Baylor football is finally back!! After what felt like an eternal intermission between the 2019 and 2020 seasons thanks to fears of cancelled football and three postponed/cancelled nonconference games, new head coach Dave Aranda earned his first win at the helm in the Bears’ season opener. The Baylor vs. Kansas game had a slow start as the Bears found their footing and rhythm, but quickly exploded on the green and gold side with big plays from the defense and an unstoppable performance by senior RB Trestan Enber (who should 100% be named Big 12 Player of the Week), who collected 272 all-purpose yards and 4 TDs alone in three different ways. According to Baylor Athletics’ Jerry Hill (my favorite person ever), “It was the first time in the league’s 25-year history that a Big 12 player has scored touchdowns on a run, a reception and a return in the same game.” In Baylor’s (1-0, 1-0) dominant victory over the Jayhawks (0-2, 0-1), senior QB Charlie Brewer completed 15 of 23 passing attempts for 142 yards and 1 TD and added 8 carries for 23 yards. Sophomore QB Gerry Bohanon filled in at QB and even at WR, recording 1 of 1 completed attempts for 7 yards and 2 carries for 16 yards. The Bears struggled immensely with penalties in the first half, noting 8 for 95 yards including one targeting call by junior S Christian Morgan, but had no additional penalties after halftime. They finished with 0 turnovers and 352 total yards.
I admittedly slept through the first half of the Baylor vs. Kansas first quarter (I know, what kind of fan am I?), but it appeared I didn’t miss much. The Jayhawks scored on their first drive following a personal foul penalty on Baylor sophomore DE TJ Franklin. On the Bears’ first possession, Brewer completed a 4-yard pass to junior WR R.J. Sneed and Ebner rushed for 4 yards. Although Brewer tossed a 12-yarder to sophomore TE Ben Sims, the play was negated by a holding penalty on sophomore OL Casey Phillips and another Baylor OL held, but was declined after senior RB John Lovett dropped a pass. Kansas didn’t move the ball up-field on their next drive, and was forced to punt. When the Bears got the ball back, Brewer relied on Lovett and Ebner, handing the ball off to the former who rushed for 30 yards on two carries before completing a 9-yard pass to sophomore WR Gavin Holmes (who’s finally fully healthy!). Ebner rushed for 14 yards on 2 carries and took the ball into the endzone on a 1-yard run to tie up the game, 7-7. The Jayhawks moved up 39 yards to the Baylor 36, but even with Morgan’s targeting and disqualification, had to punt the ball back to the Bears. On the Bears’ last possession of the first quarter, Brewer completed 7 and 6-yard passes to junior WR Josh Fleeks and redshirt freshman Yusuf Terry before Lovett rushed 1-yard to the Baylor 23, closing the quarter at 7-7.
The Bears had the ball for a whopping 7:54 of the second quarter on 20 plays where they covered 60 yards. Brewer ran for 6 yards, but the play was basically invalidated by another holding penalty on Phillips. A pass interference call helped the Bears move up 15 yards and Lovett, Ebner, and Brewer rushed for 5, 4, and 2 yards, respectively. Brewer threw two incomplete passes to Sneed and Holmes, but completed a 14-yarder to Sneed and one to Fleeks for 5 yards, sandwiching Lovett’s 3-yard run. Ebner and Brewer added 2 more yards, but back-to-back Baylor holding penalties on junior OL Jason Moore and Khalil Keith negated any recent movement. Bohanon threw a 7-yard pass to Fleeks and Brewer ran for 2 yards, but the Bears couldn’t get any farther, so sophomore K John Mayers (one of the five athletes I think will be most important this season) nailed a 47-yard field goal to edge Baylor ahead, 10-7. Kansas punted the ball away again on their next drive, so Baylor got the ball back at their 33. Lovett, Brewer, and Ebner rushed for 4, 7, and 2 yards before Brewer completed an 8-yard pass to Sims for a 1st down. Ebner rushed for 13 yards and Kansas recorded a personal foul, moving the Bears up 15 yards and setting up Ebner’s 18-yard catch and score to increase Baylor’s lead to 17-7. Following a series of rushes and a QB hurry by senior LB William Bradley-King, the Jayhawks punted the ball to Baylor’s 16, but the Bears quickly returned it in under a minute despite Lovett’s rushes for 15 yards on 2 carries and a 4-yard catch by Sneed. After a questionable roughing the passer penalty on sophomore LB Terrel Bernard, the Bears stopped Kansas’ momentum with a combined sack on Jayhawks QB Jalon Daniels for a loss of 5 yards by Bradley-King and Bernard. The Bears’ last possession was chaotic as Ebner caught a 24-yard pass from Brewer and fumbled the ball, but Lovett recovered it before Phillips got called on a blindside block (side note: when did blindside blocks become so prominently penalized? All I saw were normal blocks) at the end of the second quarter.
