The Baylor Football season began earlier than last year’s one since we haven’t had any postponements or (thankfully yet) COVID scares, but it still feels like the offseason was far too long! It’s only been 5 months since the Baylor Men’s basketball team won the National Title but I’ve been waiting for my favorite of the Bears to start season play. Finally, the Bears kicked off the 2021 football season with a nonconference matchup against Texas State in San Marcos. Despite some back and forth on offense, Baylor (1-0, 0-0) earned their first victory of the 2021 season with a 29-20 win over the Bobcats (0-1, 0-0)! It would be unrealistic for me to not mention how horrific the game broadcast was at Texas State. ESPN+ played the game and yet most would believe we were watching DII high school football. The wide angle cameraman didn’t once show a receiver catching or dropping a pass; we could only tell Baylor’s defense snagged an interception by watching the fellow defensive players pointing and running; almost every shot was extremely shaky; the announcers never told the audience which athlete caught or carried the ball, who made a tackle, which yard line we were on, or which down and distance we had to go. At one point the socorebox was showing Baylor up 19-15, which never even happened. The cherry on top of the Texas State ending was watching the sideline reporter interviewing Baylor head coach Dave Aranda after the game without sound while we could hear the broadcast director or producer saying “Mic check, mic check, we don’t got her, just end it.” Nonetheless, there were both positives and negatives shown on both ends of Baylor’s ball and much to go over! 5th year junior and new starting QB Gerry Bohanon had a far better showing than expected for his staring debut. Bohanon completed 15 of 24 passing attempts for 148 yards. The Bears struggled with costly penalties (I won’t even go into how horrible the officiating was) and nabbed 11 for a loss of 99 yards (compared to Texas State who somehow only had 3 for a loss of 25), but they also finished with only 1 turnover and 386 total offensive yards (a massive improvement from last year).
Texas State got the ball first and they finished the drive with a punt. Baylor’s offense looked calm and collected in their opening series as Bohanon immediately completed an 18 yard pass to senior WR R.J. Sneed before senior RB Trestan Ebner rushed for 18 yards on 3 carries. Senior RB Abram Smith ran for 10 yards to the Bobcats’ 25 yard line, but he fumbled the ball and turned it over to Texas State. However, the Bears were saved when Texas State QB Brady McBride threw an interception to senior S JT Woods who ran the ball into the endzone for Baylor’s first score. The Bobcats’ offense only moved the ball up 18 or so yards before they punted on the next drive. After a roughing the kicker penalty on Baylor, Texas State got the ball back at Baylor’s 27 yard line and they earned even more yardage following a holding call on the Bears. Ultimately, the Bobcats finished the drive with a 21-yard field goal to make the score 7-3. On the Bears’ last series of the first quarter, Smith rushed for 6 yards on 2 carries to rotate between Bohanon’s completed passes to senior WR Tyquan Thornton for 6 yards. Ebner added 9 yards on the ground and Smith followed with 7 of his own. Bohanon threw a 5-yarder to Sneed and Smith ran for a 6 yard gain on 3 carries.
At the start of the second quarter, Bohanon threw a 10-yard pass to Thornton and Ebner ran for 5 yards before an incomplete to senior WR Josh Fleeks. Ebner ran for 4 more yards and Bohanon tried to add more on the ground, but he lost 6 yards and fumbled the ball, which a Baylor OL recovered. Freshman K Isaiah Hankins attempted a 40-yard field goal, but his kick was no good. Texas State marched the ball upfield and eventually snagged a 12-yard completed pass for a TD to take the lead at 10-7. Smith rushed for 1 yard and Bohanon completed consecutive passes to Thornton and Sneed for 11 and 19 yards apiece. Smith ran 14 yards sandwiching Bohanon’s completed passes to Sneed and Thornton again, this time for 9 and 6 yards. Ebner earned 8 yards on the ground and Bohanon added 4 rushing yards before Smith ran the ball in for a 3-yard score to bring the Bears up 14-10. Senior LB Bryson Jackson had a QB hurry on Texas State’s 3rd down, so the Bobcats were forced to punt on 3 plays with a loss of 5 yards. The second quarter ended with a 14-10 score.
