Baylor Drops Heartbreaking 34-31 Loss Against West Virginia

Baylor vs. West Virginia
Photo credit: Lilly Yablon – Baylor Lariat

The Baylor Football team (3-9, 2-7) closed their season on Senior Day with a devastating 34-31 loss against West Virginia on the Mountaineers’ final score at 23 seconds left in play. Being out managed 365-86 yards with West Virginia (8-4, 6-3) leading 27-14 at halftime, the Bears luckily saw a magician in sophomore RB Richard Reese on kickoff returns with Reese scoring back-to-back TDs for Baylor on 96 and 93 yard returns to the house in the 2nd quarter. Redshirt sophomore QB Sawyer Robertson got the start with junior QB Blake Shapen out with an injury, and Robertson found his spark at the start of the 3rd quarter, marking only 2 incompletions and no interceptions throughout the entirety of the game. But although Robertson and his offense attempted a miraculous comeback similar to that of the UCF game earlier in the season, the game ended in a heartbreaking fashion with redshirt sophomore K Isaiah Hankins missing a field goal that would give the Bears a 7 point lead, and West Virginia QB Garrett Greene marching the Mountaineers down the field to score within 51 seconds to secure their victory. Robertson completed 17 of 19 passing attempts for 215 yards with 1 TD, and added 15 carries for 33 yards. The Bears totaled 334 offensive yards with 119 yards rushing compared to 519 total for West Virginia (West Virginia averaged 8.4 yards per play as opposed to Baylor’s 5.9). Baylor notched 5 penalties for a loss of 50 yards, while West Virginia had 5 for a loss of 55. West Virginia had the edge on red zone success, scoring on 3 of 3 attempts, while the Bears scored on 1 of 2. The Mountaineers outmaneuvered the Bears in sacks with 3 for a loss of 13 compared to none for Baylor.

5 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Reese (6 carries for 42 yards + 2 kickoff returns for 96 and 93 yards and 2 TDs), Robertson (15 carries for 33 yards), junior RB Dominic Richardson (10 carries for 25 yards and 1 TD), freshman RB Dawson Pendergrass (5 carries for 16 yards), and junior WR Ketron Jackson Jr. (1 carry for 3 yards). 10 received passes including Pendergrass (4 catches for 21 yards), Jackson Jr. (3 catches for 88 yards and 1 TD), redshirt sophomore WR Josh Cameron (2 catches for 31 yards), senior TE Drake Dabney (2 catches for 23 yards), freshman TE Jake Roberts (1 catch for 37 yards), redshirt sophomore WR Cameron Bonner (1 catch for 6 yards), freshman TE Matthew Klopfenstein (1 catch for 4 yards), Reese (1 catch for 3 yards), sophomore TE Kelsey Johnson (1 catch for 1 yard), and Richardson (1 catch for 1 yard). The defense amassed 56 tackles with 5 for a loss of 17 yards (redshirt senior LB Matt Jones, 7th-year LB Bryson Jackson, 5th-year LB Byron Vaughns, 5th-year DL TJ Franklin), 4 pass break ups (sophomore S Devyn Bobby, Jackson, redshirt sophomore S Devin Lemear), and 1 QB hurry (redshirt senior LB Garmon Randolph). In comparison, West Virginia collected 52 tackles with 5 for a loss of 18 yards, 3 sacks for a loss of 13 yards, and 2 pass break ups.

Although the Bears didn’t secure the victory against West Virginia on Senior Day, a couple of athletes recorded extraordinary individual notes I must highlight (all credit to Baylor Athletics’ Communications)! Reese had two kickoff returns returned for 96 and 93 yard TDsā€”the second time in Baylor history and since 2020 (remember Trestan Ebner?) that the Bears had two kickoffs returned for scores. The scores were also the first consecutive returns for TDs in program history. Dabney is fourth in comparison to Baylor TEs in program history with 873 receiving yards, but he received 552 yards in 2023 alone, which is the best total in single-season history for TEs.