Texas is 3-0 for the first time since 2012, a season the Longhorns opened with four straight victories, and boasting the program’s highest ranking in the AP Poll since 2009. Under fourth-year head coach Dave Aranda, Baylor is 1-2 after losing to Texas State and Utah before recovering with a win over LIU. Saturday’s game will break a 2-2 tie between Aranda and Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian when they face each other as assistants or head coaches.
Last season in Austin, Texas pulled out a 38-27 victory thanks to two fourth-quarter touchdowns fueled by the running ability of Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson.
According to DraftKings, Texas is a 17-point favorite over Baylor with a 90.2-percent win probability by ESPN Analytics.
After Texas won the toss and deferred to the second half, a touchback gave Baylor the ball at the 25-yard line. The Longhorns came out swarming, stymying a screen pass and then sacking Bears quarterback Sawyer Robertson twice, one by senior Sam linebacker Jett Bush screaming off the edge and one by junior defensive tackle Byron Murphy winning up the middle.
The Baylor defense came out strong, too, blowing up a screen pass to Texas junior wide receiver Xavier Worthy on first down for a five-yard loss. A run by junior running back Jonathon Brooks picked up the lost yardage before senior wide receiver Jordan Whtittington led the way as a blocker for a screen pass to junior tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders for a first down. On 3rd and 3, the Bears got enough penetration to stop Brooks for a loss and force a punt by the Longhorns that trickled into the end zone despite another strong effort by the coverage unit.
A first down gained by Baylor couldn’t produce a sustained drive when the Texas defense had a tackle for loss on a run, another sack of Robertson, and forced an incomplete pass on third down. So four of the first nine plays by the Bears ended with a tackle for loss, including three sacks.
Sarkisian started the second Texas drive with play-action pass, a 15-yard gain to Worthy on a comeback route, before Brooks broke a tackle and took the right edge for a 40-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead for the Longhorns.
JONATHON BROOKS 40 YARD TOUCHDOWN— Nash (@NashTalksTexas) September 24, 2023
TEXAS 7-0 pic.twitter.com/A6ovcG8cwx
Junior tight end Gunnar Helm and junior wide receiver AD Mitchell both made key blocks to set the edge for Brooks.
Texas initially looked like it was going to once again stop the Baylor offense quickly with a tackle for loss on a first-down run, but Robertson was able to beat senior cornerback Ryan Watts and sophomore safety Michael Taaffe for a 39-yard completion before Taaffe was called for a pass interference in the end zone despite having position on the play. A scramble by Robertson picked up another first down in the red zone, but the Longhorns defense stopped the Bears on the goal line to force a 23-yard field goal.
After senior running back Keilan Robinson muffed the kickoff return and recovered it at the 12-yard line, a run by Texas freshman running back CJ Baxter, a 16-yard completion to Mitchell, and a short run by Brooks ended the first quarter.
The drive for the Longhorns stalled when a pass by Ewers on 3rd and 3 was batted down, forcing a punt by graduate transfer Ryan Sanborn that went for only 38 yards. Baylor hit a 23-yard gain by wide receiver Monaray Baldwin on first down, but Texas once again stuffed a wide zone run for a three-yard loss on the next play, then forced an incompletion by Robertson. Facing 3rd and 13, Baylor was called for a false start and threw another incomplete pass.
A 47-yard punt by the Bears helped flip field position, although Worthy was able to return it 10 yards behind several strong blocks that avoided penalties thanks to strong execution. Texas tried to hit a shot play on first down, but a Baylor defender blitzing off the edge secured the sack. But Ewers got the Longhorns back on schedule by finding Mitchell for a first down and Sarksian continued the momentum with short passes to Whittington for 14 yards and Sanders for 11 yards. On 3rd and 10, Ewers scrambled for a 29-yard touchdown down the sideline to take a 14-3 lead.
Quinn Ewers! A 29-yard scamper gets the Longhorns back on the board!— TFB Texas (@TFB_Texas) September 24, 2023
14-3 Texas. pic.twitter.com/D7cOBysaUh
The Texas defense helped maintain momentum with its second three and out before the punt return unit continued to flash its danger when Worthy fielded a bouncing punt and took it 40 yards up the sideline before the Baylor coverage unit was able to make a crucial tackle.
Worthy continued to change the game by hitting Sanders for 35 yards on a well-thrown double pass. Baxter finished the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run as the Longhorns created separation with a 21-3 deficit.
The 36-yard connection between Xavier Worthy and JT Sanders that set Texas up for the TD! pic.twitter.com/jbRQWIAPMh— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) September 24, 2023
Converting a 3rd and 10 wasn’t enough for Baylor to sustain a crucial drive against a high-performing Texas defense that eventually stuffed the Bears on 4th and 2 near midfield. Playing complementary football still, the Longhorns used a play-action pass over the middle to junior tight end Gunnar Helm, an 18-yard screen pass to Brooks, and a pass-interference call to set up a goal-line run by Brooks to take a 28-3 lead.
When Worthy muffed a punt recovered by the Bears, the Longhorn defense had to face a sudden-change situation to which it responded well with a three and out as Baylor settled for a 36-yard field goal.
Unable to mount a last-minute drive to extend the lead at the end of the half, Texas punted and entered intermission with a 28-6 advantage.
With the ball to start the second half, Ewers hit Sanders on a seam route for 49 yards on the second play, but after getting behind the chains, the Longhorns were unable to extend the drive in the red zone, settling for a 37-yard field goal from Bert Auburn.
Baylor was able to hit a 55-yard pass to Baldwin down the middle to set up first and goal. It wasn’t enough to find the end zone or the uprights when Texas senior linebacker Jaylan Ford intercepted Robertson in the end zone on a fantastic zone drop that ended the scoring threat on fourth down.
The ensuing 95-yard touchdown drive by the Horns was keyed by a 12-yard catch by Baxter and a 51-yard gain up the middle by freshman wide receiver Johntay Cook. After a 12-yard run by Brooks, Ewers found Worthy, once again over the middle, for a 21-yard touchdown.
Baylor wasn’t able to mount a drive longer than six plays before Whittington muffed a punt replacing Worthy that the Bears also recovered. For the second time, the Longhorns defense came up with a stop after a turnover, sacking Robertson to end the third quarter.
Needing a big play to close the margin, Baylor came up short once again when Texas sophomore Jack end Justice Finkley sacked Robertson on fourth down.
A grinding drive by the Longhorns heavily featured the run with the game in hand, but an illegal snap on 4th and goal led to a missed field goal by Auburn that hit the right crossbar from 26 yards.
In extended garbage time, Texas redshirt freshman quarterback Maalik Murphy saw some action handing the ball off and Baylor was unable to mount any effective offense with its third-string quarterback, producing a 38-6 final in Waco.