The Bears played as perfect a game as anyone could’ve hoped for in their home opener against Texas Southern. Baylor (2-0, 0-0) came off last week’s nail-biter victory with a 66-7 win over the Tigers where 3rd and 4th string athletes saw playing time and even added TDs of their own! With improvements on both offense and defense, clean ups on penalty plagues, and program highs reminiscent of previous successful years, the Bears displayed maturity and skill we haven’t seen in years. One of the most visible developments demonstrated yesterday was in the offense’s movement and scoring capabilities. Junior QB Gerry Bohanon (whose stats last week were decent as well—completing 15 of 24 passing attempts for 148 yards) had a standout day and proved why he earned the starting spot over his fellow QBs, completing 17 of 23 passing attempts for 247 yards and 3 TDs in the air while adding 5 carries for 27 yards and 2 TDs. Sophomore Jacob Zeno came in in the third quarter and threw 1 pass for 41 yards while redshirt freshman Blake Shapen completed 1 of 1 passing attempt for 7 yards. The Bears greatly improved on penalties, earning only 3 for a loss of 32 yards compared to last week’s 11 for a loss of 99. They notched 714 total offensive yards—the most since competing in the Russell Athletic Bowl in December 2015 and according to Baylor Athletics Communications, the 12th most in program history—and their 419 yards on 43 carries were the most since playing Washington State on September 12, 2008.
Baylor got the ball first to start the game, losing the coin toss as the Tigers deferred to the second half. Senior RB Trestan Ebner ran for 22 yards and Bohanon threw two passes of 9 and 11 yards respectively to sophomore TE Ben Sims and senior WR Tyquan Thornton. Ebner broke through for a 51-yard score, but the TD was called back due to a Baylor holding penalty. Bohanon completed 3 passes on 4 attempts to senior WR Josh Fleeks for 2 yards, Thornton for 15, and senior RB Abram Smith for 7. Ebner ran for 5 yards and Smith carried the ball 3 times for 32 yards and the Bears’ first TD, making the score Baylor 7-0. The defense immediately showed up when Texas Southern got the ball, stopping the running game as soon as the RBs moved and forcing the Tigers to lose 8 yards on consecutive carries. Senior DT Cole Maxwell (we’ll hear even more from him later) created a 3-and-out by breaking up QB Jalen Brown’s pass. Bohanon silenced his critics by showing off his arm strength in the following series in a 48-yard pass and TD to Thornton on the first play. With 8:12 left in the first quarter, the Bears went up 14-0. A Baylor face mask penalty helped move the Tigers up 15 yards, but sophomore LB Matt Jones sacked Brown for a loss of 6 yards and Texas Southern was forced to punt for the second time. The subsequent Baylor drive was all about the running game with Ebner rushing for 64 yards on 2 carries, Fleeks adding 5, and Smith running for 7 before Bohanon nabbed a 7-yard rush and score to increase the Baylor lead to 21-0. After switching QBs from Brown to Andrew Body, Texas Southern’s offense looked a little more fiery, but even Body couldn’t get the ball upfield enough and the Tigers punted to close the first quarter.
Bohanon opened the second quarter with a 4-yard run and Smith added a 4-yard catch and rushed for 9. Ebner ran for 20 yards on 2 carries to sandwich Bohanon’s 14-yard pass to senior WR R.J. Sneed. Bohanon closed the drive with a consecutive rushing TD for 10 yards. Junior LB Dillon Doyle hurried Body in the Tigers’ next drive and forced them to punt. Smith ran for a 14-yard gain before Bohanon’s 6-yard rush and 19-yard pass to Ebner. Smith ran for 10 more yards and then found a hole in his next carry for a 35-yard TD, giving the Bears a 35-0 lead. The Tigers switched back to Brown at QB, but their series ended on a pass broken up by Jones. Bohanon completed passes of 5 and 26 yards to Sims and Sneed, respectively, and Ebner and Smith ran for 9 and 4 yards. Bohanon completed a 7-yarder to Sims before consecutive passes to Thornton for 11 yards and an 18 yard score, closing the first half with a 42-0 lead and 458 total yards of offense.
Texas Southern couldn’t score in their first possession of the second half so when Baylor got the ball, Smith rushed for 16 yards on 2 carries and Bohanon completed a 41-yard pass to Fleeks. Freshman WR Hal Presley rushed for 13 yards and Ebner added 4 before Bohanon connected with Ebner on a 12-yard TD pass, bringing the Bears up 49-0. The Tigers hurt themselves with Brown’s intentional grounding penalty and senior LB Bryson Jackson added a QB hurry to force a punt. Bohanon finished his day and rotated out with Zeno who immediately hit Ebner with a 41-yard pass. The Tigers got a targeting call on Zeno, but after Ebner’s 1-yard carry and Zeno’s sack for a loss of 8 yards, freshman K Isaiah Hankins notched a 37-yard field goal to give the Bears a 52-0 lead. Body moved the Tigers upfield with a few first downs, but was hurried by junior DL TJ Franklin to end the third quarter.
When Texas Southern started the fourth quarter, they moved close enough to Baylor’s endzone for a 1st and goal. Senior LB Terrel Bernard stopped the running game for 1st and 2nd and goal and Maxwell added a stop on 3rd, but it was senior S Jalen Pitre who forced a fumble on 4th and 2 before senior S JT Woods recovered the ball and ran it back a school-record 97 yards for a TD and a 59-0 lead. The Tigers made up for the mistake by scoring their first and only TD with 8 minutes left in the game, making the score 59-7. Sophomore RB Taye McWilliams got in some reps of his own, rushing 44 yards and then 10 yards before Shapen added a 7-yard pass to freshman WR Monaray Baldwin. McWiliams ran for 14 yards and a TD for the final Baylor score of the day, increasing the lead to 66-7. Texas Southern had a couple of rushes prior to Body’s final pass being broken up by redshirt freshman CB AJ McCarty to secure the Baylor win. Baldwin rushed for 22 yards, McWilliams carried the ball 3 times for 34 yards, and sophomore RB Jacoby Clarke added 9. Junior QB Brandon Bass ran for 1 yard and knelt the ball to end the game.
10 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Smith (12 carries for 126 yards and 2 TDs), Ebner (10 carries for 125 yards), McWilliams (6 carries for 102 yards and 1 TD), Bohanon (5 carries for 27 yards and 2 TDs), Baldwin (1 carry for 22 yards), Presley (1 carry for 13 yards), Clarke (2 carries for 9 yards), Fleeks (1 carry for 5 yards), Bass (1 carry for 1 yard), and Zeno (2 carries for a loss of 8 yards). 7 received passes including Thornton (8 catches for 103 yards and 2 TDs), Ebner (4 catches for 70 yards and 1 TD), Sims (5 catches for 21 yards), Fleeks (2 catches for 43 yards), Sneed (3 catches for 40 yards), Smith (3 catches for 11 yards), and Baldwin (1 catch for 7 yards). Baylor’s defense had themselves a day, amassing 63 tackles with 10 for a loss of 37 yards (Pitre, Doyle, redshirt freshman LB Brooks Miller, junior LB Victor Obi, Jones, senior LB Ashton Logan, Franklin, senior DT Chidi Ogbonnaya), 2 sacks for a loss of 19 yards (Jones, Logan), 1 forced fumble (Pitre), 1 fumble recovery for a 97-yard TD (Woods), 4 pass breakups (Jones, Maxwell, senior CB Kalon Barnes, McCarty), and 3 QB hurries (Doyle, Franklin, Jackson).
Baylor will open the conference season against Kansas (1-1, 0-0) in Lawrence on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (CT).