Led by Charlie Brewer’s best performance as a Bear, Baylor (7-6) defeated Vanderbilt (6-7) 45-38 to win the Texas Bowl. Brewer finished 21-34 with 384 passing yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 118 yards and had a rushing touchdown. His sole interception was not his fault.
This was a night for offense. Vanderbilt scored a touchdown in the third quarter to make it 31-28 Baylor. With 10:35 left in the fourth quarter, the Bears were about to go back up 10 points. Unfortunately Denzel Mims dropped a touchdown pass and kicked the ball up. Vanderbilt’s cornerback picked it off—as he fell out of the end zone—for a touchback. The Commodores scored two plays later to take a 35-31 lead.
Charlie Brewer and Trestan Ebner reappearing like Michael Cohen in Prague stories: pic.twitter.com/QHfvUb46DI— Kendall (@kendallkaut) December 28, 2018
Brewr and Trestan Ebner answered though. On the first play after the touchdown, Brewer hit Ebner over the middle for a touchdown. The Bears took a three point lead with 9:30 left in the game.
Vanderbilt seemed destined to score another touchdown. But the Commodores tried a double reverse. Blake Lynch—easily Baylor’s best defensive player tonight—made a giant tackle. Vanderbilt couldn’t pick up a first down, and they settled for a field goal. That tied the game at 38-38 with 3:31 remaining.
Another chance, another touchdown. Brewer hit Marques Jones for a 52 yard touchdown pass with 1:51 remaining. Baylor led 45-38 with 1:51 remaining.
Some of us worried Baylor scored too quickly. Vanderbilt didn’t score again. The Bears nearly intercepted it on 3rd down, but James Lynch and Verkedric Vaughns crashed into each other. That set up 4th and 5 for Vanderbilt. The Commodores threw it a little too high, and Baylor ran out the clock.
Baylor’s offense was explosive tonight. The Bears did not punt until their 7th offensive drive. Brewer hit Mims twice on the first series for 61 yards. He also found Josh Fleeks and Ty Thorton on beautiful throws. With the offense moving well, Baylor scored 17 points in the first half.
Heading to Olive Garden when the unlimited pasta bowl is back like: pic.twitter.com/B8sflEvSsh— Kendall (@kendallkaut) December 28, 2018
The Bears were wonderful on the ground. Brewer rushed for 118 yards. He scrambled when Vanderbilt brought pressure, and Jeff Nixon dialed up some key quarterback runs. Ebner ran 13 times for 90 yards. His 34 yard touchdown run was spectacular, as he avoided several tackles. JaMycal Hasty and John Lovett also had nice nights. Both had a rushing touchdown.
Vanderbilt—like so many Baylor opponents—stayed in the game on big plays. The Commodores scored on 65, 68 and 69 yard plays during three of the first four drives. Baylor’s safeties couldn’t make tackles. The Baylor defense also picked up small penalties, including a series of offsides that extended Vanderbilt drives.
The defense made enough plays for Baylor. Blake Lynch had a big sack to force a Vanderbilt punt in the third quarter, and he recovered a fumble near the end zone. With how well the offense played, the defense just had to be okay a few times. They barely were.
Baylor had an interesting special teams day. Connor Martin hit his first kick, but he missed a 25 yard field goal on his next attempt. He was whacked attempting an extra point (Vanderbilt jumped offsides), and Baylor had John Mayers kick the extra point. Issac Powers, punting for an injured Drew Galitz, boomed a 47 yard punt from deep in Baylor’s end zone.
Credit Matt Rhule for being aggressive today. The Bears went for it five times on fourth down. Baylor converted each time. Once Baylor had 4th and 1 on their own 35 and still, Baylor recognized that playing offense is way better than punting. He went for it on 4th and 13, rather than attempt a 47 yard field goal. Earlier in the season Rhule might have punted. But with his offense playing much better than his defense, Rhule made the right calculations.
This capped off a successful season for the Bears. The team went 1-11 in 2017. Rhule embraced the expectations and proclaimed all offseason that Baylor would go to a bowl game in 2018. They did. And they won.
The program is certainly on the right track. They won six more games this season. They just signed another good recruiting class. And with major pieces returning next season, they should be even better next season.