ARLINGTON, Texas – Texas Tech had fifth-ranked Baylor on its heels early in their Big 12 showdown Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
Baylor, which had allowed 20 first-quarter points total in its first eight games, was riddled by the Red Raiders for 20 in the first 12 minutes of the Texas Farm Bureau Shootout. But because the Bears are the Bears, they still led by one point (21-20) at the end of the first quarter despite not getting their offense going.
That wasn’t a problem the rest of the game. The national title contenders dominated the final three quarters of play and pulled away for a 63-34 victory in front of 69,188 at the neutral-site game.
The lopsided victory sends Baylor (9-0, 6-0) to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1) next Saturday for what figures to be the Big 12 championship and a BCS berth. Baylor’s win, which moved the Bears to 9-0 for the first time in school history, should move Baylor to No. 4 in the BCS rankings because of Stanford’s loss to USC.
The Bears were tested on defense by the Red Raiders, but once again showed they have few equals offensively on a night they were playing without their leading rusher (Lache Seastrunk) and their No. 2 receiver (Tevin Reese).
It didn’t really matter though as several other players stepped up offensively for Baylor. Levi Norwood had three touchdowns in the first half and set career highs in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (156). Running back Shock Linwood ran for a career high 187 yards in his first career start. Fourth-string running back Devin Chafin added two touchdowns, including a 47-yard scamper. And of course quarterback Bryce Petty was his ever-efficient self, accounting for five total scores as the Bears.
It was just another 675-yard night for the Bears, who averaged 7.7 yards a snap and put the game away with a 42-7 scoring stretch after Tech had taken a 20-7 lead with 3:25 remaining in the first quarter.
The early adversity was new for Baylor, which hasn’t faced an early big hole in its magical season.
The resiliency of the Bears impressed head coach Art Briles but it didn’t surprise him.
“It looks impressive if you’re ahead of a team 56-14 at half,” Briles said. “That looks impressive. But when you’re down 14-0 and you’re down 20-7 and then you withstand that surge against a good team and come back and finish the way we finished as a team, to me that’s impressive. That shows you have a tough football team, a tough minded football team that’s mature and that believes in what’s happening inside the locker room.”
As good as the offense was it was a special teams play that provided the spark as Norwood returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown with 1:39 remaining in the first quarter to make it 20-14.
That opened up an offensive dam and a depleted Tech defense didn’t have enough fingers to plug all the holes. No one else has this season either.
“Teams play us differently than they do any other team in the Big 12,” said Petty, who was 17 of 31 for 335 yards and three passing scores. “We just have to make those adjustments. It just kind of took us a second to get going. We know it’s coming. We just have to settle down. A lot of it was a spark on that punt return.”
The Bears didn’t look back following Norwood’s punt return that featured three missed tackles. The Bears scored three more touchdowns in the first half on possessions that totaled 2 minutes, 23 seconds. Tech didn’t help itself as two of the three Baylor touchdowns followed turnovers. The first miscue led to a Petty 31-yard pass to Antwan Goodley.
A Tech fumble at its own 44 was followed by a five-play drive that took just 1:01 off the clock and was capped by a 3-yard run by Chafin.
“We knew they were going to score,” said Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose team has dropped four-straight games since cracking the top 10. “They’ve scored on everybody. It’s a great offense. It really is. Their offensive line does a tremendous job. The quarterback is really good and receivers everywhere. We knew they’d score. We just had to limit it and limit our mistakes and we didn’t do that. We turned it over too many times.”
Tech did all it could early, going for it on fourth down twice on its first possession and capping it with a halfback pass from Kenny Williams to Jace Amaro for a 6-yard score.
But that early momentum didn’t last as the Tech turned the ball over three times and committed eight penalties. Those mistakes make it tough to win against average teams. But as Baylor once again showed Saturday, it’s far from average.
“Tonight showed a lot,” Petty said. “I think there’s a lot of talent involved. We’ve got a lot of guys that will work hard. This is a special team and I knew it from the get go. We like these games. These are the kind of games you dream about. These are the kind of games you want to fight with your brother and win together.”