After an extraordinarily long off season full of preseason accolades for individual football athletes (here’s the most recent list of all of them), the 10th-ranked Baylor Football team fulfilled most expectations by dominating Albany, 69-10! Of course every start of season comes with its share of question marks regarding talent, positions, and strengths against opponents, but this year is especially anxiety-inducing (for everyone I’m sure, not just me, right?) because of how Baylor has been hyped up with so many expectations after last year’s historic run. Within two years under head coach Dave Aranda, the Bears went from 2-7 in 2020-21 to 12-2 in the 2021-22 season. The team secured a program-high 12 wins, recorded their first-ever Big 12 Championship title game victory, had first and only New Years 6 bowl win in the CFP era, and notched 5 wins over Top 25 opponents for their most top-25 wins in a season since at least 1974! Although Albany wasn’t necessarily a scary team to prepare for, we’d yet to see how sophomore starting QB Blake Shapen would perform since his one start last season in the Big 12 Championship. Thankfully, Shapen completed 17 of 20 passing attempts for 214 yards with 2 TDs and added 4 carries for 11 yards and 1 TD. Redshirt freshman QB Kyron Drones completed 5 of 7 passing attempts for 100 yards and 1 carry for 9 yards and 1 TD. The Bears lost the penalty yardage matchup against Albany with 8 for a loss of 75 yards (compared to to the Great Danes’ 10 for a loss of 72). Baylor finished with 1 turnover on downs and 573 total offensive yards (Albany had 237 yards).
Albany got the ball first and finished the drive with a 3-and-out. When the Bears were on offense, junior RBs Taye McWilliams and Qualan Jones ran twice for 12 yards and once for 8, respectively. Shapen completed a 10 yard pass to sophomore WR Seth Jones before connecting with sophomore WR Monaray Baldwin on a 47 yard bomb for the Bears’ first score with sophomore K Isaiah Hankins making the extra point, 7-0. The Great Danes moved the ball up a few yards, but 6th year LB Bryson Jackson stripped the ball carrier and recovered the pigskin on Albany’s 29 yard line. Shapen completed a 7-yard pass to 5th year TE Ben Sims before being hit late, moving the Bears up to the 11. McWilliams rushed for 7 yards on 2 carries and junior RB Craig “Sqwirl” Williams ran the ball 4 yards into the end zone with Hankins’ extra point increasing the lead to 14-0. Redshirt freshman LB Jackie Marshall broke up Great Danes QB Reese Poffenbarger’s pass to help force an Albany punt. The punt went 40 yards to Baylor’s 28 and 6th year WR Gavin Holmes returned the catch 72 yards for a Baylor TD and a 21-0 score with Hankins nailing the extra point. 5th year LB Dillon Doyle hurried Poffenbarger on the next series for another Great Danes 3-and-out and punt. McWilliams caught a 5 yard pass and rushed for a loss of 4 yards with C. Williams adding 4 on the ground, but the Bears turned the ball over on downs at their own 34. With only a few seconds left in the first quarter, Albany scored their first and only TD of the game.
At the start of the second quarter, Baldwin lost 4 yards rushing and Shapen connected with freshman WR Armani Winfield, McWilliams, and Baldwin with 10, 9, and 16 yards, respectively. McWilliams ran for 6 yards before Shapen tossed a 38-yard spiral to sophomore WR Hal Presley for a Baylor TD and a 28-7 score following Hankins’ kick. Junior DL Gabe Hall and 5th year DL Jaxon Player combined to sack Poffenbarger for a loss of 3 yards and Hall broke up a pass to force a Great Danes punt. Shapen threw a 7-yard pass to Presley and on the next play when Shapen handed the ball off to Q. Jones, the former was lit up several seconds late by an Albany player, giving Baylor an extra 15 yards. Shapen was sacked for a loss of 3 yards on the subsequent play and threw 2 consecutive incomplete passes for the Bears’ first punt of the game. Senior S Al Walcott and sophomore CB AJ McCarty each broke up Great Danes passes and freshman S Alfonzo Allen sacked Poffenbarger for a loss of 7 yards to force Albany to punt despite moving 50 yards in 4:37. Shapen completed passes of 6, 8, and 2 yards to Baldwin, Sims, and McWilliams, respectively, prior to being sacked for a loss of 3 yards. Shapen went back to passing 5 consecutive times, twice to Sims for 19 yards and once each to Baldwin for 15, McWilliams for 4, and Presley for 11. Shapen rushed for 16 yards and then 1 yard in to the pylon for a 35-7 score with Hankins’ following extra point.
