The Longhorns would travel to Waco without starting Center Zach Shackelford and QB Sam Ehlinger, both of which were in concussion protocol following last week’s loss at home to Oklahoma State.
Texas would try to bounce back from losing 2 straight, but as always, the Texas-Baylor match-up would prove to be a tough one for both teams.
Baylor, still looking for its first win of the season, would struggle on offense to start the game, which was best exemplified by the third play of the game, when Bears QB Zach Smith’s pass was tipped and intercepted by DeShon Elliot (his 6th INT of the season). He then proceeded to take it 43 yards to the house, giving the Longhorns their first lead of the game at 7-0.
Both teams would trade punts twice each, before a fumble deep in Bears territory gave Texas a chance to go up 2 scores. But the Baylor defense would hold Texas to a field goal, which was then blocked for no return.
The Bears would not capitalize, punting the ball. And the Longhorns would turn the ball over on downs later in the second half, best summarizing Texas’s position in the first half; missed opportunities. That, and the multitude of attempted trick plays that weren’t executed well, showed the Texas offense was not capitalizing the best they could.
It wasn’t until the opening minutes of the 2nd quarter that another team would score, which came thanks to the Texas offense this time. QB Shane Buechele, playing in relief of injured QB Ehlinger, came out to play, slicing up the Bears defense. He would toss a 15-yard pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey for the touchdown, giving the Longhorns a 14-0 lead with 9:42 left in the first half.
Baylor sensed the urgency that they now faced. And no one more so than Bears coach Matt Rhule, who began to switch quarterbacks between Zach Smith and Cade Brewer. And Brewer would not fail, as they would go on a 3-play, 55-yard drive thanks to a beautiful one-handed catch by Blake Lynch that was taken all the way to the Texas 3. The Bears would then score on the next play, shortening Texas’s lead to 14-7 after a successful Bears PAT.
Tom Herman and the ‘horns would attempt another 4th-down conversion on the ensuing drive, which would again be unsuccessful, giving the Bears great field position and potentially a chance to tie the game at 14.
But that was not how the Bears drive would end, thanks to the Texas defense forcing a three-and-out. The following play would end even worse for the Bears, as a muffed snap on the punt allowed Texas to take over on the Baylor 28.
The Longhorns would not allow the turnover to go unnoticed this time, as the very next play was a zone read taken by Shane Buechele all the way to the house, giving Texas a 21-7 lead. They would take that lead into halftime, and potentially expand that lead as well, as the Longhorns would receive the ball to start the second half.
Both teams would trade punts to start the second half, and Texas would punt again following that. But the Bears would then fumble the ball, which was recovered by John Bonney returned 13 yards to the Baylor 16.
Texas would drive all the way inside the Baylor 10, but was forced to kick a field goal to make the score 24-7, Longhorns.
Baylor would not answer, instead punting the ball after a three-and-out. Texas answered with a 6 play, 50-yard drive, but would end with Shane Buechele throwing an interception, giving the Bears a chance to capitalize off the turnover. But they would again not answer the call, instead turning the ball over on downs.
Shane Buechele could redeem himself for the INT, and he and the Longhorns did not disappoint. The 3-play drive ended with a 19-yard touchdown run by Toneil Carter. The Longhorns lead was increased to 24, as the score was now 31-7, Texas.
Baylor knew its chances for a miracle comeback were getting dimmer and dimmer as they started with the ball to begin the 4th quarter, so Zach Smith and the Bears went on a 13-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a pass intended for Charlie Brewer on 4th down being incomplete.
But Tom Herman and the Longhorns were not able to further put the game out of reach following the turnover on downs, instead punting the ball.
Baylor and the Bears didn’t do much on the following drive, as two penalties stalled the drive and forced the Bears to punt with 6:32 left in the football game.
Shane Buechele and the Longhorns got the ball on their own 49, and they would not let down from their great starting field position, and led by Daniel young, who rushed 51 yards in 3 plays, scored a touchdown. No other player in the Longhorns offense touched the ball on this drive besides Young, who scored a 31-yard touchdown to make it 38-7, Texas. Following the successful PAT, there was only 1:57 left in the game.
The Bears would turn the ball over on downs for the 4th and last time on the day, allowing Texas to take a knee and drain the clock out as the Longhorns won, 38-7.
Shane Buechele had himself a fine day playing in relief of Sam Ehlinger. His stat line on the day was 27/36 with 256 yards, and a touchdown and interception each. His 75% completion rate is the best in his young career. He played a fine day against the Baylor defense, but it would have been for naught had it not been for the Texas rushing attack. Toneil Carter led the way with 15 carries for 70 yards and 1 touchdown, then Daniel young who had 7 touches for 60 yards and a touchdown, and we must mention Shane Buechele as well who had 9 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well.
All in all, it was an alright game for the Longhorns. There were plenty of missed opportunities and points left on the field, Texas managed to score in most places where it counted. The defense pitched another great game, holding the potent Bears offense to just 249 yards. That, combined with the 3 turnovers, the Longhorns offense coming out to play, and it gave Texas the win it sorely needed.
The Longhorns sit at 4-4, 2 games away from bowl eligibility, with TCU, West Virginia, Kansas, and Texas Tech remaining, Texas can certainly squeeze out 2 wins against those four teams to find themselves in their first bowl game since 2014.
But nothing is assured if the Big XII has taught us anything, and any game is a toss-up. If the Longhorns can keep up the winning formula that they showed today, and work on the big plays and times they should’ve capitalized, that bowl game may just be on the horizon.