Despite a stagnant offense in the second half and a rash of penalties, Baylor (4-0, 2-0) pulled out a tough 31-29 win against No. 14 Iowa State University (2-2, 0-1) in a dramatic finish at McLane Stadium. This was their first win against a ranked team since 2015. The game came down to a Baylor interception to stop a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game in the final seconds.
“We’re not shocked,” senior running back Trestan Ebner said. “We expected to come into this game and win. We respect them. They’re disciplined and tough, and we knew it was going to be a hard game. But, we’re not shocked. We’ve been ready for this moment. I’m just proud that we came out and executed.”
It was a tale of two halves for the Bears, as they played like a well-oiled machine on both sides of the ball in the first half. However, in the second half, Baylor couldn’t move the ball on offense and struggled to get stops on defense without committing penalties.
On the opening drive of the game, ISU started strong with a 10-play 75-yard scoring drive. Baylor could do little to stop ISU’s offense with big plays, including a 30-yard run by junior running back Breece Hall, helping the Cyclones jump out to a 7-0 lead.
Baylor would catch a break late in the drive as senior wide receiver Tyquan Thornton recovered a fumble from senior wide receiver R.J. Sneed and carried it another seven yards for a Baylor first down at the 8-yard line. On the following play, junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon would keep the ball himself and run for a touchdown, tying the game at 7-7.
On the very first play of the quarter Bohanon connected with Thornton for a 22-yard Baylor touchdown, giving the Bears a 14-7 lead.
ISU responded with multiple big plays, accompanied by Baylor penalties on their next drive. A 40-yard field goal from ISU senior kicker Andrew Mevis trimmed the Bears’ lead to 14-10.
On Baylor’s next possession, their rushing attack drove them down the field to set up another passing touchdown for the Bears, a 33-yard pass to junior tight end Ben Sims making it 21-10.
Late in the half, more penalties from Baylor’s defense placed ISU in field goal range, allowing them to cut the Bears’ lead to 21-13 heading into halftime. Head coach Dave Aranda said he was tired of seeing mistakes causing flags from the officials.
“There’s countless times where inside I’m just going crazy, man,” Aranda said. “It’s just the penalties and just all of it. We make quite a bit of a stir about it. We have registered practices where we show highlights or lowlights of Saturday games and Sunday games of how this penalty affected the outcome of this game. Just being cut from a cloth to where little things are important things, and there’s no such thing as an unimportant little thing.”
First Half Summary:
In the first half, the Bears played with a well-balanced offense with 14 rushing attempts and 13 passing attempts. They scored three touchdowns in their first three drives and led 21-13 at the half. Baylor had 212 yards of total offense, including 146 passing yards on 11 of 13 attempts. The defense looked good, making plays when needed.
Baylor opened the second half marching the ball down the field. However, Bohanon would go on to fumble in ISU territory for the Bears’ first and only turnover of the game. The Cyclones then chipped away at Baylor’s secondary, leading to a 39-yard field goal from Mevis which put the score at 21-16.
Baylor struck back with a 98-yard kick return touchdown by Ebner, increasing their lead to 28-16. Ebner said he takes it personal when teams give him the chance to return a kick.
“With the blockers I have and the stats I’ve put up, I do take it personally,” Ebner said. “But I wouldn’t be able to do it without the guys that block for me every kickoff return and punt return.”
Late in the third quarter, in a 5-play 85-yard drive, ISU once again made it a one-possession game at 28-23 after a 2-yard touchdown run from Hall who finished the game with 190 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Baylor put an end to a promising ISU drive with a red zone interception from sophomore outside linebacker Garmon Randolph after sophomore defensive tackle Siaki Ika tipped the pass. Later in the quarter, a 41-yard punt return by Ebner led to great field position for the Bears. However, the Bears were unable to capitalize and settled for a field goal, giving Baylor a 31-23 lead.
ISU drove down the field late and scored a touchdown as senior quarterback Brock Purdy connected with Hall on a 16-yard pass with 24 seconds left making it a two point game at 31-29. The two-point conversion attempt resulted in an interception by senior safety JT Woods. ISU’s onside kick was unsuccessful, icing the win for the Bears.
Second Half Summary:
Baylor’s offense was almost completely shut down in the second half. The team abandoned the pass with only six attempts in the half. The Bears only generated 70 yards on offense and were saved by the play on special teams and Ebner on returns. Baylor’s only touchdown of the second half came from Ebner’s 98-yard return.
“We talked about special teams being a big factor in this game,” Aranda said. “I just like our athletes in space versus their athletes in space. Special teams presented an opportunity for us to highlight that. In the return game, we want to show our ability to be electric.”
The only other score for the Bears was a field goal, set up by a 41-yard punt return from Ebner, who also secured the onside kick to seal the win. The defense still played well, but penalties were costing them on each drive. Aranda described the second half as feeling like “multiple games” given how much the momentum continued to shift.
Baylor finished the game with 118 rushing yards, breaking ISU’s four-game streak of holding opponents to under 100 rushing yards. Bohanon threw for 164 yards on 14-19 attempts. The Bears averaged 40.3 yards per kickoff return and 23.5 yards per punt return. Mistakes were a problem for Baylor however, committing nine penalties resulting in 100 penalty yards.
“I look at the stats,” Aranda said. “I see the total yards, and then I see the penalties [9 for 100 yards] … to be on the wrong side of both of those things, and then still come out with the win really speaks to just how tight this team is, how much they fight for each other, how much they believe in one another, and just the culture of the team.”
Junior linebacker Dillon Doyle said the team was not focused on anything except playing their game and going out to compete.
“I was really proud of how we came together and did that today,” Doyle said. “Complementary football, offense, defense, special teams even getting a touchdown. We’re really proud of those guys and just proud of our efforts and proud of our cohesiveness as a team today.”
Next up, the Bears will play Oklahoma State University (4-0, 1-0) at 6 p.m. on Saturday in Stillwater, Okla.
— BAYLOR LARIAT