By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Baylor football sure had its chances, but No. 23 University of Texas stomped its hooves and charged to a 38-27 victory. The Bears have now lost their last three games of the regular season and sputter into a bowl game after posting season-low offensive numbers Saturday afternoon at Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin.
In terms of what has gone wrong over the last three weeks, head coach Dave Aranda said the group hasn’t been able to respond to adversity for the entire game. This comes after a 2021 campaign that saw Baylor (6-6, 4-5 Big 12) finish and win a lot of close games.
“Just disappointed and frustrated in our finish,” Aranda said. “We made a big emphasis on playing through adversity. So, getting into fights, so to speak, and taking punches so we can land a punch of our own. That takes getting off the mat to do that. Pick yourself up, get off the mat to do that. You have to get off the mat and throw some more punches.”
Aranda said the first half looked good in that regard, as the Bears clung onto a 19-17 advantage. And then after Texas (8-4, 6-3 Big 12) took a 24-19 lead late in the third quarter, Baylor’s defense came up with a big scoop and score to get back on top 27-24 following a successful two-point conversion.
But after that moment, it was the Longhorns who responded with 14 unanswered points to cruise to the 38-27 victory.
The staff had emphasized finishing the game strong, and Aranda said “that is, of course, what we did not do” on Saturday. He said it “has held us back here these last two games particularly” and that the squad will use some time to “reset.”
The Bears have around a month until their bowl game, which will be announced on Dec. 4.
“There’s a lot to be desired there, just in terms of the energy but also the execution of it,” Aranda said. “We’ll take a couple of days to kind of reset. I think it’s been a tough couple of weeks. We’ll come on back and work to really get that right for this last game that we have. I think there’s so much left to be desired with this team and not giving up on it in any way.”
Sixth-year senior linebacker Bryson Jackson, one of the leaders on this team, said it’ll be really important for the veterans and guys like him to “stay together and keep this team tight.” He said it’s easy to dwell amid a three-game losing streak and that they need to keep looking ahead to the final game of Baylor’s 2022 season.
“It’s a special team,” Jackson said. “We have younger guys who can play and older guys who can play. We have to all put that together. It’s all overdue to see what we’re really about. I think once we step back, get to practicing and go back to fundamentals to what our culture is and what our standards are, we will get better as a unit.”
Fifth-year senior tight end Ben Sims, another vet on the squad, said the last three weeks have been frustrating but that the team is doing everything it can to get better moving forward.
“It’s never what you hope for, obviously,” Sims said. “Nobody wants to lose games, nobody wants to be put in really hard situations. Especially when you go three straight, it feels like we keep getting beat up and we’re trying to get up and we’re trying to fight our way out of it.”
It’s unknown what bowl game the Bears will make, but with 80% of the Big 12 being bowl eligible, it may not be one of the more coveted selections. After last season’s historic run, expectations were high entering this year, as Baylor was picked to repeat as conference champions by the media.
But that clearly isn’t the case, and Aranda said it’s just as upsetting in the locker room as it is for the fanbase.
“Well, frustration is there. Disappointment is there,” Aranda said. “I think winning, you don’t feel those things. And I think winning at times can cover up things. I think losing opens up everything. So, every wound is kind of fully visible and fully open. And so, our ability to kind of run into that, man, and not pretend like we ain’t seeing it and not address it and all that thing, I think is the task we’ve had the last couple of weeks. So, it goes on.”