ARLINGTON — That first swing from Texas Tech hit Baylor like a Mike Tyson right cross.
It was aggressive, vicious and meant to make a statement.
A lot of teams would have crumbled after such a devastating early blow, but not a resilient Baylor squad that has its eyes on its first Big 12 championship.
After Texas Tech struck for the first two touchdowns in the opening quarter, the Bears collected themselves and started playing like the No. 4 team in the nation.
With Levi Norwood catching two touchdown passes and making a 58-yard punt return for another score, Baylor pulled away for a 63-34 win over the Red Raiders before 69,188 fans Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
“These are the kind of games that you want to fight for with your brothers and win together,” Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. “You’ve got to have guys who push through a little adversity. It’s more than just talent. This is a special team, and I knew it from the get-go.”
Now 9-0 for the first time in school history, the Bears took sole possession of first place in the Big 12 with a 6-0 record. Oklahoma State handed Texas its first conference loss with a 38-13 win in Austin.
The Big 12 lead will be on the line in Stillwater next weekend when the Bears face the No. 12 Cowboys, who are now 9-1 overall and 6-1 in league play. With Stanford’s loss to USC, the Bears are poised to move up from No. 5 in the Bowl Championship Series standings Sunday night.
“We knew this was going to be a dogfight,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “We have a lot of respect for Texas Tech and what they’ve done over the years and this year. It’s impressive when you’re down 14-0 and 20-7 and withstand that surge against a good team and finish like we did. That shows we have a tough-minded football team that’s mature and believes in what’s happening in the locker room.”
A major question coming into the game was which Baylor receiver would step up after Tevin Reese suffered a dislocated wrist in last week’s 41-12 win over Oklahoma. Norwood delivered in a big way as he made seven catches for 156 yards and helped send the Red Raiders (7-4, 4-4) to their fourth straight Big 12 loss.
“For the receivers, we wanted to all step up and do something special for Tevin,” Norwood said. “We wanted to have a big game for him.”
Not only was Reese out, Baylor running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin didn’t suit up due to injuries. But after rushing for 182 yards against the Sooners, freshman Shock Linwood came through again for the Bears as he picked up 187 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries while freshman Devin Chafin chipped in 100 yards and two scores on just 11 carries.
“I believe last week’s game gave me confidence to perform like I did when Glasco got hurt,” Linwood said. “I stepped in and played a big role and it has helped a lot. The offensive line is giving me good holes to run through. They dictate what I do. I just have to be patient with it and find the holes.”
Often under heavy pressure from Texas Tech’s rush, NCAA passing efficiency leader Petty hit 17 of 31 for 335 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for two scores. It marked the second straight week that Petty threw for three touchdowns and ran for two.
Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield hit 28 of 51 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns, but wasn’t nearly effective after Baylor’s defense began putting more pressure on him following the first quarter. The Bears sacked Mayfield three times and got an interception by K.J. Morton.
Scoring on their first two possessions, the Red Raiders seemed to stun the Bears who had never been behind by two touchdowns all season. Texas Tech reached into its bag of tricks as running back Kenny Williams rolled left and threw a 6-yard option pass to Jace Amaro for the game’s first touchdown.
After moving 75 yards for their first score, the Red Raiders drove 89 yards for their second touchdown. Mayfield hit Bradley Marquez for 28 yards before scrambling for 20. Mayfield then found Amaro wide open over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown to push Texas Tech’s lead to 14-0 with 6:57 left in the first quarter.
Clay Fuller got things rolling for the Bears by returning Texas Tech’s kickoff 43 yards. Following Linwood’s 18-yard shot up the middle, Petty hit Norwood who faked out Tre’ Porter near the 10 to finish off a 40-yard touchdown catch.
But it didn’t take the Red Raiders long to answer as they moved 75 yards on their next drive with Eric Ward finishing it off with a leaping one-handed catch from Mayfield to push Texas Tech’s lead to 20-7 in the first quarter.
Baylor killed Texas Tech’s momentum with Norwood’s spectacular punt return and two big plays by the defense.
Norwood made three Texas Tech players miss with some sharp cuts as he returned a punt 58 yards for the touchdown to cut the Red Raiders’ lead to 20-14 with 1:39 left in the first quarter.
“That came at a huge time for us when the score was 20-7,” Petty said. “It’s a big spark with the special teams. They did a great job the entire night. For that to happen when the offense wasn’t jelling like we wanted was big.”
Morton leaped high on a blitz and snagged Mayfield’s pass for an interception at the Red Raiders’ 31. On the next play, Petty led Antwan Goodley perfectly for a 31-yard touchdown pass to give the Bears a 21-20 lead with four seconds left in the first quarter.
Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon recovered Mayfield’s fumble at Texas Tech’s 32, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Dixon pushed the ball back to the 47.
But the Bears pummeled the Red Raiders on the ground as Linwood drove for 13 and 23 yards before Chafin ran for 8 yards to set up his 3-yard touchdown run. The Bears’ third straight touchdown gave them a 28-20 lead with 8:18 left in the second quarter.
Baylor’s momentum slowed briefly when Petty fumbled at his own 8 and Terrance Bullitt recovered for Texas Tech. Mayfield hit Jakeem Grant with a 3-yard touchdown pass to cut Baylor’s lead to 28-27.
But the Bears had one more touchdown left in them before halftime thanks to Norwood. Catching a short Petty pass along the left sideline, Norwood made two Texas Tech defenders miss him as he broke away for a 58-yard touchdown to push Baylor’s lead to 35-27.
The Bears dominated the third quarter as they outscored the Red Raiders, 21-7, to open up a 56-34 lead.
With Petty hitting Corey Coleman for 27 yards to the 16, the Bears moved into position for another touchdown. Petty ran over for the 6-yard score to give the Bears a 42-27 edge with 12:33 left in the third quarter.
The Red Raiders answered with a solid drive, but on fourth-and-2 at Baylor’s 26, Sam Holl nailed Mayfield after a 1-yard gain. Baylor took advantage of the defensive stop as Chafin broke away for a 47-yard touchdown to push the lead to 49-27 with 8:35 left in the third quarter.
After hitting Grant for 41 yards, Mayfield found Reginald Davis for a 19-yard touchdown. But Baylor responded with Petty’s 1-yard touchdown run that was set up by his 48-yard pass to Goodley.
Linwood gave the Bears a bigger cushion with his 10-yard touchdown burst to finish off a 75-yard drive with 7:30 left in the game.