The Baylor Football season has already seen significant highs and lows despite only making it to the halfway point, but yesterday’s Baylor (5-1, 3-1) vs. West Virginia game was the best and most consistent I’ve seen them play all year! While last week’s then-top 25 matchup against Oklahoma State (the Bears were ranked No. 21 and the Cowboys No. 19) was an absolutely dreadful playbook showing with zero offense (although the defense was fantastic), OC Jeff Grimes drew up truly fantastic plays to overwhelm the Mountaineers’ defense and DC Ron Roberts’ and DL coach Dennis Johnson’s development of the defensive line brought about a whooping on the pass rush. The Bears played lights out on both sides of the ball and several players and corps recorded career-highs and game-highs. They improved greatly on ball coverage and discipline—two of the factors I noted in my Oklahoma State recap on TikTok that led to last week’s loss. One of the athletes who played a career-high game was junior QB Gerry Bohanon who, despite having already recorded impressive stats over the previous five games, completed 18 of 29 passing attempts for a career-high 336 yards and 4 TDs while adding 6 carries for 6 yards and 1 TD on the ground. Redshirt freshman QB Blake Shapen played for the final 4 minutes of the game and completed 2 of 2 passing attempts for 18 yards. The Bears amassed 525 total offensive yards for an average of 8.4 yards per play with 354 of them coming from passing plays compared to 362 total from West Virginia, which was an average of 4.8 yards per play. The Bears also lost the penalty matchup by totaling 6 for a loss of 59 yards, while the Mountaineers had 8 for 68.
The Bears lost the coin toss and received the ball first with Bohanon throwing a 75-yard pass to senior WR Tyquan Thornton for a TD on the second play of the game to go up 7-0 with 14:19 left, but West Virginia responded with a TD of their own on their first series, tying the game at 7-7. Bohanon lost 1 yard on the ground and threw an incomplete pass to Thornton, but a WVU offsides penalty pushed the Bears upfield. Senior RB Trestan Ebner rushed for 5 yards and senior RB Abram Smith added 4 before Bohanon connected again with Thornton on a 44-yard bomb and ran for a 3-yard gain. Smith ran for 5 yards and Bohanon completed a 10-yard pass to junior TE Ben Sims for a Baylor TD and a 14-7 lead. Sophomore DL Gabe Hall hurried West Virginia QB Jarret Doege on 2nd down and Doege’s following pass was intercepted by senior S Jalen Pitre. Ebner ran for 6 yards and Bohanon threw passes to senior WR Drew Estrada and Thornton for 17 and 22 yards, respectively. Bohanon rushed for 2 yards and added a 1-yard rushing TD, giving the Bears a 21-7 increase to their lead. On the Mountaineers’ subsequent 3rd down, senior DT Chidi Ogbonnaya and junior DL TJ Franklin combined for a QB hurry for a 3-and-out, but redshirt freshman CB AJ McCarty nabbed a roughing the kicker penalty to give West Virginia the ball back on their own 43. The defense bounced back with senior LB Terrel Bernard sacking Doege for a loss of 10 yards and sophomore LB Garmon Randolph adding a sack for a loss of 4 yards to force West Virginia to punt. Bohanon’s first pass of the Bears’ next series was incomplete before Smith rushed for a 4-yard gain. Bohanon threw a 9-yard pass to senior WR R.J. Sneed and a 5-yarder to Estrada and added a 6-yard gain on the ground to end the 1st quarter.
