For the first time this season, No. 5 Baylor proved it could absorb a haymaker as well as deliver one during Saturday’s 63-34 victory over Texas Tech.
The Bears, who typically have overwhelmed opponents with first-quarter surges by their point-per-minute offense, had the script flipped on them in AT&T Stadium by the Red Raiders. Tech rolled to touchdowns on its first three possessions, handing Baylor (9-0, 6-0 in Big 12) its first pair of double-digit deficits during the Bears’ march into the BCS national title picture.
Baylor, which had not trailed by more than a touchdown in any of its first eight games, found itself behind by first-quarter margins of 14-0 and 20-7 within 12 minutes. Yet the Bears still led at the end of the quarter, thanks to Levi Norwood’s 58-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 31-yard scoring toss from quarterback Bryce Petty to receiver Antwan Goodley.
The surge swung the early momentum and inspired the shell-shocked Baylor defense. After surrendering 239 yards and three touchdowns on Tech’s first three possessions, the Bears allowed only 215 yards the rest of the game.
The offense, meanwhile, broke open a tight game with a 28-7 surge in the second half on the same night the Bears received some help in the BCS standings. No. 4 Stanford fell to unranked USC 20-17 giving Baylor hope to climb when today’s updated standings are released.
“When you’re down 14-0 and … withstand that surge, that’s impressive. That shows you’re a tough-minded football team and can respond to adversity,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “The thing that’s impressive to me is they came out with a lot of energy and our guys just kept playing. It wasn’t a panic situation. I think we are a tough football team, without question.”
Baylor, which took the lead for keeps with its pair of long-distance touchdowns in the final 1:39 of the first quarter, put the game away with a third-quarter surge that included two scoring runs by Petty (6 yards, 1 yard) and one by fourth-team tailback Devin Chafin (47 yards). Chafin, a freshman, ground out a career-high 100 yards and scored the first two touchdowns of his college career.
Chafin joined fellow freshman Shock Linwood (187 yards, one TD), typically the Bears’ third-teamer at the position, in keeping the ground game humming with Baylor’s top two backs sidelined. Leading rusher Lache Seastrunk (groin) and Glasco Martin (knee), the team’s primary power back, did not play because of injuries sustained in last week’s 41-12 rout of Oklahoma.
Neither of those absentees, nor the loss of receiver Tevin Reese (fractured wrist), did much to slow a Baylor offense that entered the game averaging an NCAA-best 61 points and 686 yards per contest.
The Bears officially upped their season scoring average with 7:30 remaining, when Linwood’s 10-yard touchdown run boosted the Baylor lead to 63-34. They finished with 675 yards, 11 below their average, and displayed uncanny balance in the process (340 rushing, 335 passing).
Linwood’s 29 carries marked a career high, as did his 187 rushing yards. With Reese out, Norwood stepped up with season highs for catches (7), yards (152) and touchdown receptions (2) to accompany his punt return. Norwood contributed three of Baylor’s five scoring plays that covered 31 yards or longer.
“We showed that we’re a resilient football team,” Petty said. “There’s a lot of talent involved. But we work hard. You need guys that can push through adversity, and Levi gave us a big spark when we needed it with that punt return. In a close game, special teams are what get things turned around.”
After its opening salvo, Tech (7-4, 4-4) lost much of its offensive steam and also slowed itself with three turnovers, two of which led to Baylor touchdowns. Tech managed just 215 yards and two touchdowns in the final three quarters.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said: “We had good energy early but just faded as we got going. Too many mistakes in all phases.”
Baylor took full advantage, with Linwood doing much of the heavy lifting for a second consecutive week. Linwood has rushed for a combined 369 yards in consecutive victories over Tech and Oklahoma with Seastrunk and Martin sidelined. Linwood credited the Bears’ offensive line, saying the guys in the trenches “gave me confidence to go out there and play like I did. I’ve just got to be patient with it and find my holes.”
In turn, Petty said the Bears delivered another message to voters about their BCS mettle.
“This is a special team,” Petty said. “We’ve known since spring this would be a special team. It’s about putting it together.”
For a ninth consecutive game, Baylor did that. And this time, the Bears did it without delivering the first telling punch.