Baylor got the ball to start the second half, but the offense couldn’t get anything going. Ebner rushed for 4 yards, but Bohanon threw back-to-back incomplete passes to Thornton and junior TE Ben Sims so they had to punt. Preseason All-Big 12 senior LB Terrel Bernard had a QB hurry of his own to force the Bobcats punt again. Ebner rushed for 17 yards and Bohanon completed a 15-yarder to Sneed for consecutive 1st downs. Smith lost a yard, but Bohanon threw a 3-yard pass to Smith and Hankins nailed a 43-yard field goal to add to the lead, 17-10. The Baylor defense forced a Texas State 3-and-out to get the ball back. Bohanon threw a 13-yard bomb to Thornton and Ebner rushed for 30 yards on 2 carries. Bohanon completed a 14-yard pass to sophomore TE Drake Dabney before Smith rushed 13 yards for his second TD of the day and the Bears moved up 24-10. The Bears had a pass interference penalty on the Bobcats’ final possession, but it was declined and Texas State nailed a 38-yard field goal to end the third quarter’s score at 24-13. Baylor had a holding penalty on the return and Smith rushed for an 8-yard gain before switching sides of the field and beginning the fourth quarter.
Smith rushed for 13 yards on 2 carries and Ebner ran for 2, but the Bears had to punt on their first possession. McBride’s second pass was intercepted by preseason All-Big 12 selection senior S Jalen Pitre who returned the ball 20 yards to the Texas State 27. Ebner rushed for 19 yards on 2 carries and Bohanon added 5, but Ebner’s next rush lost 6 yards and Hankins finished the drive with a 26-yard field goal, increasing the Bears’ lead to 27-13. Senior DT Cole Maxwell added a QB hurry, Bernard sacked McBridge, and Pitre’s QB hurry assisted senior S Jairon McVea’s pass breakup, but it was McVea’s following interception that gave the offense the ball back. However, McVea’s celebration earned an unsportsmanlike conduct that moved Baylor from their own 19 to their 10. Smith rushed for 36 yards on 2 carries and Bohanon completed a 26-yard pass to Sneed in the middle of traffic before Ebner rushed for 3 yards. Bohanon ran for 13 yards, but Baylor had a holding penalty that moved them back to the Texas State 29. Bohanon’s next pass to Ebner lost 6 yards and on 4th and 17, he threw an incomplete to Thornton. McBride threw 3 consecutive incompletes to give Baylor the ball back, but Bernard had a roughing the passer penalty so Texas State got the ball back on the 50 yard line. A pass interference on senior CB Raleigh Texada sent the Bobcats close enough to the endzone to score a 2-yard TD with 1:15 minute left in the game. Texas State attempted an onside kick to try for a miraculous comeback, but Sneed recovered it at the Bobcats’ 46. Smith and Ebner rushed for 2 and 3 yards each, but Baylor had a false start penalty on 3rd and 5. Ebner rushed for 4 yards on 3rd and 10, so Baylor took a delay of game penalty and punted the ball away with 1 minute left. Sophomore LB Matt Jones had a QB hurry and the Bobcats with no time left attempted laterals, but McBride threw a forward pass in the endzone to give Baylor a safety and finish the game with a final score of 29-20.
Five Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Ebner (20 carries for 120 yards), Smith (19 carries for 118 yards and 2 TDs), Bohanon (4 carries for 9 yards), freshman WR Monaray Baldwin (1 carry for 0 yards), and senior OL Grant Miller (0 carries for a loss of 6 yards). 7 received passes including Sneed (6 catches for 92 yards), Thornton (5 catches for 46 yards), Dabney (1 catch for 13 yards), Smith (1 catch for 3 yards), Fleeks (1 catch for a loss of 1 yard), Ebner (1 catch for a loss of 6 yards), and Sims (1 catch for 0 yards). Baylor’s defense was fairly productive, amassing 56 tackles with 7 for a loss of 19 yards (junior LB Dillon Doyle, Bernard, senior LB Ashton Logan, Pitre, senior S Christian Morgan, junior DL TJ Franklin, junior DL Brayden Utley), 1 sack for a loss of 8 yards (Bernard), 3 interceptions returned for 40 yards and 1 TD (Pitre, Woods with the TD, McVea), 3 pass breakups (Bernard, Pitre, McVea), and 5 QB hurries (Bernard, Pitre, Jones, Maxwell, Jackson).
Baylor will face Texas Southern (0-1, 0-1) in Waco on Saturday at 6 p.m. (CT).