NO PANIC BUTTON #4 Bears Erase Early Deficit in 63-34 Win over TechNov. 17, 2013
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
ARLINGTON, Texas - Baylor's blueprint for success during a school-record 8-0 start was blowing out teams by halftime and never letting them get off the mat.
But this time, it was the Bears that hit the mat first, taking Texas Tech's best shot and falling behind, 20-7, in the first 12 minutes of Saturday's game at AT&T Stadium.
"You're not going to come out here every week, week-in and week-out, and shut a team out," senior safety Ahmad Dixon said. "It was just all the guys on the sideline letting each other know, we've been here before, we've been in worse situations than this. We've been down 21-3 going into halftime."
Showing the kind of fight and resiliency that it takes to win a championship, the fourth-ranked Bears threw a few haymakers of their own, taking the lead for good on a pair of touchdowns in a 95-second span at the end of the first quarter and then coasting to a 63-34 romp over the Red Raiders before a crowd of 69,188.
"I think tonight showed us a lot," said quarterback Bryce Petty, who passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more in getting the Big 12-leading Bears to 9-0 overall and 6-0 in conference. "We're a resilient team. . . . It's more than just talent. You've got to have those guys that will push through a little adversity. This is a special team, and I knew it from the get-go."
At least early, Tech (7-4, 4-4) didn't look anything like the team that suffered three straight losses in falling from the top 10 to unranked.
In fact, the Red Raiders looked like they were following Baylor's script, scoring on a pair of Jace Amaro TD catches on their first two series to go up, 14-0.
After a pair of fourth-down conversions, the 6-foot-5 tight end was wide open in the back of the end zone on a six-yard halfback pass from Kenny Williams and was all by himself again on a 20-yard TD strike from freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Upset sirens were going off across the nation. Twitter was exploding. Was this the crack in the armor that everyone was waiting to see?
No, as it turned out, it was just one of those little blips on the radar. Sorry, folks, nothing to see here.
Clay Fuller's nifty 43-yard kickoff return set up a three-play 57-yard drive that got the Bears on the board when Levi Norwood caught a quick slant from Petty and turned it into a 40-yard touchdown by making free safety Tre' Porter look silly.
With inside receiver Tevin Reese out with a dislocated wrist, Norwood stepped up in a big way with career highs for catches (seven), yards (156) and touchdowns (two).
"For the receivers, really we all wanted to step up and be able to do something special for Tevin," Norwood said. "Being a play of his size, he's had to work really hard to get where he's at. He's done that and even more than that. It was really all of us just wanting to do something special for him, have a big game for him."
Seemingly unshaken, Tech answered with an eight-play, 75-yard drive and went back up two touchdowns when Eric Ward hauled in a phenomenal one-handed catch from Mayfield on a third-and-goal from the 5. But a missed extra point by Ryan Bustin might have slowed down that initial surge by the Red Raiders.
Baylor's offense went three-and-out on three straight incompletions by Petty. But when the defense held after a 61-yard punt by Spencer Roth backed up the Red Raiders, Norwood fielded a punt at his own 42, split two defenders and then raced down the left sideline for a 58-yard touchdown return that made it a 20-14 game.
"Getting a punt return - any special teams for a touchdown - is like getting a pick-six or a fumble pickup for a touchdown," Briles said, "because it's a quick turnaround, a quick change. It made a huge difference. All of a sudden, it's a 20-14 ballgame. . . . That's the second time Levi has done that this year. He's dynamic with the ball in his hand, and he's really good in open space."
The defense, knocked a little woozy by the early blows from Tech, answered with a cornerback blitz and K.J. Morton's career interception on the Red Raiders' ensuing series. Coming off the edge, Morton leaped high to potentially bat down the Mayfield pass, but instead it stuck in his gut for his first pick of the year.
