By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
In a wild showcase, Baylor football fell to West Virginia University 43-40 Thursday evening at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va., on a go-ahead 22-yard field goal.
The Bears (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) and Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) combined for nearly 1100 total yards in a back-and-forth battle. Neither team could maintain momentum the entire way, and Morgantown remains a winless voyage for Baylor, as it falls to 0-6 all-time.
Out of 25 total drives, there were only five punts between both teams.
Fifth-year senior linebacker and captain Dillon Doyle said the defense let the team down today. Doyle said the offense didn’t get enough support, and it cost them in the end.
“It’s kind of like a broken record, but it’s really simple the things you need to do to win,” Doyle said. “But they’re not easy things to do. We didn’t do simple better today, especially defensively. The offense did a really great job, but we just didn’t do our part. We needed to play complementary football, and we didn’t really do it today.”
Defensively, Doyle recorded a team-high 10 tackles along with one interception.
Head coach Dave Aranda said he thought the team started the game ready to play, but that there was a lack of execution in key moments that hurt.
“I’m disappointed, and we’re all frustrated with just our execution really at critical points,” Aranda said. “There was a lot of good things, but we could not make that next play.”
Baylor had 421 passing yards, a mark that is the most since throwing for 463 versus Oklahoma in 2017.
Sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen was forced to leave the game in the third quarter following an apparent head injury and never returned. Shapen tried to slide before being hit in the head by a WVU defender, who was ejected from the contest with a targeting call.
“It’s tough, especially seeing a hit like that is kind of scary,” sixth-year senior wide receiver Gavin Holmes said. “Prayers up for Blake that he’s alright.”
Shapen finished the game 14-22 with 326 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt freshman quarterback Kyron Drones took over and had a solid outing, completing 50% of his passes for 95 yards and a score of his own. Drones did suffer a potentially costly interception late in the fourth quarter, but the Baylor defense put the ball back in his hands one play later with a pick of its own.
“I’m extremely proud of Kyron,” Holmes said. “He came in and made some big-time throws. It’s not easy to come in a situation like that and have to kind of take over the team essentially. I thought he did a great job.”
It was a career-day for Holmes, as he erupted for 210 yards on seven grabs. It was a career-high in both yards and catches, along with his first triple-digit receiving day of his collegiate career. He scored on a 35-yard strike from Shapen in the first half and had a long reception of 56 yards.
Holmes became Baylor’s first 200-yard receiver since KD Cannon in the 2016 Cactus Bowl.
The Mountaineers scored on its first drive with a seven-yard rushing touchdown before the Bears drilled a 40-yard field goal. The next touchdown came in the second quarter, courtesy of a goal line rush from fifth-year senior tight end Ben Sims.
Hoisting a 10-7 lead, Baylor then found a 35-yard connection between Shapen and Holmes to extend its lead to ten points. With under five minutes until halftime, WVU cut its deficit 17-10 with a 23-yard field goal.
The Bears tried to extend their lead before the half, but Shapen committed a costly fumble that was returned 65 yards to the house by the Mountaineers. Finding no issue shaking it off, Shapen then hit junior running back Craig “Sqwirl” Williams with a screen pass and watched Williams roll for a 39-yard score down the left sideline.
Baylor strolled into the half ahead 24-17.
WVU responded with an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive to open the third quarter. The drive was capped off with a 24-yard laser from redshirt junior slinger JT Daniels. It was an up-and-down night for Daniels, who wound up 24-37 with 283 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
On the Bears’ next drive, Drones took over for Shapen following his head injury. Near the goal line, Drones threw a dart to sophomore wideout Hal Presley on a gutsy fourth down play call, despite being thrown into the game just prior. It was Drones’ first career touchdown pass.
In a fitting, bounce-back fashion, the Mountaineers scored on a 19-yard rush to tie the game at 31 apiece late in the third quarter. Moving intto the fourth, junior running back Qualan Jones bulldozed up the middle for a four-yard score, putting Baylor back on top.
However, the PAT attempt was blocked and returned for two points by the Mountaineers, making it a 37-33 ballgame in favor of the green and gold.
WVU was then stopped on a fourth-and-one from the Bears’ own 44-yard line, but Jones fumbled the ball right back into the Mountaineers’ hands two plays later. Looking to knot the tally, WVU redshirt sophomore running back Tony Mathis Jr. scampered for a 34-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Mathis steamrolled Baylor for 163 yards on 22 attempts (7.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.
Drones marched the Bears into Mountaineer territory, but threw the potentially game-ending interception. However, Doyle hauled in his second-career interception on the very next play, keeping Baylor’s hopes alive, as they trailed 40-37.
The Bears were three-and-out, setting fifth-year senior kicker John Mayers up with a 44-yard field goal attempt. Aranda showed no hesitation, trusting Mayers to tie the game. Mayers drilled the kick and made it a 40-40 game with under two minutes to go.
Daniels and Mathis carried WVU down the field to the goal line, where Aranda began to use his timeouts in hopes of a missed field goal. Redshirt junior kicker Casey Legg nailed a 22-yard attempt, giving the Mountaineers the 43-40 advantage with 33 seconds remaining.
Drones and Co. weren’t able to muster anything, resulting in the upset loss.
Baylor will return to Waco for a Homecoming matchup against No. 19 University of Kansas, scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium. The game will be broadcast on either ESPN or ESPN2.
Holmes said the team still has a strong chance to turn things around, but that the squad needs to rally together and stay focused on the task at hand.
“We just have to stay together,” Holmes said. “There’s still a lot of football left, and we know what we’re capable of. We just can’t fall apart. We just have to keep pushing. There’s a lot of big time games left. We have to keep fighting. We still have a lot of opportunity, we know we’re a real good team.”
- Aranda said that tomorrow Shapen and Williams will get looked at for the head injuries they suffered. No further update regarding their status.