By AnnaGrace Hale | Sports Writer
Baylor football closed out its regular season play with a 38-27 loss to No. 23 University of Texas Friday afternoon at Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin. The Bears and Longhorns traded leads throughout all four quarters, but Baylor failed to end on a high note.
“The thing that we’ve been working on is just finishing strong,” sixth-year linebacker Bryson Jackson said. “We have a lot of talent and we work hard, but just the understanding that we got to finish and play all four quarters is something that’s major. It hurts. It’s definitely a challenge for us.”
Until midway through the final quarter it looked as if the Bears could secure a victory to end head coach Dave Aranda’s third season at Baylor with a winning record. However, Texas’ running game, led by junior running back Bijan Robinson, boosted the Longhorns to pull ahead within the final nine minutes.
Robinson struggled in the first half, but found his footing in the third and fourth quarters. Although Baylor led in rushing yards and time of possession in the first half, Texas’ defense stiffened overall, as it held the Bears to season-lows in rushing yards at 101 yards and overall game yardage at 280.
In the beginning, Baylor looked strong, which Aranda said was something the team had been working on.
“Going into the game we talked about the importance of starting fast and there’s been games where we have not done that,” Aranda said. “Here lately we’ve been able to do that and I thought we did that today.”
To give the Bears a little boost in the first quarter, a safety was awarded after Texas’ intentional grounding. Longhorn quarterback Quinn Ewers threw the ball from inside the pocket and within his own endzone on 3rd and 11, giving Baylor the early 2-0 lead.
Sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen then hit junior wide receiver Jaylen Ellis in stride for a 47-yard touchdown. Ellis, a Round Rock native, scored his first collegiate touchdown half an hour south of his hometown and put the Bears up 9-0 with 6:54 left in the first quarter.
Texas responded three minutes later with a score off an Ewers keeper. After a Baylor possession that saw a flubbed 11-yard punt by fifth-year senior Issac Power, Robinson claimed a touchdown and closed out the quarter by doubling Texas’ points, making it 14-9.
Baylor claimed 10 points in the second quarter with a 30-yard field goal and a 14-yard touchdown catch from fifth-year senior tight end Ben Sims, the 12th of his career. The Bears’ defense came up big in this quarter, holding Texas to one field goal and claiming three sacks.
The Bears headed to the locker room at half up 19-17, and Aranda said the team was feeling confident.
“I thought there was a lot of confidence but it was measured confidence,” Aranda said. “Guys were talking the truth and were kind of speaking honestly about the thing to do or what to stay away from and what’s working and what’s not. So, appreciative of that. I thought that coming out of it, I felt like we were in good head space.”
The team’s pride was shown on the field at the start of the quarter as the Bears’ offense recovered a Texas fumble on its own 47-yard line. The green and gold marched down the field to attempt a 40-yard goal attempt. Mayers’ kick hooked left, leaving Baylor’s run scoreless.
Texas put up the only points of the quarter with a rushing touchdown by none other than Robinson.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter the Bears kept their heads up despite being behind.
Walcott forced another fumble at the beginning of the quarter that resulted in a touchdown. Junior offensive lineman Gabe Hall scooped the ball up from the 16-yard line to run the ball into the endzone, giving the Bears a one-point lead. This is the first fumble return for a touchdown since JT Woods’ 97-yarder against Texas Southern last season.
“It was a momentum changer, and I wish we could capitalize on it,” Jackson said. “But it definitely did give us a little motivation to go in and for offense to come out there.”
Baylor capitalized on a two point conversion following the scoop and score, making the score line 27-24.
From there, Baylor’s defense started to break down as Robinson and senior running back Roschon Johnson went to work. Texas claimed 132 rushing yards in the fourth compared to Baylor’s four yards. The Longhorns pushed the running game right down the middle over and over. Robinson and Johnson took one touchdown each and secured Texas the 38-27 win.
This loss is the third consecutive loss for the Bears after dropping a close contest to No. 4 Texas Christian University and a blowout loss to No. 12 Kansas State at home. Jackson said it hurts to play like this as of late.
“I’m hurting for everybody in [the locker room] just because of the work we put in. It’s a tough loss. We came into this game all the way to the end thinking we were going to win, so just a kick in the face,” Jackson said. “But we’ve got to look at it like life sucks sometimes and we’ve got to get back and get over that adversity and hurt.”
The team will start its bowl game preparation and look to redeem itself as it heads to an undetermined contest that is to be announced on Dec. 4.