With strong offensive play and real issues with the defense, Baylor knocked off Abilene Christian 55-27. The Bears have matched last season’s win total and won a home game for the first time since October of 2016.
We’ll start with what went well. Baylor has two quarterbacks that can play. Charlie Brewer, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, seemed destined to win the starting job. He did start. But he hasn’t locked up the position.
Jalan McClendon played spectacularly. He started 10-of-12 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a nice dime to Trestan Ebner and seemed to find open targets all night. Most of us were shocked he was listed as a co-starter in the most recent depth chart. We’re not now.
JaMycal Hasty and the other backs played well. Hasty went over the century mark and averaged over 10 yards per carry. He added two touchdowns. John Lovett had two touchdowns and a nice 31 yard run.
The wide receivers look like the team’s best position group. Jalen Hurd is for real. He had four receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown. His blocking was exceptional. He cleared a path for Baylor’s running backs and helped receivers down field. Add in Denzel Mims and Chris Platt, and the Bears have one of the country’s best receiving corps.
Connor Martin was still drilling kicks. He made a career long 50 yard attempt and notched a 35 yard kick too.
The offensive line looked pretty good. Josh Malin went down with a knee injury on the second play of the game. The Bears need him back. Patrick Lawrence and the rest of the offensive line helped clear the way for Hasty and others. The group sure looked better than they did last season, even against an ACU team that isn’t great.
Now the problem. Baylor’s safeties and defensive line were gashed most of the night. After opening with a 17-0 lead, the Bears couldn’t contain outside runs. Safety play destroyed Baylor last season. Against a better opponent, it might have tonight too. They missed tackles near the line. They took poor angles. And they left fans wondering if this team can really make a bowl game.
The game went on forever. The officials reviewed nearly everything. Games against FCS opponents shouldn’t take four hours, and you should be able to get to Scruffy Murphy’s before midnight if you stay for the whole football game.
Whether Baylor’s season is successful will be decided in a handful of tougher games. Tonight was about taking care of business. The Bears did that. Their offense and a fairly weak Big 12— Ole Miss destroyed Texas Tech, Texas lost to Maryland, Kansas lost to Nicholls State and Kansas State trailed South Dakota by 12 before surviving at home—leave the Bears an obvious path to a bowl game. If the defense doesn’t improve, that dream could fade quickly. But for a team that hadn’t won a home game after the 2016 election, tonight was a nice night.