With only two games left in a painful, difficult season, Baylor still wants to make the most of its remaining time and send out the seniors with some great final memories.
The Bears face a surprisingly good Iowa State team in Saturday’s home finale at 1:30 p.m. at McLane Stadium before hitting the road to play No. 11 TCU on Nov. 24 in Fort Worth.
Following a 38-24 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, the Bears fell to 1-9 overall and 1-6 in the Big 12. It’s not the type of season anybody expected in Matt Rhule’s first year, but the Baylor players still hope to finish strong.
“Regardless of how we play as a team or if we win, we want to do everything right now for the seniors,” said Baylor sophomore linebacker Jordan Williams. “You’ve just got to follow the process. We’re all upset about it, we all want to win, but at the same time we’ve got to trust it because it’s going to pay you back. You’ve just got to keep pushing.”
The most pressing problem for the Bears after the Texas Tech game is cutting down on turnovers. If the Bears hadn’t committed four turnovers, they would have had a shot to beat the Red Raiders.
Freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer showed his youth by fumbling twice and throwing an interception in the end zone. Sophomore receiver Tony Nicholson had a big turnover in the fourth quarter after he caught a pass from Brewer. Douglas Coleman stripped the ball from Nicholson and ran 31 yards for Texas Tech’s final touchdown.
Rhule is playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores out of necessity, and their inexperience is exposing itself on a weekly basis. For the season, Baylor has committed 20 turnovers compared to opponents’ 11.
“For all the great things our young players are doing, this was a day where a couple of our young guys made some errors that we just have to continue to coach through,” Rhule said. “We had the ball in the red zone four times in the first half, and we got points on one. That’s not really how you win football games.”
Trailing most of the game, the Bears passed the ball in record numbers in an effort to try to catch the Red Raiders. Brewer set school records by hitting 43 of 63 passes. While Brewer threw for 417 yards and three touchdowns, Rhule didn’t set out to pass that often.
“Texas Tech did a good job, they got the lead and then we had to fight back,” Rhule said. “So that’s the way we had to play. The kids are continuing to learn how to win and what to do and what not to do. Some guys stepped up and made some plays.”
While Baylor’s defense slowed down a dynamic Texas Tech offense by allowing 337 yards and 24 points, the Bears missed numerous tackles. With Nic Simonek hitting 24 of 29 passes for 246 yards and two scores, Texas Tech was efficient offensively most of the day.
“Missed tackles are a problem,” Rhule said. “There was a point in the middle of the year when we weren’t really tackling anyone. We have to continue to work on it.”
Baylor ran 92 plays and gained 523 yards against a mediocre Texas Tech defense that had allowed an average of 42 points in four straight losses leading into Saturday’s game. The Bears had possession of the ball the majority of the game, controlling the clock for 36 minutes and 27 seconds.
Sophomore running back JaMycal Hasty enjoyed a solid all-around day with 13 carries for 73 yards and nine catches for 51 yards.
“I think he just had an aggressiveness, he had a burst, a bounce that he hasn’t really had lately,” Rhule said. “That’s the guy who practiced at receiver all week too. He’s coming off a knee (injury), and it takes a little bit of time to get your knee back going again. So I think he gave us a lot.”
Denzel Mims caught a career-high 12 passes for 152 yards to crack the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Rhule expected Pooh Stricklin to be out for the season with a sprained foot, but he delivered a strong performance with eight catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The Bears needed outstanding games from Mims and Stricklin after freshman receiver Gavin Holmes went out with a knee injury in the first quarter that will likely end his season. Wide receivers Chris Platt and R.J. Sneed went down earlier this year with season ending injuries.
“Pooh wanted to play,” Rhule said. “We had him in a reserve role and Gavin got hurt. Our heart hurts for him. We’ve had two to three years worth of injuries.”
The offensive line showed positive signs after struggling most of the season. Baylor’s running game had some good moments and Texas Tech sacked Brewer just once.
“They’ve certainly gotten better,” Rhule said. “Two or three of them weren’t even playing offensive line in spring ball. So I think (Baylor offensive line coach) George DeLeone has done a good job, and I think they’ve done a good job.”
Though the Bears will be underdogs in their final two games, Rhule will keep pushing his team to find its second win of the season.
“We played well at times but let a lot of plays get away from us,” Rhule said. “So let’s continue to try to get better and see what we can do these last two games as we go out and honor our seniors.”