Lightning delay sparks Baylor’s running game against Long Island

Sophomore running back Richard Reese (29) celebrates with his teammates after one of his rushing TDs on Saturday at McLane Stadium. Lilly Yablon | Photographer

By Nick Cook | Web Editor

Baylor (1-2) started its second drive on Saturday with runs from sophomore running back Richard Reese and freshman running back Bryson Washington for 5 and 4 yards, respectively. This smashmouth approach continued with 43 of the Bears’ 92 yards coming from the ground game during their 30-7 win over Long Island Saturday afternoon at McLane Stadium. Baylor capped off the drive with a 13-yard TD run from Reese.

With junior running back Dominic Richardson, Baylor’s leading rusher, out for the game with a high ankle sprain, the Bears were looking for big performances from their other tailbacks.

“I’m proud of just their effort,” head coach Dave Aranda said. “And the stage wasn’t too big. They attacked it. I thought they fell forward. Just good things from the running back room today.”

Reese is not the only running back who saw action early in the game, as freshman Dawson Pendergrass saw increased action on Baylor’s third drive, rushing for 14 yards, including a 1-yard TD run.

Aranda spoke highly of Pendergrass in the postgame press conference, as he said “the moment’s not too big for him.”

“It’s just a normal, everyday thing [for him],” Aranda said. “[Dawson] loves physicality. He loves to hit people. He likes to be hit. … Once that kind of got started with him, he was looking for contact and falling forward.”

Pendergrass notched career highs in both carries (21) and yards (111).

Going into halftime, Baylor had already topped its season average with 114 rushing yards. Then, a two-hour weather delay struck. Aranda said it played a role in the response from the group.

“The rain delay was a big factor in this one.” Aranda said. “We just turned on music. … [The] guys could kind of relax and recharge and start over.”

Baylor came out of the delay with 66 rushing yards as part of its 76-yard drive to start the third quarter. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sawyer Robertson got into the rushing game with a 14-yard carry to start the drive, and Reese was able to finish the drive with a 13-yard TD carry, giving him his fifth career multi-TD game.

Baylor continued to dominate the ground game in the second half with another drive of 57 yards, 54 of which came on the ground, and the lone completed pass being a 3-yard TD pass. The Bears ended the game with two more rushes for 19 yards. This brought their second half total to 156 yards.

Baylor’s physicality was the key to being able to control the run game, according to Aranda.

“If the [offensive] line gives us 3 or 4 yards, for us as running backs right now, to get an extra three is really a big difference — especially as the game goes on,” Aranda said.

The offensive line improved from week one against Texas State when the Bears were only able to muster 108 rushing yards.

Baylor finished the game with 391 total yards, but 270 of those were on the ground — a season-high and the most since the Bears’ last win at Oklahoma, where they totaled 281 yards.

Pendergrass led the game with his career day, and Reese followed behind with 82 yards on 12 carries and two TDs. Washington finished with 45 yards on 10 carries. Redshirt sophomore running back Jordan Jenkins closed out the running backs with 19 yards on two carries.

Reese said the trio stepped up to the challenge without Richardson and that they will be better moving forward.

“Both of them [Pendergrass and Washington] are young, and they are still learning,” Reese said. “But for the most part, they’re learning good and having a good practice and practicing good. So I’d say that’s a good thing.”