Three first half rushing touchdowns from three different players combined with a stellar defensive effort propelled the third-ranked Texas Longhorns past the Baylor Bears, 38-6, in Waco on Saturday night. The game was significant because it was the 113th – and maybe final – meeting between the two regional rivals due to Texas’ move to the SEC after the season.
The Longhorns looked like a team poised to exit the Big 12 with the championship belt after four games this season. Texas outclassed Baylor from the start as the Bears fell to 1-3 on the season despite playing their first four games at home. Texas returns home in Week 5 with a top 25 clash against Kansas. Baylor heads on the road for the first time this season for a must-win game against UCF.
Longhorns are class of Big 12, state of Texas: Finding the weak spots in the Texas football team becomes harder with each passing performance. The Longhorns proved capable of beating a top team on the road in Week 2 against Alabama. They passed another test on Saturday in a runaway win over the Bears. Texas is known as a program that plays with its food and Baylor was ripe to be overlooked thanks to losses against Texas State and Utah.
Texas didn’t fall into that honey hole, however. The best way to describe the performance in the win was mature. The Longhorns bullied Baylor in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The interior defensive line rotation of Byron Murphy, Alfred Collins, and T’Vondre Sweat rivals any trio in the state. Add linebacker Jaylan Ford and a talented secondary to go alongside emerging pass rushers, and there wasn’t much Baylor could do offensively. The only Achilles heel for the Longhorns defensively appears to be when their safeties get stuck in 1-on-1 coverage down the field. Baylor couldn’t block the Longhorns long enough to capitalize on that deficiency with any consistency.
The offense was efficient and balanced. Ewers finished with 293 yards and one passing touchdown on 18 of 23 through the air. He also ran for a score. Jonathon Brooks eclipsed 100 yards on 18 carries, adding two scores on the ground. True freshman CJ Baxter also ran for a touchdown in the first half. Ja’Tavion Sanders paced the Longhorns with five catches for 110 yards. Xavier Worthy caught the team’s only touchdown pass.
Bad news, Bears: Each week feels like a new bottom for the 2023 Baylor football team. Fans thought it surely couldn’t get worse than the Week 1 home loss to Texas State, but each successive performance sucks more confidence away from the future of this program. The Bears are now 1-3 after four weeks and staring down the barrel of a third losing season in four tries under Dave Aranda. The 12-win 2021 season feels like forever ago for the Baylor faithful.
The frustrations continued in the blowout loss. Playing with a backup quarterback against a top five team in the nation was never an ideal situation, but the Bears stood no chance from kickoff. The offensive line was demolished. The defensive line couldn’t set an edge. The skill position players couldn’t make plays. The only thing working for Baylor was punting to Texas because the Longhorns muffed a pair.
The eventual return of Blake Shapen will help, but the Bears’ problems extend beyond the quarterback position. They won in 2021 with a great running game and an even better defense. The Bears possess neither of those things in 2023. Baylor was outrushed 95 to 11 in the first half. Texas recorded five sacks by the end of the third quarter.
The Bears ended the 2022 season on a five-game losing streak. That was extended to seven prior to the win over Long Island in Week 3, but with the loss to Texas in Week 4, Baylor is on an eight-game losing streak to FBS teams that dates to a win over Texas Tech on Oct. 29 – over 320 days ago.
A 1-5 start isn’t out of the question. Baylor heads on the road in Week 5 for the first time all season to take on a solid UCF squad. Week 6 is a home game against Texas Tech – a program that is also 1-3 after four games. Reaching six wins for bowl eligibility seems impossible, at least on paper. The Bears need to win five of their next eight to get to 6-6. Finding those five wins is tough considering the play of both sides of the ball.
Prove it time for Texas: The next two weeks could dictate Texas’ upside in 2023. Beat Kansas at home in Week 5 and Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry in Week 6 and the Longhorns are firmly in the College Football Playoff race. Drop one of those games and Texas must be perfect the rest of the way, including in a potential Big 12 title game, to reach those heights. Two losses and the best Texas can hope for is a Big 12 crown. A three-game stretch starting on Oct. 28 against BYU and continuing with games against Kansas State and TCU would be the next big challenge for the Longhorns if they can get past Kansas and Oklahoma and head into the idle week at 6-0.
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