Fresh off leading Lake Travis to a Class 6A Division I state championship, Charlie Brewer showed up to Baylor early for spring drills and immediately began impressing the coaches with his leadership and moxie.
On Saturday night, Baylor fans saw why Matt Rhule and his staff are so excited about the gifted freshman.
With the Bears trailing No. 23 West Virginia by 25 points at the end of the third quarter, Brewer replaced starting quarterback Zach Smith and nearly led Baylor to its first win of the season.
The Mountaineers hung on for a 38-36 win on Baylor’s homecoming, but Brewer certainly made them work for it.
Brewer led the Bears to 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to freshman Trestan Ebner with 17 seconds remaining to pull within two. It was Ebner’s third touchdown of the fourth quarter.
Attempting to send the game into overtime, Brewer was sacked by blitzing linebacker Xavier Preston on the two-point conversion attempt. West Virginia (5-2, 3-1) finally put the game away when it recovered the onside kick.
“Zach had the stomach flu, so we told Charlie to be ready,” Rhule said. “I didn’t want him to continue to stay in there and take a beating. Charlie can run and that helped us. We saw what Charlie brings to the table and the job he did.”
Rhule said that either Brewer or Smith could start next Saturday against Texas at McLane Stadium. But he said he didn’t want to make a rash decision until he sees the game film.
The Bears fell to 0-7 overall and 0-4 in the Big 12, but Brewer’s passionate performance gave them something to look forward to in the final five games of the season. Brewer hit eight of 13 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 48 yards on 10 carries.
“You’d say both quarterbacks would have an opportunity to start,” Rhule said. “I hate to jump to conclusions, but I know Zach and Charlie are both good quarterbacks. When you’re going through a tough spurt, you know you have a quarterback you feel good with. We have two quarterbacks we feel good about. Charlie showed a lot of moxie. It’s a good problem to have.”
Ebner also enjoyed a tremendous game as he made five catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 54 yards and a touchdown on three carries.
“For a guy who never played running back before this year, Trestan did an excellent job,” Rhule said. “He showed some explosiveness. He’s a guy who really emerged tonight.”
With the Bears trailing 38-13 at the end of the third quarter, Brewer threw his first collegiate touchdown pass to Ebner for 52 yards. After Baylor recovered an onside kick, Ebner broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown run to cut West Virginia’s lead to 38-27 with 13:50 left in the game.
On their next possession, Baylor drove to West Virginia’s five before Connor Martin nailed a 23-yard field goal to cut the Mountaineers’ lead to 38-30 with 6:07 remaining.
Following another solid defensive stand, Brewer guided the Bears on an 86-yard drive for the touchdown. The Bears overcame a fourth-and-five situation at their own 30 when Brewer hit Denzel Mims for 15 yards.
Brewer found JaMycal Hasty for eight yards for another first down before the quarterback scrambled 16 yards for a first down at West Virginia’s 26. A 10-yard pass to Ebner and a pass interference call against West Virginia put the Bears at the 2.
After Preston sacked Brewer for a 12-yard loss, the Bears faced third and goal at the 9 when Brewer scrambled to his left and hit Ebner with the touchdown pass.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier came into the game leading the nation with 21 touchdown passes, and threw five more against the Bears, and hit 26 of 37 passes for 375 yards. Three of his touchdown passes went to David Sill, who leads the country with 15 touchdown catches.
Smith hit 16 of 27 passes for 261 yards and helped the Bears put together some solid drives. But most of them fizzled as the moved closer to the end zone.
Baylor’s defense had been outstanding before the Mountaineers put together an 80-yard touchdown drive in the final 1:05 of the second quarter to take a 17-6 halftime lead.
Grier hit a wide open Sills for a 16-yard touchdown over the middle with one second remaining. Grier set up the score with a 22-yard pass to Ka’Raun White and a 14-yarder to Marcus Simms.
The Bears still seemed to have a hangover from that late second quarter touchdown pass when they came back for the second half.
Just 18 seconds into the third quarter, Grier found a wide open Sills over the middle for a 53-yard touchdown to push West Virginia’s lead to 24-6.
Baylor’s offense showed some life on its first drive of the second half as Smith hit Gavin Holmes for 56 yards to the 2. Following a penalty, freshman John Lovett blew up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown run to cut West Virgini’a lead to 24-13 with 7:39 remaining.
But the optimism from that scoring drive soon vanished as the Mountaineers answered with a 75-yard drive that ended with Grier’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Simms to push the lead to 31-13.
West Virginia wasn’t through in the third quarter as Grier threw a perfect 51-yard bomb to Jennings. Grier followed with a 6-yard touchdown pass to White to extend the Mountaineers’ lead to 38-13 with 2:47 left in the third quarter.
The Bears couldn’t run the ball in the first half as they finished with minus five yards on 15 attempts. Smith had good success passing by hitting 11 of 19 for 169 yards, but the Bears had trouble finishing drives as they settled for a pair of Martin field goals.
On their first possession, the Bears drove to West Virginia’s 33, but they stalled when Smith missed a pass to Pooh Stricklin on fourth and four.
With Grier hitting a 32-yard pass to Jennings, the Mountaineers moved 57 yards on their first drive before Baylor stopped them at the 10. Mike Molina nailed a 27-yard field goal to give the Mountaineers a 3-0 lead.
The Bears threatened again on their next drive as they moved 41 yards to West Virginia’s 34. But on third down, Kyzir White forced a hurried Smith pass followed by another incompletion on fourth down.
West Virginia drove 66 yards for its first touchdown with Sills making a leaping 35-yard touchdown catch over Baylor cornerback Harrison Hand to open up a 10-0 lead with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.
Driving 69 yards on their next possession, the Bears moved all the way to West Virginia’s 6.
Smith kick started the drive with a 26-yard pass to Mims, and the Bears benefitted from a pair of penalties, including a roughing the passer call against Al-Rasheed Benton and a pass interference call against Mike Daniels.
But once again, Baylor had difficulty finishing before Martin drilled a 23-yard field goal wioth 10:36 left in the second quarter.
The Bears put together another productive drive on their next possession by moving 60 yards on seven plays. Smith hit running back Trestan Ebner over the middle for 24 yards before finding Mims for 45 to West Virginia’s 25.
But once again, the Bears stalled as Smith missed three straight passes from the 25. Martin stepped in and kicked a 42-yard field goal to make him 13 of 15 for the years as the Bears cut West Virginia’s lead to 10-6 with 4:08 left in the first half.