In what has become a strange and worrying trend, the Baylor Bears have lost another 2023 home game, this time to the Iowa State Cyclones 30-18. Baylor has only won once at home this season, to FCS LIU. With this latest home loss, on homecoming no less, the Bears have dropped to 3-5 on the year, and 2-3 in conference. They are the lowest legacy Big 12 team in the standings, only sitting above Houston, Cincinatti, and UCF.
The story was much the same that we’ve seen all season. A non-existent running game, a passing game that can’t stretch the field, and defense that somehow makes you more worried when they get into 3rd and long rather than 3rd and short. Iowa State had three players with more than 5 yards per carry, with Eli Sanders (6.4 YPC), Cartevious Norton (5.8 YPC), and Abu Sama (7 YPC) all suprassing the mark. Defense like that is unsustainable and does not result in wins. It allowed the Cyclones to control the ball with almost 34 minutes of possession.
Offensively, there was no big play threat whatsoever. Blake Shapen had 239 yards with a TD and an INT, but averaged only 5.8 yards per attempt. Monaray Baldwin had a solid game on paper, catching 6 balls for 117 yards and TD, but drops in key situations were crippling for the Bears. The run game found a small stride late, with Dawson Pendergrass showing some tough running, leading him to 2 TDs, but it was too little too late. Richard Reese, a pre-season all Big 12 selection, has totally disappeared, carrying the ball only twice for -1 yards. Overall, the Bears only averaged 2.7 yards per carry.
On the other side, the Bears defense made Cyclone QB Rocco Becht look great. He was 19/31 for 238 yards with a TD and an INT. Honestly a solid performance, considering he was supposed to be the backup this season, before a gambling scandal changed the landscape of the Cyclones roster for 2023. It wasn’t anything we don’t expect to see from Iowa State. Tough defense, and an offense that does just enough. They were frustratingly good on third down, converting 9 out of 15 times. Compare that to only 4 out of 14 for Baylor. Add in that they outrushed Baylor by almost 100 yards, and you’ve got the entire story of the game. Iowa State was more disciplined and just flat out better at football.
Truly, there isn’t much to belabor about this game. Baylor isn’t good enough in the trenches on either side of the ball. There aren’t enough playmakers who you can trust in the biggest moments, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a scheme being set up to alleviate the issues our deficiencies can bring. With 4 games remaining, Baylor must win 3 to make it back to a bowl game. But, 2 of those games are on the road at TCU and Kansas State, and another is a West Virginia team that’s playing way above expectations at home. The only game against a team lower in the conference standings left is Houston, but Baylor seems allergic to home wins. It’s more likely we see this team go 1-3 or 0-4 than the necessary 3-1.
It’s likely to be a rough ending to the year. At this point, teams are who they are, and this Bears squad is flawed and undermanned. Crazier things have happened, but Baylor fans should prepare to have some extra free time during bowl season.