ARLINGTON -- In that big A&@T Stadium in Arlington that is known otherwise as Jerry World, with a rather slim crowd of 27,308 looking on, Baylor football coach Matt Rhule saw his Baylor Bears do what many Baylor fans only a week earlier had given up winning. They did so after losing the home game many Baylor fans had been counting on them winning, beating TCU in Waco. Instead they beat Texas Tech on neutral grass in Jerry World, 35-24.
And thus did they accomplish a very difficult thing to do: they won that magic sixth game that made them eligible to go to a postseason bowl game. Some Baylor coaches have won bowl trips quickly, but it is a difficult thing to do.
And now Baylor coach Matt Rhule has done so. And he has done so with a team he has virtually had to rebuild from scratch and that is nearly impossible to do. But Rhule has done that very thing, and let’s give a huge shout-out to both coach and his team for doing so.
And you will note they won that game with room to spare.
But you also must remember that the Red Raiders have had their physical problems; their starting quarterback for the Baylor game, McLane Carter, had missed some playing time with an ankle sprain. There were other players on the Texas Tech team that also had had their share of physical woes. And likewise Baylor. That’s usually the case for all teams at the end of the regular season.
In last Saturday’s game, Texas Tech scored first and did so in a way that told fans it was going to include plenty of aerial warfare. That first score featured a 54-yard pass from McLane Carter to Ja’Deion High followed by Clayton Hatfield kick and it gave the Red Raiders a 7-0 lead. That was an 8-play 75-yard drive and it must have scared Baylor fans considerably. Could the Bears win such a shootout?
Even so, it took them from 12:04 to 2:54 to prove they could win a shootout and the climax of that long drive found Charlie Brewer firing a 6-yard pass to Denzel Mims for a touchdown. Connor Martin’s PAT made it a 7-7 game.
Tech forged ahead with a 9-play 51-yard drive that set up Clayton Hatfield’s 42-yard field goal that put Texas Tech ahead by three points after the game’s first 15 minutes of play.
Baylor grabbed the lead back as the second quarter started unfolding when Brewer fired a 41-yard pass to true freshman Tyquan Thornton (he’s a fast 6-3,165, a Miami, Fl. product) and Martin’s kick moved the Bears ahead, 14-10. But the Red Raiders regained the lead when halfback Dern Felton rushed 7 yards for a touchdown, climaxing a 6-play 75-yard drive, and once again Hatfield’s kick put Tech ahead, 17-14, at halftime.
Baylor started winning the game in the third quarter, scoring two touchdowns followed by Connor Martin's two true kicks that gave the Bears a 28-17 lead. The first of those two touchdowns came on a 7-play 75 yard drive climaxed by Brewers’ 1-yard push for the score, and the second touchdown found BU halfback John Lovett running 3 yards for a score.
A little later, Texas Tech got down to the Baylor 21 but Hatfield missed a field goal attempt from 39 yards out
Early in the final quarter the Red Raiders did score a touchdown. A Carter pass to Seth Collins secured 6 points and Hatfield added the extra point to make it a 28-24 game and still 14:54 minutes of the final quarter making it a game yet to be decided. But on their next possession, the Bears nailed down their victory (their sixth of the season that made them bowl eligible) by driving 75 yards in 5 plays and with Brewer completing a 16-yard pass to Mims for the score. Martin kicked the final point of the game, leaving Baylor the winner, 35-24.
Tech did drive to the Baylor 39 but Carter's pass was intercepted by cornerback Raleigh Texada (sophomore, 5-10, 176, Frisco) at the Baylor 7-yard line; then later the Red Raiders, firing desperation passes, hurled one that BU’s Blake Lynch (strongside linebacker, junior, 6-3, 213, Gilmer) intercepted at the Baylor 42. The Bears then ran out the clock.
So now the regular season is over and the only question remains: where do the Bears go from here – which bowl? The only three Big 12 Conference teams to lose out on bowl trips were Texas Tech, Kansas State and Kansas, which means Iowa State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia also have won enough games to be bowl worthy. And this we do know: Texas and Oklahoma will be at AT&T Stadium this coming Saturday (Dec. 1) for the Big 12 Conference playoff, and at this moment that game is going to command center stage.
Final team statistics found Baylor leading in first downs, 28-20; in net yards rushing, 170-100; in net yards passing, 308-247; and in total offense, 478-347. The Bears fumbled 3 times but lost none and Texas Tech did not fumble. Baylor was penalized 12 times for 80 yards (and seven were motion penalties, which is ridiculous); Tech got the red flag treatment 8 times for 85 yards; both teams were guilty of throwing interceptions (Baylor’s were returned a total of 15 yards and Tech’s a total of 75 yards); and Baylor lost 14 yards on 2 QB sacks and Tech 26 yards on 3 QB sacks.
Individual statistics found Baylor’s John Lovett leading all rushers with 126 yards on 28 carries, and sophomore Trestan Ebner gaining 64 yards on 10 carries. Texas Tech’s Da’Leon Ward gained 75 yards on 15 carries and Demarcus Felton 44 yards on 12 carries.
In passing, Baylor’s Charlie Brewer completed 22 of his 30 passes for 308 yards and 3 touchdowns but was intercepted once and was sacked 3 times. Tech’s McLane Carter completed 21 of his 37 throws for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns but he suffered two interceptions and was sacked twice.
Baylor’s swift senior Chris Platt led all receivers, catching 6 passes for 114 yards. Denzel Mims caught 5 balls for 65 yards and 2 touchdowns; senior Jalen Hurd caught 3 passes for 51 yards and Tyquan Thornton caught 2 passes for 51 yards and one touchdown. For Texas Tech, T.J. Vasher caught 6 passes for 61 yards, Ja’Deion High caught 5 for 89 yards and a touchdown, Seth Collins caught 4 for 53 yards and a touchdown and Antoine Wesley caught 4 for 35 yards.
Defensive statistics showed Baylor’s junior linebacker Clay Johnston once again leading his team, being in on 12 tackles (6 solo), safety Chris miller was in on 10 stops (6 solo), junior linebacker Blake Lynch was in on 8 stops (3 solo), and junior linebacker Jordan Williams was in on 5 (3 solo). For Texas Tech, safety Ja’Shawn Johnson was credited with 13 tackles (8 solo), linebacker Jordyn Brooks with 12 (7 solo), Rico Jeffers with 8 stops (4 solo) and tackle Broderick Washington with 7 (4 solo).
And now, who’s ready to go bowling?