The No. 17 Baylor Bears hosted the Texas State Bobcats on Saturday in Waco, Texas. The Bears (2-1) were trying to bounce back after their double-overtime loss to BYU last weekend and were doing so against a Bobcats team (1-2) that Baylor had beaten eight previous times.
But, Texas State — part of the Sun Belt Conference — came in upset-minded after watching three of its conference mates execute road Power 5 upsets last week. Appalachian State beat Texas A&M, Marshall beat Notre Dame and Georgia Southern beat Nebraska, which led to the firing of Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost.
Baylor won the game and now heads to Big 12 action next week. Here are three thoughts on the game.
1. The Shapen Keeper
Late in the second quarter you couldn’t blame Baylor for feeling a bit cautious. Texas State had just scored to cut the Bears’ early lead to 14-7. The Bears mishandled the ensuing kickoff and started inside their 10-yard line. With less than two minutes to play, the Bobcats were calling timeout, thinking they could pin the Bears back, force a punt and get the ball back. Tying the game didn’t seem out of the question.
Then, three things happened. First, Bears quarterback Blake Shapen hit Gavin Holmes for a first down to get the Bears out of that deep hole.
Second, three plays later, Texas State’s London Harris drew an unsportsmanlike conduct call, which pushed the Bears into Texas State territory.
Third, Shapen’s sleight of hand on fourth down. Yes, the Bears went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Bobcat 33 with about half-a-minute left. He had a back to his right and Shapen faked the handoff right into his belly. Baylor’s entire offensive line went to the left. So did the entire Texas State defensive line. Once everyone realized Shapen had the ball, there was one Bobcat linebacker to beat, and Shapen did for the touchdown.
Don’t sugar-coat it. It was a bold call, even in Bobcats territory. Don’t score or move the chains and maybe Baylor is only up a touchdown. Instead, Shapen made it a two-score game and that seemed to take the air right out of the Bobcats’ sails, something that’s key if you’re playing an upset-minded team like Texas State.
It became the key sequence of the first half.
2. The Defensive Turn
Texas State started the second half with the football. Down 14 points, a comeback wasn’t out of the question. But Baylor took care of that on the first possession with a defensive stop and turnover and basically spelled the realistic end of Texas State’s hopes for an upset.
The Bobcats were in Baylor territory when Javen Banks caught a pass from quarterback Layne Hatcher. The Bears stood Banks up and Bears defensive back Al Walcott stripped the ball loose from Banks and Mike Bay Harris recovered the ball at the Bears 37.
Now, it didn’t lead to a score on that drive. But, one Baylor drive later Shapen connected with Holmes for a 28-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-7 with 4:42 left in the third quarter.
The game wasn’t over, of course. But between Shapen’s keeper and Walcott’s strip, the Bears put themselves in control with about 20 minutes to play.
3. What’s Next?
The Bears move into Big 12 play next weekend when they head to Iowa State to face the Cyclones. We will find out quite a bit about the Bears in the next two games. Iowa State’s defense looks like one of the best in the conference, and young quarterback Hunter Dekkers is coming quickly. The next week the Bears host Oklahoma State, a rematch of last year’s Big 12 Championship game. The Bears are either going to need Shapen to improve getting the ball down the field more (and he started to in the second half on Saturday) or get maximum production from the running game and defense to run that two-week gauntlet.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.