By Michael Haag | Sports Editor, Claire-Marie Scott | LTVN Broadcast Reporter
Severe weather delays can stunt momentum or make a team ice cold, but a two-hour stoppage is exactly what Baylor football head coach Dave Aranda said his team needed to take down FCS-member Long Island 30-7 Saturday afternoon at McLane Stadium.
Baylor Athletics announced a severe weather delay right as the teams headed into the locker room for the halftime break. It started as a 30-minute delay, but the timer reset as each additional lightning strike was recorded within an 8-mile radius.
Aranda said the interruption, which ended up being just over two hours long, allowed his team to refocus and come out with more life after only leading 16-7 through two quarters.
“It’s not a lot of times you have a do-over,” Aranda said. “And I thought the rain delay gave us that opportunity. When we came back out after that, the energy and the edge and all the things that we talked about were there.”
The Bears (1-2) secured their first win of the season, snapping a six-game skid that dated back to the 2022 season. Baylor’s last win came at Oklahoma, 38-35, on Nov. 5, 2022. The Bears hadn’t won a home game in 329 days (35-23 win over Kansas on Oct. 22, 2022).
The Sharks (0-3) trailed by as little as nine points going into the half, but head coach Ron Cooper and his group couldn’t find their mojo after the suspension of play. Cooper said the delay wasn’t the worst thing, because after all, they were in a venue they won’t be in for the rest of the season.
“At least we were in a good place to lay around,” Cooper said. “Our locker room is probably the size of just one part of it over there, so at least we had a chance to spread out.”
Baylor took the air out of the football on Saturday, totaling 270 yards on the ground across three runners that had double-digit carries. With junior running back Dominic Richardson unavailable for this contest with a high ankle sprain, freshman running back Dawson Pendergrass led the way with 111 yards on 21 attempts, both career highs, adding the first score of his Baylor career.
Sophomore running back Richard Reese trailed him with 82 yards on 12 carries to go with two TDs. Freshman tailback Bryson Washington also notched season-highs in rushing attempts (10) and yards (45).
Reese, who set the program record for rushing yards (972) by a freshman in 2022, said Pendergrass has shown the ability to be an effective running back throughout the spring and fall.
“I’d say just him running the ball hard [and] falling forward [gives him that ability],” Reese said. “He does it at practice, so that’s what makes him a great player.”
Reese and Pendergrass scored Baylor’s first two TDs before Long Island gave up a safety midway through the second quarter. Backed into its own territory, a snap went over the LIU punter’s head and out of the end zone, resulting in a safety, which put the Bears up 16-0.
Baylor got the ball back off the safety and failed to convert on a 4th-and-2 opportunity on the Long Island 41-yard line. The Sharks took advantage, marching to a four-play, 59-yard scoring drive that saw freshman quarterback Chris Howell run the ball in from 10 yards out.
That made it a 16-7 ballgame through two quarters. Aranda said the energy among his group was not there, and it wasn’t like how they came out against No. 12 Utah last week. Aranda said the Tuesday to Thursday stretch of practices this week was the best three-day stretch he’s ever seen at Baylor. He added that he was frustrated to see it all slip away in that first half.
“I have to do a better job of explaining maybe what we’re asking them to do, because it’s unacceptable when you go through a whole week of something,” Aranda said. “We don’t do it to practice. We practice to play a game.”
Seventh-year senior safety Bryson Jackson said he feels like there’s lots of “juice” with this team and if it doesn’t seem that way to fans, it’s probably due to a lack of experience from that specific player.
“Just from my perspective, coming off onto the sideline, there is juice there,” Jackson said. “But I think a lot of that comes with maturity and being focused in the game. There might be some anxiety and frustration [among the younger group].”
Baylor only had 13 passing yards in the second half, continuing to let its running backs tote the rock and move the chains. Reese scored his second TD of the game — and second of the season — midway through the third quarter to give the Bears a 23-7 lead.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sawyer Robertson tacked on the final score of the game, a 3-yard toss to senior tight end Drake Dabney in the fourth quarter. Robertson finished 10 of 22 passing for 113 yards and his first throwing TD of his career.
The Bears will now welcome No. 4 Texas to town to open Big 12 play. The Longhorns (2-0) will face Baylor for the last time in likely a long time, as UT is headed to the SEC in 2024. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at McLane Stadium, and the game will be broadcast on national television on ABC.
- Aranda said Richardson, Baylor’s leading rusher, has a high ankle sprain and that he’s doubtful to play next week against Texas.
- Redshirt junior quarterback Blake Shapen is questionable for this week, as he’s still recovering from an MCL sprain.
- Redshirt sophomore safety Devin Lemear (dislocated elbow) will be questionable to play versus the Longhorns, per Aranda.