Apparently unaware Trestan Ebner can still return punts and kicks, Iowa State (2-2, 0-1) learned that he’s real and spectacular as Baylor (4-0, 2-0) won 31-29.
Baylor scored 10 points in the second half. All were due to Ebner. He ran a kickoff back to give Baylor a 28-16 lead. After Iowa State made it 28-23 on the strength of Breece Hall’s big day (27 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns), the Cyclones elected to punt to Ebner. He returned it to the Iowa State 20. The Bears couldn’t move the ball, but they kicked a field goal to make it 31-23.
Iowa State scored a touchdown after Brock Purdy evaded a sack and lined up for two. A successful two point conversion would have meant overtime. A botched snap and an errant throw led to a JT Wood’s interception. The Cyclones lined up for an onside kick, and after a Baylor offsides gave them one more attempt, RJ Sneed secured the ball to give Baylor the victory.
This was a close game where the yards make it seem like Iowa State should have won easily. That’s not the case. The Bears led 21-13 at halftime behind Gerry Bohanon’s adept play. He hit Ben Sims and Tyquan Thornton for nice touchdowns. Bohanon read the defense and added some big runs. He finished the first half 10-of-12 and one of those incompletions was an easy drop.
The Cyclones had chances to win. Some of those opportunities were because the Bears had too many penalties. Baylor had a face mask that negated a fumble recovery. Drives became tougher as Baylor held too often. Baylor has to clean that up to hit the loftier goals a win like this warrants.
The defense came up big when it mattered. Apu Ika hit Purdy to force an interception with the Bears up 28-23. The defense faced 11 drives from a good Iowa State offense featuring tight ends well designed to attack Baylor.
The Bears also were without Terrel Bernard for most of the game as he left in the first quarter with an apparent knee injury. He returned to the sidelines on crutches. Jalen Pitre also limped out of the game on Iowa State’s final offensive play from scrimmage. Hopefully those two—the two best defensive players for the Bears—can return.
The reality is that Baylor’s special teams were substantially better than Iowa State’s. Ebner was a stud. Isaac Power averaged 54.5 yard a punt. Corey Dunn of Iowa State shanked one punt after a Baylor deflection, and Ebner nearly took the other punt to the house. Isaiah Hankins made his sole 34 yard attempt. Andrew Mevis of Iowa State hit 3-of-4 but he missed a field goal. That would have been enough to win.
The Bears have some areas they must improve. Offensively Baylor can’t get that conservative, and the line must block better in the second half. But the expectations are now much higher because the Bears beat one of the Big 12’s two preseason favorites. Trying to win games like this is why Dave Aranda came to Waco, and he’ll look to continue winning at 6:00 next Saturday against Oklahoma State in Stillwater.