By AnnaGrace Hale | Sport Writer, Video by Nate Smith | Managing Editor
After a heartbreaking loss to No. 12 BYU in Provo, Utah, No. 17 Baylor football looked to redeem itself against Texas State University. The green and gold claimed a blowout 42-7 victory over the Bobcats on Saturday at McLane Stadium, and despite a choppy start, head coach Dave Aranda’s team found its stride in the second half.
Freshman running back Richard Reese carried the load offensively, posting 156 yards on 19 carries to go with three touchdowns. Reese played in place of junior running back Taye McWilliams, who was out with an injury.
Reese is the first Bear to claim over 100 yards rushing since former Baylor running back Abram Smith had 172 in the 2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
The Bears (2-1) and Bobcats (1-2) met last season in San Marcos, where Baylor prevailed 29-20. This year’s meeting proved to not be as tightly matched. The green and gold outworked Texas State by claiming 509 total yards — almost double the Bobcats’ 280 yards.
“With the game, I’m thankful for the four quarters,” Aranda said. “I thought there was energy throughout. There was a good edge by the offense and some violence from the start of the play to the end. Those are things that haven’t maybe been there the previous two games.”
In the first quarter, Baylor’s offense didn’t have a hard time getting things rolling, as it found the end zone on the first drive of the game. Sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen opened up for a few short passes that were swatted down. However, after a handoff from Shapen, Reese slipped through the Bobcats’ defense and into the end zone from 14 yards out.
“That was so much fun just to see him,” sixth-year senior wide receiver Gavin Holmes said. “He works so hard during the week. We knew he was going to have a big role today. And he definitely stepped up, and it was really cool to see.”
On the first play of the second quarter, junior running back Craig “Sqwirl” Williams broke away and tiptoed along the left sideline to find Baylor’s second touchdown, putting the Bears up 14-0.
With two minutes left in the half, Texas State’s offense finally got on the board with a 12-yard pass from quarterback Layne Hatcher to Ashtyn Hawkins.
With the score sitting at 14-7, Baylor put together a nine-play 96-yard drive just before the end of the half. Shapen took matters into his own hands, faking out the entire stadium on a 35-yard bootleg.
The Bears led 21-7 but weren’t where they wanted to be walking into the locker room at halftime, and Aranda said this was due to some nervous energy within the team.
“I think some of what we were fighting was expectations: ‘it’s supposed to be like this’ or ‘it used to be like that,'” Aranda said. “There’s a lot of that in this game — some gritty, ugly stuff that I think you have to go through to get to the beautiful, clean, polished, shiny stuff.”
Getting through the unpleasant first half, the team exited the locker room and played a beautiful second half, scoring three unanswered touchdowns and blocking a field goal. Despite traded fumbles, Shapen connected with Holmes in stride for a 28-yard touchdown, putting the Bears up 28-7 in the third.
“I knew there had been holes in the middle of the field the whole game,” Holmes said. “I told Blake to hold it a little longer and I’m going to sneak through one [of] those holes. And he saw and I saw green, and I just took it. That was a good play.”
In the final quarter, Reese mimicked Holmes and secured two more touchdowns of his own — one of them a 52-yard scamper up the middle — extending the Bears’ lead to 42-7.
Despite his first career interception, Shapen was 15-of-26 for 184 yards and a touchdown. Aranda said Shapen is comfortable getting out of the pocket, and Holmes said the slinger is continuing to lead and improve.
“I think he’s progressing continuously,” Holmes said. “Last weekend was a hard weekend for the whole team. We just wanted to get that taste out of our mouths. Blake was taking a lot on himself. We just rallied around him, telling him ‘we got you.’”
Hoping to continue strong play, the Bears enter conference play next week as they hit the road to face Iowa State Sept. 24 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.