By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
No. 17 Baylor football snuck past Iowa State University 31-24 Saturday afternoon at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. The Bears avenged its previous road loss that came two weeks ago and has opened Big 12 play with a win.
“We struggled a little but at BYU, with the noise and things like that,” sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen said. “People look at that and don’t give it too much credit at times, but it’s always a big win when you go on the road in conference.”
The Bears have not won in Ames since a 45-42 victory on Oct. 1, 2016, and head coach Dave Aranda said the team knew it would not be easy to win in a tough place like this.
“I know it’s a tough place to play,” Aranda said. “It’s just a difficult place. They never beat themselves. You have to win it.”
The green and gold’s defense snagged two interceptions, the first time the team has recorded a pick this season. Collectively, the group posted four sacks and eight tackles for loss on the outing.
Shapen led the way offensively for the Bears (3-1, 1-0 Big 12), posting 238 passing yards on 19-of-26 efficiency. Shapen tossed three touchdowns in the process and connected with 11 different receivers to squeak past the Cyclones (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) on Saturday.
Sixth-year senior wideout Gavin Holmes notched 92 yards on three catches to go with one touchdown. Holmes’ score came via some trickery that ended with a 38-yard hurl from Shapen near the midway point of the fourth quarter.
That flea-flicker touchdown extended the Bears’ lead to 17 points, and 10-unanswered Cyclone points the rest of the way would not be enough.
Freshman running back Richard Reese continued to impress, proven by his 78-yard day on 21 attempts. Reese dashed into the end zone in the third quarter for a 19-yard score, where he broke multiple tackles and showcased ability that was seen in his outburst a week ago.
Baylor’s opening drive was a 12-play, 77-yard march that featured two separate fourth-down conversions, the second one a 12-yard touchdown to fifth-year senior tight end Ben Sims. Iowa State counter-punched in its own drive, and the first quarter ended while Baylor had the ensuing possession.
The Bears chipped in a 24-yard field goal early in the second quarter, and the Cyclones were stalled on their next drive and forced to punt. Baylor continued rolling with a nine-play, 70-yard drive that saw fifth-year senior linebacker Dillon Doyle catch a goal line pass from Shapen for a score.
Doyle, an Iowa City, Iowa native and former University of Iowa Hawkeye, was able to score in front of his home-state faithful. It was his third offensive touchdown of his career and first since he scored twice in Baylor’s 38-24 win over BYU last season.
“It was truly amazing,” sixth-year senior linebacker Bryson Jackson said. “Dillon puts the work in day in and day out, and he’s such a big leader on our team. Being back in his home state and being able to show all the work he’s put in is truly amazing.”
The two programs then traded punts, leaving possession with ISU, who trailed 17-7 with under four minutes in the second quarter. The Cyclones struck back with a well-managed scoring drive that cut the Bears’ lead to three, 17-14, with under a minute before halftime.
On the second play out of the intermission, Baylor’s defense came up with its first interception of the season, courtesy of junior safety Devin Neal. The Bears forced 19 picks a year ago, the next closest Big 12 school only having 11.
“We started jackers and robbers throughout the preseason,” Jackson said. “Coming in here and having two turnovers was a big difference. That’s something we actually needed going into conference play. We wish we could have got an extra one to put under our belt. So that was frustrating.”
Baylor went four-and-out on its next drive, failing to convert a fourth-and-four chance on the Iowa State 30-yard line. The Cyclones struggled as well, being held to a three-and-out which gave possession back to the Bears on their own seven-yard line.
Ten plays and 93 yards later, Reese scampered into the end zone for his 19-yard punch, extending Baylor’s lead to 24-14 with six minutes left in the third quarter. Both teams punted to each other and ISU possessed the ball moving into the fourth quarter, where Neal’s ball-hawking ability rubbed off on a teammate.
On fourth-and-four near midfield, fifth-year senior safety Christian Morgan picked off a Cyclone pass, giving the Bears’ offense a chance to pad more cushion to its lead. After 26 yards on the first three plays following the turnover, Aranda and offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes brought out the flea-flicker trickery and found a wide open Holmes for the 38-yard dagger.
Suddenly, over 60,000 people in Jack Trice Stadium went silent, as the Bears took a commanding 31-14 advantage with under 10 minutes of action remaining. Ten straight ISU points would not be enough, and Baylor found itself on the winning side of a road battle for the first time this season.
The Bears return to Waco for a 2021 Big 12 championship game rematch against No. 9 Oklahoma State University. It’s Baylor’s “Go Gold Weekend” and kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at McLane Stadium. The contest will be broadcast on FOX.
Big Noon Kickoff has already announced that it will be in Iowa City for the Hawkeyes versus No. 4 University of Michigan matchup. For any other updates, stay up to date with @BULariatSports on twitter.
The last time Big Noon Kickoff traveled to Waco was on Nov. 13, 2021 when Baylor knocked off the University of Oklahoma 27-14.