Baylor Notches Largest Comeback in Program History Against UCF, 36-35

Baylor vs. UCF
Photo credit: Baylor Athletics

May the Dave Aranda and co. haters eat their words, I say!! The Baylor Football team (2-3, 1-1) pulled off what could only be called a miracle (even by the nonreligious such as me) in the program’s largest comeback in history, 36-35 against new Big 12 opponent UCF (3-2, 0-2) in the teams’ second meeting all-time. The Bears have had quite the difficult start to their season, collecting defeats against Texas State, then-ranked No. 12 Utah, and last week’s beatdown by No. 3 Texas, HOWEVER, on Saturday they showed incredible signs of courage and tenacity—two characteristics nearly absent since the beginning of September. Starting junior QB Blake Shapen returned to the field since he suffered an MCL injury in week one’s Texas State matchup, and his leadership was evident as the Bears fought back from deficit. Despite going down 21-0 within the first 9 minutes of play and eventually making it to 35-7 at 7:59 in the 3rd quarter, Baylor clawed and sparred with the UCF Golden Knights to mark a 28-point comeback as the school’s largest in history! The Bears took 45 minutes of devastating play and turned it on its heels to show UCF, the Big 12 Conference, and all of the fans and cynics that Sir Dave Aranda is still alive and the season is not even close to over yet! Shapen completed 21 of 34 passing attempts for 293 yards and 1 TD and had 9 carries for a loss of 24 yards with 1 TD. The Bears totaled 446 offensive yards to UCF’s 469 with 2/3 of the yardage coming from passing attempts, which would be unusual as Baylor boasts an “RVO” or Reliable Violent Offense based off of the run game. Baylor lost the penalties game to UCF by recording 4 for a loss of 35 compared to the Golden Knights’ 7 for a loss of 74. And I won’t even mention UCF’s fumble recovery for a TD that should not have been as junior RB Dominic Richardson was down and his forward progress had stopped pre-strip.

The Bears had the ball first and started off with a 3-and-out on Shapen’s broken up pass, Richardson’s 3-yard rush, and Shapen’s 6-yard pass to junior WR Hal Presley. On the first UCF play, their RB Richardson rushed for a 79-yard TD in 12 seconds to go up 7-0. Baylor’s Richardson rushed for 2 yards, Shapen completed a 3-yard pass to sophomore WR Jordan Nabors, and Shapen was sacked for a loss of 14 yards for another 3-and-out. Freshman S DJ Coleman broke up UCF QB Timmy McClain’s pass, but McClain scored a rushing TD for a 14-0 lead at 9 minutes left in the 1st quarter. Shapen had 2 incomplete passes, sophomore RB Richard Reese rushed for 11 yards on 2 carries, and Richardson gained 1 yard on 1 carry prior to Shapen’s 2nd sack, this time for a loss of 10 yards. UCF’s drive ended in 9 seconds with a McClain 65-yard TD pass for the Golden Knights’ 21-0 lead at 6:17 left in the 1st quarter. The Bears got the ball back on their own 28 yard line and Shapen completed a 17-yard pass to Presley, 15-yarder to junior WR Monaray Baldwin, and had a broken up pass on the UCF 40. Reese rushed for 6 yards and Shapen threw consecutive passes to redshirt sophomore WR Jonah Burton and freshman RB Dawson Pendergrass for 4 yards and 25 yards, respectively. Richardson rushed for a 3-yard gain, Shapen’s subsequent pass was broken up, and Shapen concluded the drive with a 2-yard rushing TD for the Bears 21-7 score upon redshirt sophomore K Isaiah Hankins’ extra point. The Baylor defense forced UCF’s first 3-and-out with redshirt senior LB Matt Jones snagging a QB hurry. Reese lost 1 yard on the ground and Shapen gained 8 to close the 1st quarter.

The Bears opened the 2nd quarter with a series of rushes: Reese had 38 yards on 3 carries and Richardson added 15 yards on 3 carries, but after his forward progress stopped on the final 2-yard gain, the ball was stripped by UCF and returned 87 yards for a Golden Knights TD and a 28-7 lead (no comment). Reese rushed for 6 yards and Shapen gained 1, but a Baylor holding penalty negated the rushing gains and pushed the Bears back to 2nd and 14 at their own 27. Baldwin carried the ball for 10 yards and Shapen threw a 3-yard completion to Presley on 3rd and 4. On 4th and 1 on their own 40, Shapen threw an incomplete pass to turn the ball over on downs. UCF nearly scored a TD on their 3rd and goal, but they had an offensive pass interference that forced them to attempt a field goal from 32 yards. Baylor’s redshirt sophomore DL Cooper Lanz blocked the field goal and gave the Bears the ball back on their 20. Shapen connected with senior TE Drake Dabney on a 15-yard pass and a UCF roughing the passer penalty pushed the Bears up to the 50-yard-line. Shapen rushed for 14 yards, Richardson rushed for 13 yards on 3 carries, and Reese carried the ball 3 times for 12 yards. Pendergrass didn’t gain any on his 1 carry before Shapen was hurried and threw an incomplete pass to set up a field goal attempt from 46 yards, which Hankins missed. UCF knelt the ball at 14 seconds left to send both teams into halftime.

