After two difficult losses against Texas State and then-ranked No. 12 Utah to start the season, the Baylor Football team (1-2) notched their first victory of 2023 with a 30-7 triumph over FCS opponent Long Island (0-3) in Waco! A mid-game 2 hour rain and lightning delay couldn’t slow down the Bears’ extraordinarily productive running game that was nearly reminiscent of the 2015 Baylor vs. North Carolina Russell Athletic Bowl (one of my favorite games of all time) where the Bears went for a wildcat offense after losing every QB and a WR filling in for QB throughout the season. Long Island showed some hints of promise for a competitive FCS squad, but Baylor ultimately capitalized on good OL blocking and a severe weather delay that led to sparks of energy on the green and gold side in the second half. Sophomore transfer QB Sawyer Robertson completed 10 of 22 passing attempt for 113 yards and 1 TD and added 1 carry for 14 yards. Junior transfer QB RJ Martinez completed 3 of 5 passing attempts for 5 yards. The Bears outpaced the Sharks in total offensive performance with 391 yards to the latter’s 183 and 270 of the Bears’ yards coming from rushing attempts. The Bears also cleaned up their penalties act to only collect 2 for a loss of 15 yards while Long Island had 5 for a loss of 45 yards.
Baylor’s first possession to start the game ended in a 3-and-out with sophomore RB Richard Reese rushing for 5 yards, freshman RB Dawson Pendergrass adding 1 yard on the ground, and Robertson’s pass incomplete due to a pass break up. Long Island snagged a first down, but were unable to move the ball more than 19 yards before punting back to the Bears. Reese rushed for 14 yards on 2 carries and freshman RB Bryson Washington had 9 yards on 2 carries. Robertson threw passes to sophomore TE Kelsey Johnson for 7 yards, junior TE Jake Roberts for 10 yards, and junior WR Ketron Jackson Jr. for 11 yards and a 1st down. Robertson threw 2 incomplete passes against QB hurries before Pendergrass rushed for a 7 yard gain. Robertson’s passing attempt to senior TE Drake Dabney was broken up on a QB hurry prior to Robertson’s 21-yard connection with K. Johnson and Reese’s 13-yard rushing score before redshirt sophomore K Isaiah Hankins’ made point. The Bears’ defense collected on a 3-and-out by Long Island with 2 minutes left in the game. Pendergrass rushed for 3 yards, Robertson had 2 passes incomplete with the second snagging a break from a pass interference penalty. Reese rushed for 0 yard gain and Robertson threw an 11-yard dart to J. Roberts to close the 1st quarter.
Pendergrass opened the 2nd quarter with a false start penalty and Robertson’s first pass was incomplete. Robertson threw a 22-yarder to Pendergrass, Reese rushed for 20 yards on 3 carries, and Washington added 7 on 2 carries. Pendergrass carried the ball 4 times for 8 yards before scoring on a 1-yard run into the end zone and adding Hankins’ extra point for a 14-0 game. Long Island QB Ethan Greenwood threw two incomplete passes and was sacked for a loss of 8 yards prior to an LIU false start penalty. When Long Island attempted to snap the ball to punt out of the end zone, the ball flew over the punter’s head and past the end zone to give the Bears a safety and a 16-0 lead. The Bears got the ball back after the safety and swapped out Robertson for backup RJ Martinez with 6:55 left in the first half. Reese rushed for 13 yards on 2 carries, Pendergrass ran for 15 yards on 3 carries and nearly caught a pass at the end of the drive. Martinez threw passes of 2 yards to Pendergrass, 5 yards to redshirt sophomore WR Jonah Burton for 5 yards, Washington for 1 yard, and 2 incomplete passes to follow, turning the ball over on downs at the LIU 41 yard line. The Baylor defense gave up a few strong plays and Long Island notched their first TD of the game at 0:40 to shrink the Bears’ lead to 16-7. Robertson rotated back into the game and threw an 18-yard pass to Jackson Jr. on 1 and 10, but Long Island stripped the ball and took over at the Baylor 49. On the Long Island first play after the recovery, QB Howell threw an interception to the Bears at the end of the 2nd quarter and the start of the long lightning delay.
Long Island opened the second half 2 hours later and Howell was sacked for a loss of 5 yards on the 2nd down. When Greenwood rotated in as play caller, he threw an incomplete pass and the Sharks punted the ball away. Robertson rushed for 14 yards, Pendergrass added 25 yards on 4 carries, and Washington had 14 yards on 3 carries. Robertson’s first pass was a loss of 1 yard, his second was incomplete to Washington, third completed for 11 yards to redshirt sophomore WR Josh Cameron, and incomplete for a fourth time to Jackson Jr. Reese rushed for 13 yards and a TD prior to Hankins’ extra point and the Bears increased their lead to 23-7. Baylor defense’s redshirt freshman S Corey Gordon Jr. notched a pass break up and redshirt junior DL Treven Maʻae hurried QB Howell. Baylor got the ball back and sophomore WR Jordan Nabors had a 4-yard rush, Pendergrass noted a 7-yard gain, and Washington had 11 yards.
The Long Island Sharks moved their offense into Baylor territory at the start of the 4th quarter, but Greenwood was sacked for a loss of 12 yards on 4th and 6 on the Baylor 31. Robertson’s pass was incomplete on the first series, but Pendergrass ran for 31 yards, Reese ran for 4, and Washington had 2. Pendergrass rushed for 15 yards on 3 carries, Jackson Jr.’s catch was broken up, and Washington added 2 yards on the ground. Robertson completed a 3-yard pass to Dabney for the Baylor TD on Hankins’ made extra point and a 30-7 Baylor score. As Long Island marched through Baylor territory into the 26, freshman DL Trey Wilson recorded his career-first blocked kick on a Long Island field goal attempt at 43 yards. Redshirt sophomore RB Jordan Jenkins closed the game with a 19-yard gain on 2 carries.
7 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Pendergrass (career-high 21 carries for 111 yards and 1 TD), Reese (12 carries for 82 yards and 2 TDs), Washington (10 carries for 45 yards), Jenkins (2 carries for 19 yards), Robertson (1 carry for 14 yards), Nabors (1 carry for 4 yards), and Baldwin (1 carry for a loss of 5 yards). 8 received passes including J. Roberts (3 catches for 29 yards), Jackson Jr. (2 catches for 29 yards), K. Johnson (2 catches for 28 yards), Pendergrass (2 catches for 24 yards), Cameron (1 catch for 11 yards), Burton (1 catch for 3 yards), Dabney (1 catch for 3 yards and 1 TD), and Washington (1 catch for 1 yard). The defense amassed 29 tackles with 6 for a loss of 58 yards (5th-year LB Mike Smith Jr., 5th-year LB Byron Vaughns, freshman CB Carl Williams IV, Reese, 5th-year DL TJ Franklin), 3 sacks for a loss of 25 yards (Vaughns, Franklin), 1 forced fumble (Reese), 1 interception (Williams IV), 1 pass break up (Gordon Jr.), 1 blocked kick (Wilson), and 1 QB hurry (Maʻae).
The Bears will remain at home to face No. 3 T*xas (3-0) on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. (CT).