To start the 2nd quarter, Ebner rushed for 4 yards on 2 carries and Bohanon lost 5 yards on the ground, so the Bears had to punt. The defense forced a West Virginia 3-and-out, so the Mountaineers punted the ball right back. Bohanon’s first pass was incomplete, but he nailed an 11-yarder to freshman TE Gavin Yates and Smith gained 6 rushing yards. Bohanon’s next passes were 58 yards to Estrada and 11 yards and a TD to Thornton—his second receiving TD of the day for a 28-7 Baylor lead. Senior LB Ashton Logan and sophomore LB Matt Jones combined for a QB hurry along with Logan’s pass breakup and senior S Christian Morgan added his own pass breakup to hold West Virginia to a FG despite their gaining over 60 yards on the drive, making the score 28-10. Ebner ran for 0 yards, Bohanon completed a 10-yard pass to Estrada prior to 2 incompletes to Estrada and a 4-yard ground gain for Ebner, so the Bears had to punt. Sophomore DT Siaki Ika recorded his first sack of the season, pushing the Mountaineers back 8 yards and forcing a 3-and-out. On the Bears’ last drive of the first half, Ebner gained 0 yards and Smith grabbed 6 on 2 carries, but the Bears had to punt again. The Mountaineers got 1 play in before the end of the 2nd quarter where Baylor led 28-10.
West Virginia got the ball first in the 3rd quarter, but despite moving from their own 12-yard-line to Baylor’s 10 in 6 minutes, they were held to another FG and a 28-13 score. Bohanon’s pass to Sneed was incomplete, but he nailed an 8-yarder to Thornton and was helped by a West Virginia holding penalty that set up Bohanon’s 29-yard pass to Sims for his second receiving TD of the day and Baylor’s 35-13 lead. Ika recorded his second sack of the day and of the season for a loss of 5 yards and Franklin added a sack for a loss of 9 yards to force a West Virginia punt. Smith lost 1 yard on the ground but gained 20 on his subsequent carry. Bohanon threw passes for 12 and 7 yards to Thornton and Smith rushed for 31 yards and a TD to increase Baylor’s lead to 42-13. Baylor’s defense forced a Mountaineers punt and Bohanon got off an 8-yard pass to Thornton before the end of the quarter.
The Bears’ defense forced another West Virginia 3-and-out to start the 4th quarter. Smith rushed for 12 yards on 2 carries and Ebner added 34 yards on 2 carries to set up freshman K Isaiah Hankins’ 45-yard field goal for the Bears’ 45-13 lead. The Mountaineers took 6 more minutes off the clock with a 14-play drive that, despite junior CB Al Walcott’s sack for a loss of 7 yards, ended with a West Virginia TD for a 45-20 score. The Baylor offense swapped out some of their starters with 4 minutes left in the game, so sophomore RB Taye McWilliams rushed for 3 yards on 2 carries and Shapen threw a 3-yard pass to sophomore WR Jaylen Ellis before the Bears had to punt. Junior LB Victor Obi sacked WVU’s backup QB Garrett Greene for a loss of 10 yards to force the Mountaineers’ final punt, and Shapen completed a 15-yard pass to freshman WR Hal Presley before McWilliams finished the game with 22 yards on 3 carries.
4 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Smith (11 carries for 87 yards and 1 TD), Ebner (8 carries for 53 yards), McWilliams (5 carries for 25 yards), and Bohanon (6 carries for 6 yards and 1 TD). 8 received passes including Thornton who recorded the biggest day since former WR KD Cannon’s 2014 performance against Buffalo (8 catches for 187 yards and 2 TDs), Estrada (4 catches for 90 yards), Sims (2 catches for 39 yards and 2 TDs), Presley (1 catch for 15 yards), Yates (1 catch for 11 yards), Sneed (1 catch for 9 yards), Ellis (1 catch for 3 yards), and Ebner (2 catches for 0 yards). The defense recorded a season-high number of sacks in their most explosive performance of the season. They amassed 67 tackles with 7 for a loss of 51 yards (Bernard, junior DL Brayden Utley, Randolph, Ika, Franklin, Obi), 6 sacks for a loss of 46 yards (Bernard, Randolph, Ika, Franklin, Obi), 1 interception (Pitre), 3 pass breakups (Morgan, Logan, junior CB Mark Milton), and 6 QB hurries (Jones, Logan, Franklin, Hall, senior DT Cole Maxwell, Ogbonnaya).
Baylor faces No. 19 BYU (5-1, 0-0) for Homecoming in Waco on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (CT).