If the Baylor Football team hasn’t played anyone until yesterday’s matchup (although last week was a great game) against No. 14 Iowa State, players, coaches, and fans alike will gladly celebrate the 31-29 upset victory as the first “real” matchup! The Bears (4-0, 2-0) have displayed such talent, grit, and development over the past four weeks, but none of the wins showed as much perseverance as yesterday’s did. Facing the best defense in the Big 12 Conference and one of the best in the league itself, the Bears mostly succeeded on offense (primarily in the first half), outgaining the yardage the Cyclones (2-2, 0-1) have allowed all season. Whereas Iowa State held all of its other opponents to fewer than 200 offensive yards per game, Baylor had 282. The Bears also stuffed Iowa State star RB and future NFL athlete Breece Hall from running amok over our pass rush defense. The most notable stat from yesterday’s game is that this victory was the Bears’ first win over a ranked opponent since the success of the “Wildbear offense” against then-ranked No. 10 North Carolina in the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl. Junior QB Gerry Bohanon, despite a dip in offensive production in the second half, completed 14 of 19 passes for 159 yards and 2 TDs and he added 10 carries for 36 yards and 1 TD. The Bears recorded significantly fewer yards than Iowa State with 282 to the Cyclones’ 479 and amassed an outrageous 9 penalties for a loss of 100 yards (Iowa State had 3 for 25) and still somehow pulled out the upset.
Baylor won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half as they usually do, so Iowa State started off with a long drive reliant on Hall for a TD and a 7-0 lead. Bohanon immediately completed a 6-yard pass to senior WR Tyquan Thornton and senior RB Trestan Ebner and Bohanon ran for 3 and 4 yards apiece. Bohanon completed consecutive passes of 7 and 5 yards to Ebner and senior WR R.J. Sneed and senior RB Abram Smith gained 12 yards on the ground. Bohanon hit Sneed with a 30-yard pass that Sneed fumbled close to the Iowa State endzone, but Thornton recovered the ball at the Cyclones’ 8. Bohanon rushed for 8 yards and a TD to tie the score at 7-7. Iowa State slowly moved upfield before sophomore DL Gabe Hall sacked Cyclones QB Brock Purdy for a loss of 2 yards and junior CB Al Walcott blocked the 16-yard punt to give Baylor great field position at their own 44 yard line. Smith lost 1 yard rushing and Bohanon threw a pass to junior TE Ben Sims that Sims dropped, but Bohanon completed a 20-yard pass to Sneed and 11-yarder to Thornton to end the first quarter.
On the Bears’ second play of the second quarter, Bohanon threw a perfect 21-yard pass to Thornton for a TD and a 14-7 Baylor lead. The Bears lost veteran senior LB Terrel Bernard with a leg injury in Iowa State’s first drive, but the Baylor defense stopped Hall’s running game and held the offense to a field goal and a 14-10 score. Ebner rushed for 16 yards on 2 carries, Smith added a 1-yard catch and 13 yards on 2 carries, and Bohanon had 6 yards on the ground for himself. Bohanon focused on his TEs toward the end of the drive, throwing a 6-yard pass to senior TE Drew Estrada and a 33-yard pass to wide open Sims for a TD and a 21-10 increased lead for Baylor. The Bears gave Iowa State free yards on two penalties, but a QB hurry by junior DL TJ Franklin and a missed field goal left the Cyclones without any points on the series. Bohanon was hurried on the first play, Ebner rushed 1 yard, and a Baylor holding penalty negated Bohanon’s 16-yard rush for a 1st down. Bohanon’s pass to Ebner for 6-yards wasn’t enough for the Bears to move the down markers, so the Bears were forced to punt. Sophomore LB Matt Jones had a QB hurry on the Cyclones’ next drive and sophomore LB Will Williams forced a fumble, but Iowa State recovered and nailed a field goal for a 21-13 score. The Bears knelt the ball with 4 seconds left to go to halftime.
The Bears got the ball to start the third quarter and Bohanon completed a 10-yard pass to Sims before Smith rushed for 3 yards and Bohanon added a 27-yard ground gain. Bohanon threw two consecutive incompletes, but he and Ebner rushed for 8 and 3 yards, respectively to move up to the Iowa State 26. On Bohanon’s next carry, he fumbled the ball and the Cyclones recovered it at their own 23. The Cyclones notched another field goal to decrease the Bears’ lead to 21-16, but upon kickoff to Ebner at the Bears’ 2, Ebner ran the ball back 98 yards for a TD (his third career kickoff return for a TD) and a 28-16 score. The Bears continued their momentum swing by forcing an Iowa State 3-and-out on their next possession. Sophomore RB Craig “Sqwirl” Williams ran 7 yards, Smith had 10 yards on 2 carries and Bohanon’s incomplete pass and Ebner’s loss of 1 yard on the ground forced a Baylor punt. Iowa State got their offense moving again with a Breece Hall TD to cut Baylor’s lead to 28-23. With 39 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, Ebner rushed for 4 yards and Bohanon was sacked for the first time for a loss of 5 yards.
At the start of the 4th quarter, Bohanon was sacked again for a loss of 10 yards and fumbled the ball, but senior OL Grant Miller recovered at Baylor’s 14 for a Baylor punt. Iowa State got 2 1st downs before Purdy’s pass was tipped by sophomore DT Siaki Ika and intercepted by sophomore LB Garmon Randolph at the Baylor 20. Smith rushed for 9 yards on 2 carries Williams added a 4 yard rush, but the Bears had to punt again. Senior LB Bryson Jackson and Franklin combined to sack Purdy for a loss of 3 yards and Ebner returned the Cyclones’ punt 41 yards to Iowa State’s 16 yard line. The Cyclones defense easily stopped Baylor’s run game, only allowing a 1-yard run by Smith prior to Bohanon’s loss of 2 yards and Williams’ stop at the line of scrimmage to finish the drive with a 34-yard field goal by freshman K Isaiah Hankins to add to Baylor’s lead, 31-23. Iowa State’s final series of the quarter took nearly 6 minutes off the clock as they moved the ball almost 80 yards. With 24 seconds left in the game, Purdy connected with Hall for a TD and a 31-29 score, but a bad snap on the 2-point conversion forced Purdy to throw toward receivers in multiple Bear coverage with senior S JT Woods intercepting the pass to leave the score at 31-29. The Cyclones attempted an onside kick that Baylor recovered, but Sims’ offside penalty allowed Iowa State to kick again, which was recovered once more by Ebner for the Baylor win.
4 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Smith (10 carries for 47 yards), Bohanon (10 carries for 36 yards and 1 TD), Ebner (8 carries for 31 yards), and Williams (3 carries for 12 yards). 6 received passes including Sneed (4 catches for 57 yards), Thornton (3 catches for 44 yards and 1 TD), Sims (2 catches for 43 yards and 1 TD), Ebner (2 catches for 13 yards), Estrada (1 catch for 6 yards), and Smith (1 catch for 1 yard). The Baylor defense, despite its pass rush struggles, amassed 67 tackles with 8 for a loss of 15 yards (junior LB Dillon Doyle, senior S Jalen Pitre, Walcott, Randolph, senior LB Ashton Logan, Franklin, Jackson, Hall), 2 sacks for a loss of 5 yards (Franklin, Jackson, Hall), 1 forced fumble (Williams), 1 interception returned 2 yards (Randolph), 1 blocked pass (Walcott), and 1 QB hurry (Jones).
No. 21(!!) Baylor will travel to Stillwater to face No. 19 Oklahoma State (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday at 6 p.m. (CT).