Morgantown, West Virginia continues to be hell for Baylor football, as the Bears fall to the Mountaineers 43-40 to move their record at Milan Puskar Stadium to 0-6. Baylor had ample opportunity to win this game, but bad turnovers, a special teams miscue, and some seriously poor tackling proved to be a fatal concoction. The Bears are now 3-3 overall on the season, and 1-2 in Big 12 play. This was a game of 1 step forward, 2 steps back.
The Baylor defense looked maybe the worst that I’ve seen in the last 2 seasons. The Bears struggled to make tackles, and allowed West Virginia to run all over them. Backup running back Tony Mathis, a sophomore, crushed the defense, going off for 163 yards and 2 TDs at 7.4 yards per carry. The defensive line struggled to get consistent pressure on JT Daniels, and the West Virginia receivers made some great receptions to keep drives alive, but it was truly the Mountaineer run game that dominated the Baylor defense.
On the other side of the ball, West Virginia took advantage of some major Baylor mistakes that led directly to points. Blake Shapen fumbled in the backfield, resulting in a WVU return TD. Qualan Jones fumbled during a promising drive. Kyron Drones threw a bad interception in West Virginia Territory. And, West Virginia blocked and returned a PAT attempt, resulting in 2 points for the Mountaineers. That’s 9 points directly off of turnovers plus the lost points Baylor most likely would have scored on the other 2 promising drives. The game was there for Baylor, but the Bears quite literally handed it to West Virginia.
To add to the madness, Blake Shapen had probably his best game in his career. Shapen threw for 326 yards and 2 TDs and looked to be sharper than he’s been all season. Those stats, which would be great for a full game, were accumulated through only about 2 and a half quarters, though. Shapen was then knocked out of the game after a dirty hit that was rightfully called for targeting against WVU. It was a tough result for Shapen, and we can only hope that he recovers quickly and his absence from the game was more cautionary than out of necessity.
Kyron Drones, though, came in and played well, besides the interception. Drones’ arm looked great, his pocket presence was elite, and he seemed to really grasp the offense, throwing for 95 yards and a touchdown. There is some serious potential in what Drones brings to the field based on the play we saw this evening. Another bright spot for the Bears was the continued emergence of Gavin Holmes. Holmes was unstoppable, catching 7 balls for 210 yards and a touchdown. In what was a frustrating game, seeing Holmes succeed is one thing Bears fans can be happy about.
Overall, it was a Thursday in Morgantown. The city is cursed. Nothing good ever happens there. I move that we trade West Virginia to the ACC in exchange for Clemson. But, it doesn’t matter where we play moving forward if Baylor continues to struggle to tackle and contain opposing running games. With road games at Texas Tech, Texas, and Oklahoma still left on the schedule, there is very little room for error left in the season if Baylor wants to avoid a full on collapse after a magical 2021 season. This team can play with anyone, but they need to learn how to win against anyone.