There is a time-honored axiom that you cannot take the foot out of football, nor can you take the toe out of the foot. The Baylor Bears used both to ease past the visiting Iowa State Cyclones and win the team’s Big 12 Conference opener, 23-21, before a sweltering crowd of an announced 42,359 fans eager to see what their favorite team can do. What they saw was their Bears can do what what did several times last season when they nosed past both Kansas State and Oklahoma State with just seconds left on the scoreboard clock.
Just enough time for red-shirt freshman John Mayers to kick a 38-yard field goal into the swirling wind. He had missed one earlier when he had the tricky wind at his back. The scoreboard clock showed 21 seconds left.
In other words, the Bears made it awfully close. Too close for those with weak hearts or frazzled nerves. The visiting Cyclones had time to complete one 19-yard pass and for Iowa State quarterback to get sacked for a lost of 10 yards and fumble with Baylor’s James Lockhart recovering and the game was over.
Thus all’s well that ends well for the home folks, even if it was too close for comfort.
Now, the Bears go on the road to Kansas State, and will find no legendary Bill Snyder, who retired after twice bringing the school back to real prominence in national football circles, to 19 bowl games and a National Hall of Fame inductee in 2016.
The new coach is Chris Klieman, and he’s no newcomer to the game. As a matter of fact he’s a seven-time national champion at North Dakota State and has won the most victories among active Division 1 coaches over the past five seasons. So he will be a hard coach to beat whether at home in Manhattan, Kan., or Waco.
But now let’s focus on the Baylor-Iowa State game. It figured to be close. The last time the Bears beat the Cyclones either at home or away was in 2016 when Jim Grobe was when Baylor’s one-year “temporary coach” (after Art Briles had been fired) and his Bears went to Iowa State and beat the Cyclones with an amazing fourth-quarter comeback, 45-42. Remember?
After three quarters of this latest Baylor game, the Bears had found the pickings to be easy. They led, to 20 to 0 and ain’t we got fun. Well, no we ain’t. The Cylones scored three touchdowns, successfully added the extra point after each and led the game, 21-20. The Bears had 15 minutes to come up with an answer and the clock was ticking, ticking, ticking. It clicked just long enough.
This was strictly a Charlie Brewer drive. Starting at their own 25, Brewer completed passes to Tyquan Thornton and R.J. Sneed and rushed two yards himself for a first down. He completed a 1-yard pass to JaMycal Hasty, threw an incompletion to Denzel Mims, then rushed 10 yards himself for a first down to the Baylor 47-yard line. The clock was still clicking away. So Charlie competed a 15-yard pass to Thornton to the ISU 38, so now the Bears were getting close. But going into the wind, not close enough
Now Charlie threw an incompletion to Thornton. Now a 5-yard completion to Thornton, then a 6-yard completion to Denzel Mims and a first down at the ISU 27. Could Baylor go on now and score? No they could not. Somebody started too quickly and Baylor retreated 5 yards because of the false start.
Charlie threw an incompleton to Thornton, then connected to the same receiver for 13 yards to the ISU 19. Now Charlie tried to run himself but was sacked for a 2-yard loss, back to the ISU 21. The clock had ticked down to 21 seconds. ISU called a time out, maybe to “freeze” the Baylor kicker. But John Mayers remained unfrozen. “Best moment of my life,” he said after the game. His field goal kick from the 38 went above and through the uprights in the south end of McLane Stadium and Baylor had its 23-21 victory. Close, yes, but the Bears are still unbeaten, 4-0 for the season and what other member of the Big 12 Conference other than Oklahoma can say that?
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bears went in front in the second period when Brewer threw a 9-yard pass to Denzel Mims and Mayers’ kick was good. In the third period it again was Brewer to Mims, this time on a 24-yard pass, but then on the PAT somebody fumbled the snap or ISU broke through or somebody mised a block and Mayers never got to make his kick.
And then here came the Cyclones. ISU’s Johnnie Lang scored on a 3-yard-run, Lang scored again after catching a 12-yard pass from big and tall sophomore Brock Purdy (6-1, 210) and then big and tall tight end Charlie Kolar (6-6, 252) caught a 20-yard pass from Purdy and Connor Assalley’s kicks went right over the uprights and Iowa State was suddenly was ahead, 21-20.
It didn’t seem possible but the scoreboard didn’t lie.
But fortunately Baylor had just enough time to stage that last drive of 54 yards using 14 plays to win the game.
The final game statistics showed just how even the teams were. Baylor led in first downs, 24 to ISU’s 23. Baylor led in net yards rushing, 104 to ISU’s 63. ISU led in net yards passing, 342 to BU’s 307. Total offense put Baylor ahead, 411 to ISU’s 405. ISU led in average per play, 5.5 on 73 plays to Baylor’s 5.2 on 79 plays. Baylor was set back 75 yards on penalties, ISU lnly 25 yards on 2 penalties. ISU lost one fumble, Baylor fumbled but retained possession.
Baylor was successful on one of two field goal attempts, ISU was was unsuccessful on two field goal tries. Baylor was successful on 6 of 17 third down tries and 2 of 3 fourth down plays; ISU was 7 of 15 third down plays and unsuccessful on the one forth down play in ran.
In individual stats, Baylor’s John Lovett led both teams in net rushing with 52 yards on 12 runs; Brewer had 48 yards on 13 tries (but lost 19 of those yards, leaving him a net of 29 yards.Trestan Ebner had 16 net yard; JaMacal Hasty had a net of 10 yards on 3 carries.
Johnnie Lang led ISU with 35 net yards on 6 tries (no losses).
Brewer threw all of Baylor’s passes, 26 for 307 yards. Purdy was ISU’s only passer and he was 27 of 45 for 342 yards.
In pass receptions, Tyquan snagged 11 passes for 141 yards one touchdown and Denzel Mims caught 6 for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Deshaunte Jones led ISU’s receiving corps, catching 7 passes for 77 yards. Charlie Kolar caught 5 for 72 yards and one touchdown and Johnnie Lang caught only one pass but it was for a touchdown.
ISU’s middle linebacker O’Rien Vance led that’s defensive play, being a part of 9 stps (6 6 solo), and free safety Lawrence White was in on 6 stops (4 solo). Newcomer Marcel Spears also was in on 6 (2 solo)
Linebacker Clay Johnston once again led Baylor’s defensive effort, being in 13 tackles (7 solo); weakside linebacker Jordan Williams was in on 6 stops (2 solo); weakside linebacker Terrel Bernard also was in on 6 (2 solo); and Chris Miller was in on 5 (all solo). All those guys had banner afternoons, along with the guys who had sacks (Johnston, Williams, nose tackle Bravvipn Roy and defensive end James Lockhart).