By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Just as the game appeared to be over, junior running back Qualan Jones put his head down and scored an exclamation point 17-yard touchdown to really rub it in with 45 seconds left.
That final punch made it 45-17, which is what Baylor football beat Texas Tech University by Saturday evening at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock. The Bears were once again led by freshman running back Richard Reese, as he continued his dominance.
Reese rushed a career-high 36 times for 148 yards and three scores.
However, one glaring difference from the Bears (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) was that they intercepted Texas Tech’s (4-4, 2-3 Big 12) quarterbacks five times.
“I look at the emphasis on takeaways,” head coach Dave Aranda said. ”I look at the emphasis on being physical with the ball and to see it transfer over to a game was pretty cool because it hadn’t really happened so far like that this year. I think this has been a team where we can all tell them the stove is hot but they have to touch it. I’m hoping we don’t have to touch the stove any more on certain things.”
With the win, Baylor’s hopes at a Big 12 championship are still alive, as it sits in fourth place in the conference, with two of the top three teams still ahead on the schedule.
The Bears built a strong 17-3 lead after a dominant first half, followed by a quick score out of the break that was assisted by fifth-year senior cornerback Mark Milton’s first career interception. TTU responded with 14 unanswered points to mirror Baylor’s third quarter collapse from a week ago, but Baylor outscored Tech 21-0 in the fourth quarter to cruise to victory.
Fifth-year senior kicker John Mayers scored the first quarter’s only points, as his 48-yard field goal gave the Bears a 3-0 lead before TTU tied it midway through the second.
It was a 33-yarder for the Red Raiders to make it 3-3 with 8:09 to go in the first half. Reese then dove forward for a pair of goal line touchdowns to make it 17-3 going into the break. Baylor controlled time of possession in a big way through the first two quarters, as it had the ball for 22:21 minutes compared to TTU’s 7:39.
NFL superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes was then inducted into the Ring of Honor in front of the sellout “black out” crowd during halftime. But Mahomes had to watch his former team continue its blunder, as Milton’s interception set the Bears’ offense up in a great spot to open the second half.
Seven plays later, sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen lofted a pass to sophomore wide receiver Hal Presley in the back right corner of the end zone for a nine-yard score. Shapen, who finished 19-30 with 211 yards and the lone touchdown, extended Baylor’s lead 24-3 early in the third quarter.
This is when things took a turn. TTU stormed to a 15-play, 75-yard drive that saw redshirt freshman quarterback Behren Morton toss a one-yard pass off a play action look to cut the deficit 24-10.
On the subsequent drive, Shapen and Reese bobbled a pitch exchange that fell in enemy hands, setting the Red Raiders up for another scoring drive. This one only took eight plays, as Morton scrambled into the end zone on fourth-and-eight on the Bears’ eight-yard line.
Aranda said the paralleled third quarter mishap is something the team is trying to improve and grow on.
“As a team we’re probably … I imagine like anyone else, when things are good we’re happy, and when things are bad we’re angry and we’re mad,” Aranda said. “That’s not going to cut it. That’s not how you win. When things are good, we have to have a chip on our shoulder and our standards should be higher, and coaches and players have to hold everyone to that standard, and we’re fighting for that.”
Baylor responded with a crucial 11-play, 75-yard drive that ate into the fourth quarter. Reese finished that march with a one-yard rush up the gut, his third and final touchdown. TTU then strongly emphasized using quarterbacks outside of Morton, something the Bears expected in the week of prep.
It was sophomore slinger Donovan Smith that was inserted under center during the next possession. Smith had thrown for over 1500 yards prior to Saturday’s contest, but tossed the Red Raiders’ third interception of the game.
Baylor was three-and-out on its next drive, but Behren threw his third interception of the evening, this one to redshirt freshman cornerback Tevin Williams II in the end zone that resulted in a touchback.
The Bears then chewed around four minutes of time off the clock before punting again, leaving TTU with a 4:11 left on its own nine-yard line, trailing 31-17. The Red Raiders went to senior quarterback Tyler Shough for their next drive. Shough won the position battle in the fall before the season, but broke his collarbone in week one and returned to action on Saturday.
On his very first down, he tossed a gut-wrenching pick-six to sophomore cornerback AJ McCarty, making it 38-17 with 4:04 to go. Shough stayed in the game and got sacked three times, the last one on a fourth-and-18 from TTU’s own 36.
It appeared Baylor would run the clock out, starting its drive with 2:23 left and already near the red zone. But the Bears showed no mercy, as Jones scampered for the emphatic 17-yard score to cap off the 45-17 victory.
At the conclusion of the contest, Baylor controlled possession for 40:17 minutes versus TTU’s 19:43.
The Bears now look ahead to a road matchup with the University of Oklahoma on Saturday, Nov. 5. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. in Norman, Okla., at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The game can be watched on the ESPN+ telecast.