Here are my Five Quick Thoughts following Texas’ 23-17 win over Baylor Saturday in Waco:
1. In the Beginning, Texas Benefits from Fast Start… The Longhorns did themselves a huge favor by getting off to a swift start against the Bears. Baylor entered the game against Texas having scored on its first drive of every previous game the Bears had played this year. And just like in previous games, the Bears drove smartly down the field against the Longhorns at the beginning Saturday, reaching the Texas 30 yard-line and facing a fourth-and-1 situation. Running back Shock Linwood was stuffed, and the Longhorns struck for 70 yards on three plays for the first score of the game, a 57-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyrone Swoopes to tight end Caleb Bluiett. A few moments later, the Longhorns could’ve pushed the lead to 14-0, but receiver John Burt dropped a sure TD in the end zone on third and goal from the five yard-line, and the Longhorns had to settle for a 23-yard Nick Rose field goal to make it 10-0. Merely minutes after that, Baylor quarterback Chris Johnson fumbled, Texas recovered at the Baylor 18, and three plays later Swoopes ran nine yards for a touchdown, pushing Texas’ lead to 17-0 in front of a few thousand shocked Bears’ fans. It was the first time Baylor had been shut out at home in the first quarter since playing Texas two seasons ago.
2. Third Quarter Woes for UT … Leading 20-0 at halftime, the Longhorns starting the second half pathetically, with two short Warren runs followed by a no gain by Swoopes, who was gimpy throughout the game. This was followed by a the Bears marching 69 yards in eight plays, all of them running plays, a drive in which Baylor used direct snaps not only to Lynx Hawthorne (who relieved the injured Johnson and who is listed as a wide receiver on the Baylor roster), but also to running back Johnny Jefferson (who scored on a 20-yard run) and running back Terence Williams. Baylor continued to pound on the ground at Texas in the third quarter, scoring 10 points to turn the 20-point halftime lead into a precarious 20-10 Longhorn advantage entering the fourth period. Whatever Art Briles and his son and offensive coordinator, Kendal, did at halftime worked brilliantly in the third quarter, with an offense who played the great majority of the game without a quarterback.
3. Holding On … Texas had to survive a second half in while the Longhorns managed only a field goal. Baylor’s touchdown with 9:40 left in the game came on an 8-yard touchdown run by Hawthorne, cutting the Texas lead to 20-17, at which time the Bears had the ball and the Longhorns probably had a sick feeling they have had at various times earlier in this disappointing season. The Longhorns answered, however, with their most important drive of the ballgame, a 12-play, 62-yard march that culminated in a 37-yard field goal by Rose, his third of the ballgame, which pushed the Texas advantage to 23-17. After the kickoff, Texas dodged a big-time bullet thanks to a great strip-and-fumble recovery by Poona Ford, who did both to Jefferson on 4th and four from the Baylor 43-yard line with 2:31 left to play. Texas had to punt after going three-and-out, but a Michael Dickson 42-yard punt was down at the Baylor 4 yard-line. Needing to drive 96 yards for a potential game-winning touchdown, the Bears got it to the Texas 47 with four seconds left to play, but failed to convert.
4. Texas Defense vs. Baylor Offense… Texas obviously benefitted greatly by the injury to Baylor quarterback Chris Johnson’s injury following a lost fumble in the first half. Johnson left the field groggy, and never returned, and was replaced by Hawthorne, who was game but clearly limited. Needless to say, this didn’t bode well for the Bears: Hawthorne finished the game completing 10 of 22 passes for 64 yards, but also tossed two interceptions. The Longhorns held the Bears to 84 yards through the air, but also allowed a whopping 395 yards on the ground against the Bears. Texas did help itself with solid defense on third down: the Bears converted just 4 of 16 third down attempts. The Bears also averaged an abysmal 3.6 yards per pass attempt.
5. The Dustup… Late in the first quarter, with Texas leading 17-0, Duke Thomas picked off Hawthorne, who slung Thomas to the turf after the return, and several Texas player immediately surrounded the Bear on the ground. Texas defensive back Kevin Vaccaro came off the bench and – intentionally or not? – fell on Hawthorne. Chaos ensued, pushing and shoving, culminating in the Bears’ bench crossing the field. When calm was restored, Vaccaro was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the Bears – mystifyingly so – were not flagged for crossing the field. Boys will be boys.