In this age of scoreboard busting offenses, Baylor and Iowa State took football back to the 1960s with their time consuming drives and conservative play calling.
But whether it’s old school or millennial-era football, the team with the fewest turnovers usually wins. That’s an area where the Cyclones have cornered the market.
With a chance to win its first home game of the season, Baylor’s two fourth quarter turnovers killed any shot of a breakthrough as Iowa State held on for a 23-13 win Saturday afternoon before a sparse crowd at McLane Stadium.
The Bears (1-10, 1-7) went winless at home for the first time since 1969, losing all six games at McLane Stadium. Freshman John Lovett’s fumble at Iowa State’s 3 and freshman Charlie Brewer’s interception at the 7 were costly against an Iowa State team that didn’t commit a turnover against the Bears and hasn’t lost a fumble all season.
“Yeah, it killed us,” Brewer said. “It just took away points from us when you turn the ball over. I just think it’s being careless with the football. We need to find a way to eliminate that and score touchdowns.”
Baylor hoped to win on Senior Day, but a bad tone was set when four-year starting linebacker Taylor Young went down with a season-ending quadriceps injury in the first quarter. It was tough for his teammates to see their defensive leader on the sidelines on crutches for the rest of the game.
“Oh man, it was tough,” said Baylor linebacker Lenoy Jones, who replaced Young at middle linebacker. “T.Y. busts his butt every week, every day. He’s our biggest leader. He’s a brother to me, we spend time together. He taught me how the game’s supposed to be played.”
With Zeb Noland making his first start for Iowa State in place of injured Kyle Kempt, both the Cyclones and Bears started freshmen quarterbacks. Their statistics were similar as Noland hit 14 of 28 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns and Brewer hit 26 of 36 for 198 yards and a touchdown pass to former Baylor basketball player turned tight end Ish Wainright.
But the Cyclones (7-4, 5-3) were more careful with the ball and the Bears couldn’t stop David Montgomery who carried 27 times for 144 yards.
“He’s a great running back,” said Baylor cornerback Grayland Arnold. “If you don’t hit him and wrap him up, he’s going to bounce off you. He’s very strong and has good moves. We saw him on film and knew what we had to do. But there comes a time when you can’t talk about what you’ve got to do.”
After Baylor kicker Connor Martin hit a career-long 47-yard field goal at the start of the second half, Iowa State answered with Garrett Owens’ 22-yard field goal with 6:25 left in the third quarter to take a 20-13 lead.
Baylor hoped to score the game-tying touchdown after it put together a 16-play, 72-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock.
But on first and goal from the 2, cornerback Brian Peavy stripped the ball from Lovett to give Iowa State possession at the 3.
“At the end of the day, it came down to the turnover battle,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “We told our team it would. We had our chances to win, but we had two fourth quarter red zone turnovers and were unable to take the ball away from them. We certainly had chances.”
Iowa State took a 23-13 lead when Owens nailed his third field goal, a 45-yarder into the wind with 7:01 remaining.
The Bears drove to the Cyclones’ 25 before Reggie Wilkerson intercepted Brewer’s pass over the middle at the 7 and returned it 31 yards with 4:48 remaining. Iowa State’s offense picked up three first downs to run out the clock.
It was Brewer’s fourth turnover in the last two weeks after throwing an interception and fumbling twice in Baylor’s 38-24 loss to Texas Tech last weekend at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“We went four verticals (receivers), and the linebacker got underneath it,” Rhule said. “They’re playing eight drop, so the guy from the front side came back. You’d like him just to either not make the throw or check the ball down like he’d been doing so religiously to JaMycal (Hasty). Check the ball down, kick the field goal, we’re down seven, go play defense, try to get the ball back, go get a chance to win the game.”
The Bears made some noise early when Hasty appeared to score as he broke loose down the right sideline for 67 yards. But after reviewing the play, Hasty was ruled out of bounds at Iowa State’s 22.
That didn’t stop Baylor from scoring as Brewer rolled right on fourth and one and hit Wainright for a 13-yard touchdown. It was Wainright’s second catch and second touchdown reception of the season.
“Whenever our numbers are called we’re prepared and we’ve studied it,” Wainright said. “That’s a play we’ve been having all year. We did it perfectly, so there’s nothing more to ask.”
Iowa State answered when Allen Lazard made a leaping catch of Noland’s pass for a 36-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:09 left in the first quarter.
The Bears put together a 19-play, 74-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock. Baylor picked up six first downs before the drive bogged down at Iowa State’s 9 where Martin drilled a 27-yard field goal to give the Bears a 10-7 lead with 13:50 left in the second quarter.
Nobody has been more important to Baylor’s defense in the last four seasons than senior linebacker Taylor Young.
Iowa State came back with a time consuming drive that went 64 yards on 16 plays and erased 5:45 off the clock. Owens ended it with a 34-yard field goal that pulled the Cyclones into a 10-10 tie with 8:05 left in the second quarter.
But the most spectacular play of the day belonged to Hakeem Butler who made a one-handed catch of Noland’s pass and broke away from Baylor safety Davion Hall for a 67-yard touchdown to give the Cyclones a 17-10 lead with 2:19 left in the first half.
“If you’re not in position, you have to take the pass interference,” Arnold said. “He made a great catch. He’s a strong runner. He’s a big 6-6 guy. You just got to get him down.”
The Bears have one game remaining against No. 11 TCU at 11 a.m. Friday in Fort Worth. The Bears just wished they could have pulled out a win on Senior Day.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t say my heart goes out to our seniors,” Rhule said. “Several of them were emotional just now in the locker room, just how much that locker room and the stadium and this university and this football program have meant to them in their lives. I told them how much they’ve meant to this program and how much they’ve meant to me personally.”