Baylor won a tough contest against UTSA 37-20. The Bears are now 2-0. They’ll face Duke at 2:30 on Saturday in Waco.
Once again Baylor showcased some reasons for hope later in the season and reasons to be very concerned. Let’s start with hope because it’s a good thing.
Charlie Brewer was superb. He finished with three touchdowns and zero interceptions, while also throwing for nearly 10 yards per attempt. The Bears’ quarterbacks split duties for the first half, but Brewer played the entire second half. Jalan McClendon—easily the better quarterback in week one—was not tonight. He missed throws and couldn’t keep the offense moving. Maybe the competition will continue, but tonight, Brewer was the man.
Snagging Chick-fil-A before they stop serving breakfast like: pic.twitter.com/dN270QWaFq— Kendall (@kendallkaut) September 9, 2018
James Lynch, Clay Johnston, Terrel Bernard and Derrick Thomas made plays. The first three were active in the backfield and came up with sacks, often at times when Baylor couldn’t stop anyone. Thomas was also a force in coverage and had an interception in the first half. Those four looked much better than the rest of the defense.
The offensive skilled position players had productive nights. Jalen Hurd and Denzel Mims both eclipsed 100 receiving yards and caught a touchdown. John Lovett showed excellent decision-making, including a nice angle on a key third down rush to help Baylor pull ahead 30-20 in the fourth quarter. Chris Platt added his own nice run on that same drive.
Now the bad. It starts with the rushing defense. Baylor struggled mightily to contain and set the edge. UTSA rushed for three yards against Arizona State. They rushed for over 80 yards in the first half. The secondary and linebackers missed tackles and six yard runs became 15 and 20 yard dashes. Perhaps most concerning, UTSA ran for a touchdown before the half with no timeouts and 10 seconds left. Baylor had six yards to keep UTSA from scoring. They couldn’t. Duke and the non-Kansas portion of the Big 12 look destined to run over Baylor, unless something dramatically changes.
The Bears also committed some baffling penalties. Blake Blackmar picked up two false starts on an important drive in the third quarter. Patrick Lawrence nabbed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for pushing a UTSA defender on Mims. Maybe the Bears can live with that one, but Hurd picked up his own penalty not longer after for taunting a defender. The 2018 Bears have enough weaknesses that even the most optimistic outlook for the season involves them winning close games to reach a bowl. They can’t commit those kind of penalties again.
Baylor’s also struggled with timeouts. The Bears ran out of timeouts with 4:03 in the game. Rhule wisely used a challenge on a UTSA touchdown that didn’t look like the receiver had possession. Maybe the game being on Facebook ruined us all because the Bears lost a timeout when the play was shockingly confirmed on review. Baylor can blame the officials for losing that timeout. They have only themselves to blame for wasting so many others. The Bears’ offense involves making late adjustments against the defense, but the Bears leave themselves vulnerable to delay of game penalties or burning timeouts as they so often snap the ball with the clock near zero. Adding to their woes, they used a timeout to talk over a third down call. After doing that, Brewer and Mims were not on the same page, and UTSA nearly picked off the pass. Baylor can’t keep using timeouts to talk over plays or get plays off.
The Bears won an exciting game. They recovered an onside kick and ran a wide receiver pass to Brewer. Connor Martin was money, notching three field goals, including one from 47 yards. And the receivers made some spectacular catches of nice Brewer passes.
Baylor pulled away late. JaMycal Hasty ran into the endzone with 1:29 remaining to give Baylor a 17 point lead. UTSA had the ball down seven in the fourth quarter, but Brewer kept the offense moving and Hasty secured the victory.
Baylor has now doubled their win total from last season. That’s a real achievement. But Matt Rhule has made this team’s goal—since November of 2017—a bowl game. The Bears have the talent to do that. But they’ve also shown moments that make it seem like that’s not going to happen. Luckily what matters in college football is winning. The Bears have done that through two weeks. Now they have to improve to keep doing that.