A valiant effort by the Texas defense notwithstanding, the Baylor Bears knocked off Texas on the gridiron for the fourth time in the past five meetings after grinding out a 28-7 victory on Saturday afternoon in Austin.
Texas got the defensive effort it needed against one of the nation's most explosive offenses, crafting a defensive game plan designed to take away Baylor's big play passing game and challenging Art Briles to win the game on the ground. Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford's strategy was largely successful, limiting Baylor QB Bryce Petty to just 111 yards on 5 yards per attempt, but to his credit Briles didn't self-sack his football team, patiently running the ball 60 times for 279 yards (4.7 per attempt).
The Longhorns' defensive effort might have been enough to steal an upset with better support from the rest of the team, but Texas was doomed by yet another poor special teams performance and a lousy afternoon from QB Tyrone Swoopes. Texas would have pitched a shutout in the first half but for a special teams miscue: When the Longhorns' second drive of the game left them facing 4th down from the Baylor 35, Strong opted to try a 52-yard field goal but Nick Rose's attempt was blocked and subsequently returned by the Bears for a touchdown to put Texas in an early 7-0 deficit.
Special teams were also to blame for Baylor's second touchdown of the game. After the Longhorns defense appeared to force a 3-and-out, Baylor's punter took advantage of Texas playing for a return, keeping it for a 20 yard gain to give the Bears a fresh set of downs. A rejuvenated Baylor offense went 10-yard rush, 10-yard rush, 30-yard TD pass to go up 14-0, and given Texas' struggles on offense, it was more or less game over.
Those offensive struggles largely owed to a miserable afternoon for sophomore Tyrone Swoopes. Texas got a much better effort from the offensive line this afternoon, which combined with more downfield passing allowed the Longhorns running game to find some success for the first time this year, but that opening up of the playbook downfield also exposed Swoopes, who would finish just 15 of 33 for 142 yards, with no scores and 2 picks. Swoopes also lost a critical fumble on the goal line at the end of the first half, nullifying a terrific Texas drive that would have sent the Horns into half with momentum. It was at least the third time this year that Texas' first-year QB and first-year center Jake Raulerson have had trouble on the exchange at the line.
All in all, we showed some real progress in several areas and the outcome was much better than the slaughter many of us feared, but it's hard not to feel a bit disappointed with this loss -- mostly because it feels like this was a game Texas could have won without special teams blunders and average competency at quarterback. The struggles of a young quarterback growing into a bigger playbook are easier to accept, but the special teams mistakes sting, and just like after UCLA, at the end of the day it's still an L in the standings.
At least for now, Baylor still owns Texas. Ouch.
More analysis to come. This is your post-game commiseration thread.