From the press box: Baylor hosts Texas Tech to close regular season

Photo by Dave Campbell's Texas Football

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WACO – A ticket wasn’t punched, but the Baylor Bears moved a step closer to a Big 12 championship game berth in a 27-24 win over Texas Tech. The Bears improved to 10-2 on the year behind a strong defense and a rushing attack that wears down opponents. Baylor will advance to the Big 12 title game if Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma on Saturday night. Texas Tech drops to 6-6 on the regular season with head coach Joey McGuire prepared to take over duties full-time during bowl preparations. 


Blake Shapen must be smarter with the football: Shapen, a redshirt freshman, earned his first start of the season on Saturday in the win over Texas Tech. He went 16 of 21 for 137 yards in relief of an injured Gerry Bohanon during the Week 12 win over Kansas State. Shapen was given the full 60 minutes on Saturday, and for the most part, he passed the test. Shapen began the game 5 of 6 for 111 yards and a touchdown. But he flirted with interceptions throughout the contest and was fortunate that Texas Tech’s defense couldn’t turn deflections into interceptions. If Baylor reaches the Big 12 championship game, and if Shapen starts, he’ll need to be smarter with the football. He was 20 of 34 for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

The Baylor rushing attack wears defenses down: It was a pedestrian day for the Baylor running attack for most of the first two quarters. It wasn’t until the Texas Tech defense was out of gas that the combo of Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner truly took over the football game offensively. With a young quarterback, that rushing attack is more important than ever for Jeff Grimes’ offense. Smith finished with 117 yards rushing and a touchdown on 30 carries. Ebner, who caught a 61-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game, accounted for 156 total yards, including a team-high 117 yards receiving out of the backfield. Baylor relied on that running game to ice the contest late after Texas Tech twice pulled within three points in the fourth quarter. 

Dave Aranda’s defense is opportunistic: Baylor scored 17 points in the first half. Ten of those came after forced fumbles by the Bears’ defense. Aranda is a defensive master, and he put those chops on display again against Texas Tech’s offense. Jairon McVea forced a fumble that led to three points in the first quarter. Raleigh Texada recorded a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery on the same play after the cornerback blitzed off the edge and surprised Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith. The usual suspects such as Siaki Ika, Terrel Bernard, and Jalen Pitre turned in strong performances. The secondary did allow two long touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. 

Texas Tech’s offense lacks punch: The Red Raiders move the football, but points were hard to come by once again in Waco. Smith led the Texas Tech offense to 31 points in the first half of the win against Iowa State on Nov. 13 in his first start. The Red Raiders scored 20 points over the next eight quarters, including 10 in the first half against Texas Tech. Smith did find McLane Mannix for a 38-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter thanks to a blown coverage by the Baylor defense. A 75-yard screen from Smith to Travis Koontz kept the Red Raiders in the game. Both of Smith’s touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter when the Bears defense backed off from pressuring him on every down. Of his 207 passing yards, 144 came on three passes. 

The Red Raiders kept fighting: Texas Tech never went away. The Red Raiders were down by double-digits twice in the fourth quarter and still found a way for Jonathan Garibay to be on the field with a chance to send it to overtime as time expired. Garibay, who hit a 62-yarder to beat Iowa State a few weeks ago, kicked it wide left to prevent the Red Raiders from mounting an upset in overtime. The fight shown by Texas Tech since the firing of Matt Wells is comendable. The group knocked off Iowa State to become bowl eligible, played tough against Oklahoma State, and never threw in the towel against Baylor. Maybe moral victories don't count in major college football, but that's the type of end to the regular season that this program can carry into the offseason. 

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