On UCF’s first series of the 2nd half, McClain was sacked for a loss of 4 yards by Lanz and 7 yards by 5th-year LB Byron Vaughns. Redshirt junior CB Chateau Reed notched a pass break up before the Golden Knights’ drive ended with a TD and a 35-7 lead. Shapen was immediately sacked for a loss of 8 yards (his 3rd on the game), but he completed consecutive passes of 12 and 16 yards to Nabors and Richardson, respectively, before being hurried and throwing an incomplete attempt. Shapen’s next 2 passes were to freshmen TE Matthew Klopfenstein for 5 yards and Dabney for 10 yards prior to Reese’s 18 yard gain on 1 carry. Shapen lost 3 yards on the ground and threw 2 incomplete passes with the second being broken up, so Hankins kicked a 30-yard field goal to give the Bears a leg up on the 35-10 score. UCF moved the ball up the field with 3 1st down attempts, but McClain’s 3rd and 15 pass was intercepted by freshman CB Caden Jenkins who returned the ball 5 yards to the Baylor 19. Shapen’s first pass was incomplete, Reese rushed for a 15-yard gain, which was negated by a Baylor holding penalty, and Shapen threw a 10-yard completion to Richardson at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Shapen threw a 5-yard pass to Baldwin and Pendergrass rushed for 8 yards on the carry before Shapen connected with Baldwin again for a 43-yard bomb up the middle. Reese ran for 2 yards, Shapen completed a 12-yarder to junior TE Jake Roberts, and Pendergrass rushed for 6 yards for a TD and a 35-18 score after Shapen dodged a tackle and completed a pass to junior WR Ketron Jackson Jr. in the end zone for a successful 2-point attempt. The Baylor defense forced a UCF 3-and-out to get the ball back. Shapen threw passes of 5 yards and 35 yards to Jackson Jr. and Baldwin, respectively, and Reese lost 1 yard on 1 carry. Shapen tied up with Baldwin again on an 11-yard pass and a 5-yard pass for a TD, and Shapen successfully completed the Bears’ 2nd 2-point attempt on a pass to Nabors for the Bears’ 35-26 score with 9:38 left in the game. UCF moved the ball all the way to the Baylor 25, but a bad snap and fumble was recovered by Jenkins, who returned the ball 72 yards to the house and inched the Bears closer to the Golden Knights, 35-33 upon Hankins’ extra point. Redshirt freshman S Corey Gordon Jr. broke up a McClain pass to force a 3-and-out for UCF at 4:46 left. Reese rushed for 4 yards, Pendergrass added 4, and Shapen had a broken up pass before connecting with Baldwin for a 36-yard catch. Pendergrass rushed for 3 yards on 2 carries and Shapen had 5 yards on 1 carry, but the Bears settled for a 25-yard made field goal by Hankins to take the lead 36-35 at 1:14 left in the game. Sophomore S Devyn Bobby recorded a pass break up prior to UCF’s last second 59-yard field goal labeled a far miss, giving the Bears the victory.

5 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Reese (16 carries for 100 yards), Richardson (10 carries for 37 yards), Pendergrass (7 carries for 30 yards and 1 TD), Baldwin (1 carry for 10 yards), and Shapen (9 carries for a loss of 24 yards and 1 TD). 10 received passes including Baldwin (7 catches for 150 yards and 1 TD), Presley (3 catches for 26 yards), Richardson (2 catches for 26 yards), Dabney (2 catches for 25 yards), Nabors (2 catches for 15 yards and a 2-point conversion), Pendergrass (1 catch for 25 yards), Roberts (1 catch for 12 yards), Jackson Jr. (1 catch for 5 yards and a 2-point conversion), Klopfenstein (1 catch for 5 yards), and Burton (1 catch for 4 yards). The defense amassed 49 tackles with 5 for a loss of 10 yards (M. Jones, Lanz), 1 sack for a loss of 4 yards (Lanz), 1 fumble recovered for 72 yards and a TD (Jenkins), 1 interception returned 5 yards (Jenkins), 3 pass break ups (Bobby, Coleman, Gordon Jr.), 1 blocked kick (Lanz), and 1 QB hurry (M. Jones).

The Bears will return to Waco to face former assistant coach Joey McGuire and Texas Tech (2-3, 1-1) on October 7 at 7 p.m. (CT).