Photo by © John Gutierrez -USA Today
Baylor Football

The stat that mattered against the Texas Longhorns

October 16, 2018

On Saturday afternoon in Austin the Baylor Bears fell to the Texas Longhorns, 23-17.

The Longhorns were coming off an incredible upset win against the Oklahoma Sooners, who beat the Bears 66-33 two weeks prior in Norman. Ranked No. 9 nationally, it was safe to say that the Bears had another huge test ahead of them with the in-state conference rival. In games which Texas was ranked and the Bears were not in 37 contests dating back to 1945, the Longhorns had won 34 of those matchups and not one of the three upsets by Baylor were on the road.

© John Gutierrez -USA Today
After struggling to stop the explosive plays all season, Baylor limited Texas in the category.

Needless to say, the Bears were trying to achieve something that the school had never done before.

Although the Bears couldn’t get it done, the opportunities were right there in front of them. Nine penalties for 92 yards and an interesting incomplete pass call on what looked like an interception hindered the Bears ability to capitalize on a lot of opportunities.

In addition, the offensive line looked completely gassed during the Bears’ potential game-winning drive, which made it difficult for Charlie Brewer to make the throws he needed to seal the game. In essence, many of the pivotal plays simply didn’t go Baylor’s way.

"I'm proud of them, but that's a really hurt group of young men right now," Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said. "When you're the head coach, you know me, I'll hurt, trust me, but I'll get over it. I hurt from them right now because they knew they could have won that game."

What put Baylor in position to even have a shot at winning this game they were expected to lose? Why were the Bears able to compete with the Longhorns and not the Sooners? The simple answer and the stat that mattered this week was Baylor’s defense giving up only two plays for more than 20 yards. One of those plays was a 44-yard touchdown pass from Shane Buechele to Collin Johnson. The other came off of a 30-yard run by running back that led to a missed field goal.

"I think not giving up the explosive runs, then I guess just the one deep ball," Rhule said. "I thought those were big things."

As Baylor fans know, explosive plays have been one of the biggest problems with this team. Those types of plays are how the Sooners scored 66 points. Being able to prevent those plays were a huge part of Baylor’s second-half shutout and how they were able to remain in striking distance to win the game. That was shown through the five field goal attempts for the Longhorns, two of which they missed. For comparison, two field goal attempts were the most the Bears forced in six games prior to Saturday.

Said differently, teams were typically scoring on the Bears through explosive plays and field goals were never an option. With Baylor nipping that problem in the bud, Texas had to methodically move the ball down the field and Baylor's defense had its most successful day against a quality opponent of the season.

 "They made more plays than us, but I'm proud of the plays we did make. I think just the fact that we got guys battling out there, fighting, guys are going down, other guys are coming in."
- Matt Rhule

What should be taken away from this game is that Baylor is not treading in the waters of mediocrity. This team is taking steps forward and they have shown adjustments and improvements to their previous issues from earlier games. Will the steps continue to move them forward? Only time will tell.

Even though the final score might not be something Baylor fans were looking for, there were a lot of positive signs for the team going forward. Going into this game, the Bears were 14-point underdogs and many expect that line to hold true. Baylor fans may not have gone as far as to say that the Bears should win, but the hope was that they would compete.

The fact that the Bears were a couple plays away from making school history and upsetting a ranked Texas team at their stadium shows that there are great things ahead for the Bears.

"But again, it's a football game," Rhule said. "They made more plays than us, but I'm proud of the plays we did make. I think just the fact that we got guys battling out there, fighting, guys are going down, other guys are coming in. I mean, we had some power football today, some spread football today, played defense, had some good special team moments."

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The stat that mattered against the Texas Longhorns

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