"As I was coming, I saw the quarterback's eyes get big," said Morton, who added a team-high nine tackles to go with his first sack of the year, two other stops behind the line, four pass breakups and a forced fumble. "I thought he was going to take a sack. When I saw him cock back for a pass, I just jumped. I grabbed it and brought it down for a pick."
One play later, Petty hit Goodley in stride for a 31-yard TD pass over Justis Nelson. Aaron Jones' extra point - his NCAA-record 254th (breaking Louisville kicker Art Carmody's mark) - gave the Bears the lead for good, 21-20, with four seconds left in the opening quarter.
"Obviously, it's a great honor to put my name in the NCAA record books," said Jones, who has made 175 PATs in a row and extended the record to 260 by the end of the game. "But really it's a credit to the offense, especially this year, the defense and special teams. Levi has run a couple back; we got a kickoff return; 29 million pick-sixes at the start of the season. It's a team effort, and I'm just glad to be part of a team like this."
Jones missed a 49-yard field goal that would have extended the lead, but Dixon forced and recovered a Baker fumble that led to a three-yard TD run by Devin Chafin and a 28-20 lead by the Bears midway through the second quarter.
Petty returned the favor, fumbling the ball on a strip by linebacker Sam Eguavoen that was recovered by Terrance Bullitt at the 7. Three plays later, Mayfield made it a one-point game again when he hit Jakeem Grant for a three-yard TD.
That's when Norwood came to the rescue a third time, taking a short pass from Petty in the flat and splitting three Tech defenders en route to a 58-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 35-28 halftime lead.
"It was just frustrating, because we like to start fast," Petty said. "I really think teams play us different than they do any other team in the Big 12. We just have to make those adjustments. The players, coaches, everybody involved, did a great job of finding those adjustments. It took us a second to get going. For us, we know it's coming. We have to settle down."
And more of it was coming in the second half.
The Bears opened up the third quarter with a methodical eight-play, 71-yard scoring drive. Other than a couple passes, Baylor did most of the work the ground, capping the march with a six-yard Petty run that made it 42-27.
After a fourth-down stop by the defense, the Bears put the game seemingly out of reach with a 47-yard TD run by Chafin, extending the lead to 49-27.
Even with starting running backs Lache Seastrunk (pulled groin) and Glasco Martin (strained knee) both out, the Bears still came with a strong 1-2 punch out of the backfield. Shock Linwood one-upped his performance against Oklahoma with a career-high 187 yards on 29 carries, while Chafin had his first 100-yard day with exactly 100 yards and two TDs on 11 totes.
"I knew that the third one, Linwood, was as good as the other two from watching the previous games," Kingsbury said. "He's a special player and did a great job. . . . The offensive line is really good; and that, to me, is what jumps out. From some of their previous teams, they've always had great skills, but those guys are moving bodies up front."
Tech got it back to a two-score game with Mayfield's 19-yard TD strike to Reginald Davis, but the defense shut down the Red Raiders the rest of the way and held them far below their season averages with 320 yards passing and 454 yards total.
"If my memory serves me correct, there are two fourth-down conversions, there's a pass interference involved in there, there's a one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown," Briles said. "We were getting hit with some really, you know, not normal situations. The thing that's impressive to me is they came out with a lot of energy; we had a lot of energy. They just made some plays early. I thought our guys did a great job of just being tough. We are a tough football team, without question."
Baylor added TD runs by Petty and Linwood of 1 and 10 yards, respectively, and was in position to score again late in the game when Briles opted to take a knee with backup quarterback Seth Russell.
With the win, the Bears remain unbeaten and will face 12th-ranked Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1) at 7 p.m. next Saturday, Nov. 23, in Stillwater, Okla., with a possible conference championship on the line.
"It's just a blessing," Dixon said. "We fought our butts off to get to where we are. We've had a couple guys go down, but a couple guys have stepped up. It's fun to be a part of this team. I'm enjoying it. (I'm) just looking forward to getting out to Oklahoma State."
Here is a link to the boxscore from Saturday's Baylor-Texas Tech football game.