The most thrilling and unexpected play of the game was the opening of the third quarter when Ebner received the kickoff and ran it back 100 yards nearly untouched (thanks to impressive blocking at multiple points by Lovett) for a TD, making the score 24-7. Although Kansas moved the ball up several yards, Bernard sacked Daniel for a loss of 7 yards, forcing the Jayhawks’ punt. Baylor mostly ran the ball on their next series as Lovett ran for 6 yards on 3 carries and Brewer added 22 on 2 carries before completing a 16-yard pass to Sneed. Lovett ran for 10 yards and then took a 7-yard carry into the endzone, adding to Baylor’s 31-7 lead. The Bears and Jayhawks returned punts again as neither team had the ball longer than 3 minutes. Franklin added another Baylor sack for a loss of 1 yard on Kansas’ drive and when Baylor got the ball back, Brewer completed a 13-yard pass to Sneed and a 35-yard pass to Ebner before the end of the third quarter.
While it looked like the Bears were in a good spot at the Kansas 16, Brewer was sacked for a loss of 6 yards and fumbled the ball, which Lovett again recovered, but on 4th and 28 at the Jayhawks’ 35. Thankfully, sophomore P Isaac Power downed a punt at the Kansas 1 and Bernard sacked Daniel in the endzone for the first safety in McLane Stadium history, giving the Bears a 33-7 score. During Kansas’ kickoff to Baylor’s 17, Bernard again ran it back 83 yards for another TD and a 40-7 score increase, which Jerry Hill said makes him “Baylor’s first player in program history to return two kicks for touchdowns.” Following that TD, the Bears’ second string had time to play, allowing Kansas their second and last score of the day, 14-40. Baylor’s last series was all redshirt freshman RB Craig “Sqwirl” Williams who ran for 35 yards on 3 carries and Bohanon added 10 yards until Williams raced 26 yards into the endzone, making the score 47-14 Baylor. Kansas also took the ball upfield and, despite senior LB Trystan Slinker’s QB hurry, got to the Baylor 6 before clock expired, securing the first Baylor victory of the season and under Dave Aranda!
5 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Lovett (17 carries for 78 yards and 1 TD), Williams (5 carries for 61 yards and 1 TD), Ebner (9 carries for 36 yards and 1 TD), Brewer (8 carries for 23 yards), and Bohanon (2 carries for 16 yards). 7 received passes including Ebner (2 catches for 53 yards and 1 TD), Sneed (5 catches for 51 yards), Fleeks (4 catches for 15 yards), Holmes (2 catches for 10 yards), Sims (1 catch for 8 yards), senior WR Jared Atkinson (1 catch for 6 yards), and Terry (1 catch for 6 yards). Ebner also added 2 kickoff returns for 183 yards and 2 TDs. Baylor’s defense was surprisingly sharp and cohesive, amassing 67 tackles with 10 for a loss of 29 yards (Bernard, junior S/LB Jalen Pitre, senior S Jairon McVea, Franklin, junior CB Kalon Barnes, Bradley-King, redshirt freshman LB Tyrone Brown), 4 sacks for a loss of 15 yards (Bernard, Franklin, Bradley-King), 6 pass break ups (Pitre, junior LB Ashton Logan, Bradley-King, junior S JT Woods, sophomore DE Jackson Shupp, Slinker), and 3 QB hurries (Logan, Bradley-King, Slinker).
Baylor will face West Virginia (1-1, 0-1) in Morgantown on Saturday at 11 a.m. (CT).