In a game that seemed almost as important as a championship game, Baylor came up short.
Baylor defense, the Achilles’ heel of the team this season, showed faults early tonight against University of Texas by allowing a touchdown on the first play of the game – an 84-yard run by freshman running back Daje Johnson.
The Bears made sure not to be underrated, forcing a Texas fourth down on their next drive. After the snap went high over the punter’s head, Baylor capitalized on the next play of the game when senior quarterback Nick Florence ran for an eight-yard touchdown, after faking the handoff, to tie the game 7-7.
With only eight minutes off the clock in the first quarter, the third touchdown of the game was scored. Texas sophomore running back Joe Bergeron carried the ball 15 yards to the end zone, making it look like Baylor had another offensive shoot out on its hands for the evening.
And an offensive battle it was. On the next drive, Baylor junior running back Glasco Martin drove the ball into the end zone with a two-yard rush to tie the game 14-14.
“Martin is a big, tough, mean guy and he ran hard tonight,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “[He] did some great stuff. Made some big runs.”
But Baylor was determined to stay in the battle. With Baylor’s next drive, Florence threw an 80- yard long pass to his go-to receiver, senior Terrance Williams, pushing Baylor up by one possession to make the score 21-14 going in to the second quarter.
Texas continued to utilize its rush offense to offset the Baylor defense. And it proved why Baylor’s rush defense is ranked eighth out of ten teams in the Big 12. Texas tied the score on a two-yard rush to give Bergeron his second touchdown of the night.
In a good old fashion offensive battle, the Bears responded to reclaim the lead off a seven-yard touchdown pass from Florence to senior receiver Lanear Sampson, who stood wide open in the back corner of the end zone.
Bergeron scored his third touchdown of the night on a nine-yard run to keep the Longhorns in the game and bring the score back to a tie at 28-28.
Baylor offense showed its first offensive weakness of the night when Florence’s pass was picked off by Texas sophomore safety Josh Turner to give the Longhorns the ball on their own 41-yard line.
“As an offensive we can’t have those turnovers. We have to eliminate them,” Florence said.
It was like reliving a nightmare for Baylor when Texas scored off Baylor’s first turnover of the night. The defense continued to show fault when Baylor junior safety Sam Holl missed his wide-open opportunity for the tackle on Texas freshman running back Johnathan Gray, resulting in a touchdown, allowing Texas to reclaim the lead and bring the score to 35-28.
Baylor never had the lead again in the game.
The touchdown by Gray was just enough to give Texas the momentum they needed to run up the score on Baylor. With a four-yard rush by Bergeron, Texas gained a two-possession lead with a 42-28 score. And this was all in the first half.
After a controversial incomplete pass to Williams in the end zone, in which Williams seemed to get a foot down before falling out of bounds, the Bears ended up in field goal position.
“I had tried to tell [Briles] that I saved room and I knew I had one foot down, and I’d saved room there on purpose,” Williams said.
“Terrance [Williams] thought he caught it and got a food down,” Briles said. “I was shocked that they didn’t take a look at it. It was a great pass from Nick.
The call was never reviewed, nor challenged, forcing the Bears to go for the three points.
Baylor junior kicker Aaron Jones made the 29-yard field goal to chip away at Texas’ lead. The Bears trailed 42-31 going in to the locker room.
After the half, a fumble by Florence quickly bumped and rolled into the Texas end zone. Baylor junior tight end Jordan Najvar was alive and alert in the end zone, and recovered the fumble in the end zone to give Baylor the touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, setting Baylor only five points behind Texas with the score at 42-37.
With seven minutes left in the third quarter, Texas made a stern rebuttal when Texas sophomore quarterback, David Ash, completed a 67-yard pass to junior receiver Mike Davis. The pass was followed by an eight-yard touchdown run by Bergeron. Texas went up 49-40 in the third.
Right as Baylor gained momentum, a fumble by Martin, forced by Texas sophomore linebacker Steve Edmond and recovered by sophomore safety Mykkele Thompson, brought the Baylor defense back on the field.
“Anytime you get a turnover it takes the momentum away,” Florence said. “You can make an excuse on [Glasco], but I threw an interception, too, they got seven points off.”
Unfortunately for the Bears, the defense was unable to recover and gave up another touchdown to run up the Longhorn lead even further. The scoreboard read 56-43 with 12 minutes left on the game clock.
The Bears squeezed in one more touchdown before the game was over, to make the final score 56-50 with Texas taking the win.
Overall, Briles said he was pretty satisfied with Florence’s performance against Texas.
“He had that one bad pass,” Briles said about Florence. “He got a little banged up, but besides that he was flawless. Extremely proud of him and his performance tonight. Definitely one of the top two quarterbacks to ever play at this school.”
Once again, Baylor showed its ability to be defensively dominant. It was the defense that forgot to pick up the slack and give the Bears the win. --Savannah Pullin