The Bears received the ball to start the third quarter and Q. Jones rushed for 25 yards on 4 carries, C. Williams added 5, and Baldwin ran for 50 into the end zone to increase Baylor’s lead to 42-7 on Hankins’ kick. Junior LB Garmon Randolph and 5th year DL Brayden Utley combined to hurry Poffenbarger and Doyle broke up a pass, holding Albany to a field goal and 42-10 score after they gained 67 yards in 5:29. McWilliams rushed for 20 yards on 4 carries and freshman RB Richard Reese gained 4 on the ground. Backup QB Drones’ first pass was broken up, but he threw a 3-yarder to Sims before his next pass was incomplete due to a pass interference. Drones tossed a 3-yard pass to Q. Jones and Drones rushed 9 yards up the middle into the end zone with 5th year K John Mayers’ extra point making the score 49-10. On the Great Danes’ next series, senior LB Victor Obi hurried Poffenbarger and junior LB Will Williams broke up his pass to force a punt at the end of the quarter.
Drones opened the fourth quarter with a 15-yard pass to S. Jones and Reese rushed for 38 yards on 3 carries. Drones completed a 29-yard pass to junior TE Drake Dabney before Reese closed the drive on a 1-yard rushing TD for the Baylor 56-10 score with Mayers’ kick. The Baylor defense stopped Albany on a 3-and-out on their subsequent drive and with freshman WR Jordan Nabors returning the punt 25 yards, the Bears started their series on the Great Danes’ 22 yard line. The drive was all Reese as he carried the ball 4 consecutive times for 22 yards and a TD following Mayers’ kick to increase the lead to 63-10. Redshirt freshman CB Tevin Williams III and redshirt freshman LB Tyrone Brown each broke up Great Danes passes to force a punt. Reese rushed for 4 yards on 2 carries prior to Drones connecting with junior WR Jaylen Ellis on a 50-yard bomb and Q. Jones’ 27-yard rushing TD for a 69-10 score. The Bears’ defense held the Great Danes to 12 yards in two series and redshirt freshman Jordan Jenkins gained 3 yards on 3 carries in the Bears’ final drive.
9 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Reese (9 carries for 62 yards and 2 TDs), Q. Jones (6 carries for 59 yards and 1 TD), Baldwin (2 carries for 46 yards and 1 TD), McWilliams (12 carries for 45 yards), C. Williams (3 carries for 13 yards and 1 TD), Shapen (4 carries for 11 yards and 1 TD), Drones (1 carry for 9 yards and 1 TD), Jenkins (3 carries for 8 yards), and Nabors (1 carry for 6 yards). 10 received passes including Sims (5 catches for 37 yards), Baldwin (4 catches for 84 yards and 1 TD), McWilliams (4 catches for 20 yards), Presley (3 catches for 56 yards and 1 TD), S. Jones (2 catches for 25 yards), Ellis (1 catch for 50 yards), Dabney (1 catch for 29 yards), Winfield (1 catch for 10 yards), Q. Jones (1 catch for 3 yards), and redshirt freshman Josh Cameron (1 catch for 0 yards). Baylor’s defense was fairly productive, amassing 47 tackles with 3 for a loss of 11 yards (Player, Hall, Allen), 2 sacks for a loss of 10 yards (Player, Hall, Allen), 1 forced fumble (Jackson), 1 fumble recovery (Jackson), 9 pass break ups (Walcott, Brown, McCarty, Player, Doyle, Hall, Williams III, W. Williams, Marshall), and 4 QB hurries (Utley, Randolph, Doyle, Obi).
Baylor will face No. 25 BYU (1-0) in Provo on Saturday at 9:15 p.m. (CT).