By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Baylor football redshirt sophomore wide receiver Josh Cameron never saw the field in his typical punt returner role against TCU. That’s because the Bears’ defense never forced the Horned Frogs to punt.
It was that kind of day, as TCU scored touchdowns on six of 10 drives to the tune of a 42-17 victory over Baylor on Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
Despite letting the Horned Frogs get within six yards of scoring on their first two drives, the Bears’ defense stops both times. That allowed Baylor to take a 7-0 lead into the second quarter, but TCU scored 14 points every quarter to pull away for the first-ever Bluebonnet Battle win.
The Horned Frogs (5-6, 3-5 Big 12) have now won four straight against the Bears (3-8, 2-6 Big 12), including eight of the last nine. It’s a head-to-head series that is now officially the most-played rivalry in Texas (119 games played), one more than Texas-Texas A&M.
Head coach Dave Aranda said Baylor put together a solid game in terms of stopping the run and generating offense. Aranda pointed to TCU’s ability to be 9 of 11 on third downs — a number of those being third-and-long situations — as “the story of the game.”
“That was inexcusable,” Aranda said of missed defensive assignments 11 games into the year. “It’s hard to look at, it’s hard [to] walk away from.”
The Horned Frogs totaled 531 yards of offense, 431 of that coming through the air. TCU redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Hoover completed 24 of 29 passes for 412 yards and two passing touchdowns, adding three rushes for 22 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Hoover notched his fourth game with at least 300 yards passing in five starts, and Saturday marked his first game without a turnover.
7 plays combined on those scoring drives. https://t.co/S6kf3JbKH3
— mattisbart (@mattisbear) November 18, 2023
The Bears have now lost four straight games while the Frogs snapped a three-game skid of their own and avoided their first four-game losing streak since 1998. Baylor is 23-24 overall under Aranda in his fourth year, and his team has lost 12 of its last 15 overall.
“It’s been a disappointing year for them, just like it has for us,” TCU head coach Sonny Dykes said. “Man, it feels good to get a win. It’s been a while it seems like.”
TCU senior tight end Jared Wiley set a school record for receiving yards in a single game with 178. Wiley hauled in seven catches, and six of them either went for a first down or a touchdown, one of them being an 81-yard score.
Wiley finished with two touchdowns, as the other one was a 28-yard score on third-and-25 in the third quarter. Baylor redshirt junior linebacker Brooks Miller said those explosive plays by the Horned Frogs are a product of one guy at a time not doing their on defense.
“I think everyone needs to take a step back and look at themselves and be like, ‘Hey, is it me?’” Miller said. “I know I had to do that at some point this season. And maybe I need to do it again. Take a step back and see am I the problem?”
TCU had 13 explosive plays on Saturday (10 passing, three rushing). In order for something to be a “big play,” a pass has to go for 15 or more yards and a run has to be for a gain of 10 or more yards.
On the flip side, the Bears had four drives end with a failed fourth down conversion. When the game was tied 7-7 early in the second quarter, Baylor had a chance to take the lead, getting the ball down to the TCU 8-yard line. However, the Bears lost five yards on fourth-and-3, adding to the team’s red zone struggles on the year.
“Every time we hit the red zone, the goal is to get points out of it,” fifth-year senior offensive lineman Clark Barrington said. “And we weren’t able to do that today. So it’s something we need to continue to work on.”
The Horned Frogs took a 14-10 lead into the half and extended their lead with a 9-play, 81-yard touchdown drive to start the third quarter. The Bears responded with a scoring march of their own, needing seven plays and 75 yards to get into the end zone.
Senior tight end Drake Dabney hauled in a 48-yard pass from redshirt junior quarterback Blake Shapen, who scored a 2-yard rushing TD one play later.
A 21-17 deficit with under eight minutes left in the third quarter was the closest Baylor got, as TCU scored 21 unanswered points over the final 18:39 to put the game away.
Shapen, who finished 20 of 30 passing for 197 yards and a touchdown, went down with an apparent head and/or chest injury on the Bears’ last drive of the game. Aranda said Shapen was evaluated after the game and that they’d know more about his status moving forward by Monday.
Aranda added that he thought Shapen battled hard in the loss, often making something out of nothing offensively. Shapen scrambled nine times for 42 yards and one rushing TD.
“Blake was fighting,” Aranda said. “There’s times where he has to scramble, and he’s making first downs and he’s making yards that put us in manageable third downs.”
Baylor returns home for a Senior Day contest against West Virginia to close out the 2023 season. The Bears are 1-6 at home this season and have not beaten an FBS opponent in Waco since Oct. 22, 2022.
“When you walk around with just all of this inside of you, you want to find a way to kind of get it out and you want to find a way to not live with it anymore,” Aranda said of his message to the team. “And so this game represents that for us. We need to be way hungry, way motivated, way focused and way together.”
— Michael Haag (@MichaelHaag_) November 19, 2023
The season-finale against the Mountaineers (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) will kickoff at 6 p.m. on Saturday at McLane Stadium. The game will be broadcast on FS1, marking the first time a Baylor football game has been televised on a cable network since hosting Texas Tech on ESPN2 on Oct. 7.