By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Struggling to find a "ton of very good" in a frustrating 38-7 loss at home to Texas, Baylor coach Matt Rhule could at least hang his hat on a defense that didn't give up a single point on three of the Longhorns' five first-half trips inside the Bears' 40.
"I thought the fourth-down stops, the sacks, the hitting the quarterback, that was good defensive football," Rhule said after dropping to 0-8 overall and 0-5 in the Big 12 with Saturday's loss before a crowd of 45,656 at McLane Stadium. "They just could have used some help from the offense."
Texas (4-4, 3-2) could have put this one away by halftime if not for some big stops by a Baylor defense led by tackles Ira Lewis and Bravvion Roy, ends Brian Nance and James Lynch, linebacker Eric Ogor, safety Verkedric Vaughns and cornerbacks Harrison Hand, Jameson Houston and Grayland Arnold.
"At the beginning, it was really good, because it showed that the defense could bend but not break," said Ogor, who had six tackles and one stop behind the line in his first career start. "It's good to know that going forward, if we want to do something, we can do it. Instead of like, `Oh, we got lucky and got a three-and-out,' no, we're going to get a three-and-out and go back to the bench. It's that simple."
The Longhorns jumped ahead 7-0 in the first minute when safety Deshon Elliott picked off a tipped pass by Zach Smith and returned it 43 yards for a quick touchdown.
After the two teams exchanged four straight punts, Baylor coughed it up again when cornerback Holton Hill forced a fumble by running back Terence Williams that safety John Bonney recovered at the 16.
Four plays later, though, Greg Roberts came up the middle and blocked Joshua Rowland's 27-yard field goal attempt.
Arnold said the poor field position from the offense's turnovers "was a little difficult, just the fact that we had to get back out there on the field over and over and over."
"But, if you really have your brother's back, then you're not really going to think about that," he said. "Like at that time, that wasn't our mindset. We were just like, `OK, let's go back out here, let's make another play, let's get a three-and-out.' And then, just try to encourage the offense to come on, just trying to pick our brothers up."
Texas missed another opportunity when linebacker Lenoy Jones Jr. stopped quarterback Shane Buechele about a foot short on fourth-and-2 from the Bears' 22-yard line.
"I thought the defense for most of the game played some of its best football that it has played, sort of under duress with field position, with turnovers, and I thought the kids continued to fight," Rhule said.
The Longhorns went up 14-0 early in the second quarter with their only real sustained drive of the day, going 90 yards in 11 plays and scoring on Buechele's 15-yard TD pass to Lil'Jordan Humphrey.
"I mean we made some plays. Defensively, I felt like we did a great job," Arnold said. "But, there's also some plays where you're going to go back and watch film and see, `Oh, I could have made another play or two.'''
Baylor's offense finally showed some spark after Texas took the two-score lead. Aided by a good kick return from Trevor White and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the Longhorns, freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer took over at his own 45.
"Really, Charlie just made a great throw and I made a great catch, and it just happened," Lynch said.
The defense came up with another big stop late in the half when the Longhorns drove from their own 24 down to the Bears' 38. Facing a fourth-and-two, Buechele was pressured by blitzing linebacker Taylor Young and missed Humphrey on a quick out.
Baylor gifted the Longhorns another touchdown when punter Connor Martin had a snap go through his hands and fell on the ball back at his own 28. Buechele scored on the next play to give Texas a 21-7 halftime lead, even after the three defensive stops.
"Obviously, overall, a very disappointing day for us," Rhule said. "We went into that football game feeling like it was a game we could win, feeling like we had a good play defensively. We just weren't able to get anything going enough on offense, penalties and turnovers really kind of stopped that at an early point."
While the defense started the second half with back-to-back three-and-outs, the Bears' gifts kept coming when defensive end Charles Omenihu forced a fumble by Lovett that was scooped up by Bonney again and returned to the 16.
"We haven't fumbled the football by a running back in a long time. I can't even remember one," Rhule said. "The second drive, we fumble. It's going to be second-and-4, and you can't beat that team fumbling on your own 20-yard line. And then, you fumble another one."
The defense stiffened again, holding the Longhorns just outside the goal line on Buechele's third-down pass to Lorenzo Joe and forcing them to settle for an 18-yard field goal by Rowland and a 24-7 lead.
Texas threatened again after a quick three-and-out by the Bears, driving from its own 28 to the Baylor 12. A holding penalty wiped out a 12-yard TD run by Toneil Carter, then Arnold picked off Buechele's underthrown pass in the end zone and returned it back to the 20.
That was Arnold's first career interception and just the second of the season for the Baylor defense.
"That being my first one, it was like, `OK, here it comes,''' Arnold said. "I got excited it, and when I saw it, I went up and got it. It was a great feeling for me. I felt like that was going to break the curse for the corners, because I want to see Harrison get a pick, I want to see Jameson get a pick. That would excite me, too."
Arnold said his message each week to the rest of the cornerbacks is, "We've got to win the game. It's got to be on us."
"We've got to get pick-sixes, we've got to do things that haven't been done here recently, to win the game. That's the mindset," he said.
With the Baylor defense obviously gassed, Texas added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put this one away. The first one came off another short field, when the Bears went for it on fourth down from their own 28.
Ogor said the defense didn't wear down, "we just weren't as focused as we should have been. I feel like we should have all just come together and said, `Hey, we've got to do this again.' We just weren't as focused as we should have been."
The attitude and goals haven't changed, though.
"Our morale is just taking every day as one," Ogor said. "We're not thinking about tomorrow, not thinking about the day after that. We just want to be 1-0 this day, then you wake up the next day and go 1-0 that day. We don't try to think about the future, we don't try to thin about anything else, just about what we've got tomorrow."
Next up for the Bears is a trip to Lawrence, Kan., to face the Kansas Jayhawks (1-7, 0-5) in an 11 a.m. game next Saturday.