, BYU punched it in and took the 26-20 lead. The offense stayed out for the mandatory two-point conversion, but failed.
Baylor now had the opportunity to tie the game with a touchdown and win it with a successful two point conversion.
The Bears trudged all the way to the four-yard line but suffered from two false start penalties, pushing them back to the 11. On its last leg on fourth down, Baylor couldn’t connect on a Shapen pass over the middle and the madness finally came to an end.
The three-hour, 54-minute contest between future Big 12 foes came to a close, with a sea of BYU-blue celebrating its historic feat on the field.
“It’s really tough,” fifth-year senior cornerback Mark Milton said. “You prepare through the week and you feel like your game plan is strong and then you go out and you execute and then sometimes it doesn’t come out how we want to. But, at the end of the day it’s, what’s next, how can we fix it?
“Season’s not over with. All the goals we had before are still in front of us and we just have to go on and move on from this, but make sure we fix the mistakes.”
Baylor heads back home for Family Weekend, where it plays host to Texas State University at 11 a.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium. In the 2021 season opener, the Bears beat the Bobcats (1-1) 29-20 in San Marcos.
Milton is thankful for the learning experience Saturday’s thriller brought the team. He said it will pay dividends down the road.
“At the end of the day, I’m happy this did happen,” Milton said. “Now, later on down the road, we’ve already been through this so we know how to work through it and be on top next time.”