Liberty and UTSA were supposed to be the easy part of Baylor’s schedule before the avalanche of tough games.
But the Bears’ two unexpected losses only proved that winning any game this season could be a monumental task.
With UTSA controlling the clock from start to finish, the Bears dropped a 17-10 decision before Saturday night’s McLane Stadium crowd that began small and grew much smaller by the fourth quarter.
UTSA fans had taken over the stadium by the fourth quarter, cheering on the Roadrunners’ upset.
The game showed that Liberty’s 48-45 season opening win last weekend was no fluke. With Baylor coach Matt Rhule putting an injury riddled team on the field and liberally playing true freshmen, the Bears are in full rebuilding mode.
“I didn’t come here expecting this to be an easy job,” Rhule said. “I thought this would be a process. I came here because I knew it would be hard, and the kids needed a coach who would fight for them.
“Obviously, we’re tremendously disappointed,” Rhule said. “We played with a lot more energy on defense but we just weren’t able to make the plays we needed offensively. We’ve got a lot of work to do to be a good football team.”
Though UTSA’s opening game at the Alamodome was canceled at the University of Houston’s request due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey, the Roadrunners looked like the much more polished team against the Bears.
Dalton Sturm hit 15 of 20 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns while Jalen Rhodes rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries. The Roadrunners controlled the clock for 38 minutes and 52 seconds and converted seven of 16 third downs.
“We knew they were a physical team and we had some defensive penalties,” Rhule said. “We got better in the second half and our guys got stronger. But our offense wasn’t good since we converted just two of 11 third downs.”
After passing for 278 yards and three touchdowns against Liberty, Baylor quarterback Anu Solomon hit just 10 of 26 passes for 121 yards with a touchdown and one interception against the Roadrunners.
“I challenged Anu and I thought our guys rallied around him,” Rhule said. “I think they were fighting for him. But we need to catch the ball better and protect.”
With experienced running backs JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams out with injuries, freshman John Lovett rushed for 72 yards on 18 carries.
But the Baylor offense was inefficient for the most part as it held the ball for just 21 minutes and eight seconds and finished with 274 yards total offense.
There was a moment at the end of the halftime performance, when Baylor’s alumni band, accomp…
On the opening drive of the second half, the Roadrunners needed just three plays to move 78 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
After Sturm hit Kerry Thomas for 9 yards, the quarterback scrambled for 40 yards. On the next play, Sturm found Thomas in the flat and he slipped away from a Baylor defender for a 29-yard touchdown to give the Roadrunners a 14-7 lead with 13:35 left in the third quarter.
After stopping Baylor’s first drive of the third quarter, the Roadrunners began moving on Baylor’s defense again as Sturm scrambled for 16 yards and Rhodes popped off gains of 13 and 15 yards. The drive stalled at the 36 and UTSA chose to punt instead of attempting a 53-yard field goal.
Facing fourth-and-two at UTSA’s 19, the Bears decided to go for the first down but Josiah Tauaefa and La’Kel Bass sacked Solomon for a 5-yard loss to give UTSA the ball.
The Roadrunners drove 55 yards before Baylor cornerback Blake Lynch broke up Sturm’s third-and-three pass from the 21. However, Victor Falcon nailed a 38-yard field goal to push UTSA’s lead to 17-7 with 14:12 left in the game.
The Bears moved into UTSA territory as Lovett ran for 17 yards before Solomon hit Platt for 28 yards to UTSA’s 38.
But the drive stalled when Baylor offensive lineman Blake Blackmar was called for a personal foul and Solomon was sacked on third down by Eric Banks.
After gaining possession at UTSA’s 44 following a punt, the Bears moved to UTSA’s 3 when Solomon hit Platt for 6 yards on third down. Connor Martin’s 20-yard field goal cut UTSA’s lead to 17-10 with 2:40 left in the game.
The Roadrunners started their next drive at the 10 and couldn’t get a first down, and the Bears regained possession at their own 39 with 2:08 left in the game following a punt.
With losses to Liberty and UTSA, Baylor is off to its first 0-2 start since 2003.
With no time outs remaining, Solomon missed four straight passes. On fourth down, UTSA safety Brenndan Johnson blitzed and forced a bad pass to give the Roadrunners possession for the final time with 1:28 remaining. They ran out the clock to seal the win.
The Roadrunners controlled the time of possession in the first half, racking up 20 minutes and 53 seconds of the clock compared to Baylor’s 9:07. UTSA ran 38 plays to Baylor’s 20.
Solomon hit one first-half pass in five attempts but he made it count as he threw perfectly to Mims for a 20-yard touchdown with 8:33 left in the second quarter.
Baylor’s special teams set up the touchdown when Ross Matiscik recovered Matt Guidry’s fumbled punt at the 20.
But after Baylor’s touchdown, UTSA ate up most of the rest of the second quarter as it reeled off a 16-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Sturm’s pass to Josh Stewart for a 7-yard touchdown with 27 seconds left in the half.
The Roadrunners converted five third downs on the drive. The longest play was Rhodes’ 17-yard run through a huge hole in the middle of Baylor’s defense to the 8.
Before Matiscik’s fumble recovery, Baylor had moved into UTSA territory just once in the first half.
In the first quarter, Tony Nicholson ran for 31 yards on a wide receiver reverse to UTSA’s 31. But the Bears were called for holding and Marcus Davenport sacked Solomon for a 6-yard loss before he missed a third-down pass. The Bears were forced to punt.
UTSA had a chance to score earlier in the first quarter when Nate Gaines intercepted Solomon’s pass and returned it to Baylor’s 47. The Roadrunners drove to the 30 but Greg Roberts blocked Victor Falcon’s 47-yard field goal attempt.