Baylor Drops Last Second 20-13 Decision Against No. 12 Utah

Baylor vs. Utah
Photo credit: Rod Aydelotte – Waco Tribune-Herald

Whereas the Baylor Football team (0-2) looked like a sloppy, confused mess in last week’s season opening loss against Texas State (read my recap of that game here), the team showed great improvements in their near-upset of No. 12 Utah (2-0) that ended with a final second 20-13 win for the future Big 12 Utes in Waco. The defense looked like a completely different group—one almost reminiscent of the historic 2021 collective that mostly now play on Sundays. And while the Bears either tied or led the game until literally the last 17 seconds of play, feet were taken off the gas, interceptions were thrown, and a second game of the season was lost. And of course I’d be remiss to ignore the blatant pass interference that should have been as the Bears would have scored in the final second of play to tie the game.

The Bears’ offense was of slightly similar caliber as their play last week with redshirt sophomore QB Sawyer Robertson taking his first start following junior starting QB Blake Shapen’s MCL injury. Facing a tough Utah defense, Robertson completed 12 of 28 passing attempts for 218 yards and 2 interceptions and added 5 carries for 19 yards and the Bears’ lone rushing TD. Robertson wasn’t as efficient as Shapen was pre-injury, but the Bears still managed to compile 339 total offensive yards. Robertson’s WR corps collected as many grabs as possible from their backup as 6 receivers received passes including junior WR Hal Presley (4 catches for 72 yards), junior WR Ketron Jackson Jr. (2 catches for 69 yards and what might have been the game-tying TD if not for a blatant pass interference non-call), sophomore RB Richard Reese (2 catches for 16 yards), junior RB Dominic Richardson (2 catches for 15 yards), senior TE Drake Dabney (1 catch for 35 yards), and redshirt sophomore WR Jonah Burton (1 catch for 11 yards). The O-Line somewhat improved their blocking (although their aggravating false start penalties did not disappear) and allowed a minuscule running game to develop. Richardson led the rushing corps with 14 carries for 81 yards, while co-starter Reese had 7 carries for 21 yards. Burton rushed for 2 yards on 2 carries and freshman RB Dawson Pendergrass added 2 on 2 carries. Unfortunately, an inconsistent offensive performance was not enough to hold on to a 1-2 score lead with 2 minutes left in the game.

Last week, everyone with eyeballs watched the Bears’ nonexistent defense attempt to shut down a well-oiled machine in the Bobcats’ offense led by massive Auburn transfer QB TJ Finley. Finley and his RBs and WRs found success in most plays as the defense in green and gold looked lethargic and lost. However, DC Matthew Powledge and his position coaches led the Bears to vast defensive improvement with Baylor outmaneuvering a usually notable Utah defense, amassing 69 tackles with 6 for a loss of 12 yards (senior DL Gabe Hall, redshirt freshman LB Kyler Jordan, 5th-year DL TJ Franklin, freshman DL Trey Wilson), 3 sacks for a loss of 8 yards (Hall, Franklin, T. Wilson), 1 interception returned 3 yards (K. Jordan), 7 pass break ups (redshirt senior LB Matt Jones, 5th-year LB Mike Smith Jr., freshman S DJ Coleman, freshman CB Caden Jenkins, 7th-year LB Bryson Jackson, redshirt junior DL Treven Maʻae), and 3 QB hurries (Smith Jr., K. Jordan, T. Wilson). Despite the final two Utah possessions resulting in TDs to take the victory, the defense showed immense strides while on the field for 36 minutes of play.

Baylor will remain in Waco to face Long Island (0-1) on Saturday at 11 a.m. (CT).