The No. 3 Texas Longhorns went up the road to Waco and took care of business in the house that Art Briles built. After having a bit of an up-and-down performance last week against Wyoming at home, the Longhorns took the show on the road and had a bit of a get-right game at the expense of the Baylor Bears in a 38-6 win on Saturday.
You knew going in that Baylor was going to want this one bad in an attempt to save their season, but none of that ultimately mattered as Texas pushed them even further into their death spiral. The Bears have a lot of issues to sort out this year, but Texas played the role of Johnny Lawrence and showed no mercy on Saturday night.
Let’s get into these observations and see where things went right and wrong for Texas against Baylor.
The defense set the tone early and often
From the very first series of the game, the Texas defense let quarterback Sawyer Robertson and the Baylor offense that it was going to be a long night. The Texas defensive front dominated the line of scrimmage all night long and absolutely terrorized the Bears in the backfield. Guys like Byron Murphy, T’Vondre Sweat, and Vernon Broughton were constantly disrupting the Baylor offense and absolutely snuffed out the Bears run game. The Bears tallied 60 yards rushing on the night on 31 carries. That is good for a paltry 1.9 yards per carry and their leading rusher ended up being their third-string quarterback RJ Martinez, who came into the game late trying to clean up in garbage time.
Things were not much easier through the air either for the Bears. Robertson was under fire from the first drop back and he was ultimately sacked five times on the night while being peppered with hits throughout the contest. The Texas defense ended the night with five sacks and eight TFLs and also forced a turnover when Jaylan Ford picked off Robertson in the end zone during a red-zone threat. Ford is an absolute turnover machine and he is continuing to play at an extremely high level as the anchor in the middle of the Texas defense.
Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense has held up their end of the bargain and then some through the first four weeks of the season. They’ve got themselves another big test next week with Jalon Daniels and the Jayhawk offense rolling into town.
Special teams faltered
This was the biggest thorn of the night for Texas and it isn’t really close. This was an uncharacteristically bad day at the office for this phase of the game. Both Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington muffed punts that were recovered by Baylor and set them up with short fields. On top of that, Bert Auburn, who has been pretty reliable, doinked a short field goal off the uprights in the second half. The only thing I can say in Auburn’s defense was that there was some pressure coming off the left side of the formation that may have spooked him into pushing it a bit, but ultimately the snap and hold were fine and that is one that has to get put through. Fortunately for Texas none of these missteps ended up hurting them in the long run — the defense bowed their necks after both muffs and the Bears didn’t do anything after the missed field goal.
With that said though, you can take it to the bank that Jeff Banks is going to have smoke coming out of his ears like a Looney Toons character when he cuts that film on tomorrow in his special teams meeting. Those plays may have not hurt you against Baylor, but they will end up hurting you down the road against better teams, so it is imperative that Texas gets those things cleaned up immediately.
Much better night from Quinn Ewers
The vibes for Ewers last week against Wyoming were not great. This week against Baylor? They were immaculate. Ewers enjoyed a nice bounce back performance against the Bears, as he had an efficient 18-of-23 passing night for 293 yards and one touchdown. Ewers also ran for a touchdown from 29 yards out after he beat a blitz with his feet by fleeing the pocket.
Ewers had a couple of risky passes that flirted with being picked, but ultimately he played turnover-free football once again and confidently piloted the Texas offense up and down the field throughout the night. My favorite thing I saw from Ewers on Saturday was his ability to put not let one bad play turn into another one. There were times throughout the game where he would get hit or got sacked and he would put it in the rearview and make a play to get things back on track.
Textbook example of this is the drive that followed the Ford interception. Ewers gets sacked to make it 3rd and 15. Everyone was probably thinking Texas was about to have to punt it away. What does Ewers do? He drops a beautiful deep ball into the hands of Johntay Cook streaking down the middle of the field for a 51 yard gain.
THATS, JOHNTAY. Talk to him nicely. pic.twitter.com/4Zo9x0f1At— Justin Wells (@justinwells2424) September 24, 2023
That’s the good stuff.
If Texas is going to make it Dallas for the Big 12 championship game that is the guy Ewers is going to have to be week in and out.
Jonathon Brooks is your RB1
There was a tight battle at the running back position during camp. Even to the point that there was an OR on the depth chart for Week One against Rice with CJ Baxter ending up getting the first snap against the Owls. With that said, there is no question that Jonathon Brooks is RB1 at this point in time for the Texas offense. Since that final drive against Alabama, Brooks has tightened his grip as the lead back and each game since then he has spearheaded the Texas ground game. Baxter getting nicked up swung the door open for Brooks and he went sprinting through it. I think Baxter will obviously still have a role in the offense, but Brooks has been very effective when he gets consistent touches and he has shown to have a nose for the end zone.
Also, can we talk about this catch on this screen pass?
Brooks was a hell of an eval by Stan Drayton. Texas is well on its way to being spoiled at running back again.
Texas throttled its opponent and removed doubt early
Let me say this. The final score in this game was 38-6, but it FELT like the margin of victory was even wider. Texas was in control of this game from the opening whistle to when there were triple zeroes on the clock. They took the fight to Baylor from the very first snap and let them know it was going to be a long night and even when the game was in hand they continued to battle hard to keep the Bears from getting into the end zone.
It was really encouraging to watch Texas choke out an opponent and flex their muscles a bit. It allowed them to heavily rotate guys in on both sides of the ball and get a lot of young pups valuable reps against an actual opponent during confidence play. Games like this are what make this year’s team feel different from the ones in recent memory. In previous years, games like this were still a chore and often Texas was forced to keep their starters in longer than they would like. That is not the case this year.
There is still a lot of football left to be played, but there definitely is a different vibe for how this team is going about its business and I mean that in a good way. Let’s see if they can carry that mentality into the next matchup against Kansas.
BONUS: Ja’Tavion Sanders is a STUD
This was one of the plays of the night for me. Palms this pass with one hand and never breaks stride. He’s a freak and he’s going to be playing on Sundays this time next year. Enjoy him while you still can.
Texas is 4-0. The 24-hour rule is back in effect. Then it’s on the Kansas. You can bet the Jayhawks would love nothing more than to upset the Longhorns in Austin after the way things went in Lawrence last year.