It was an uneven performance for the Bears, with the big plays in the passing game continually missing between Seth Russell and his receivers. With a low-scoring 1st half, the defense needed to step up and make plays, and they did. In the second half, the Bears would get going and put up 27 points from the offense. In the 40-13 victory, what were 5-key plays to remember?
1. Orion Stewart Interception at Goal line
The first of two interceptions at the goal line, and the first of Orion Stewart's interceptions to show up in this list. With the Bears trailing 6-3 with around 8-minutes to go in the 2nd quarter, Seth Russell telegraphed a 3rd and 4 pass to Denzel Mims and was intercepted by Jordan Wyatt of SMU. Wyatt brought the ball back to the Bears 12 yard line, setting up a golden opportunity for the Mustangs to extend their lead. After a completed pass out of bounds on 1st down, and a pass badly thrown behind the receiver, the Mustangs had 3rd and 10. SMU lined up with 2 receivers on the short side of the field. The outside receiver ran a dig route, taking two steps and running across the formation. The inside receiver ran an out-route, but took an easy turn on the route. This allowed Orion Stewart to cut the route off and meet the ball at the high point a few yards in the end-zone. The Bears would dodge a bullet and get the ball back at their 20-yard line. It was a tremendous read and understanding of the route concept, great execution to cut under the route, and great athleticism to go get that ball.
2. Patrick Levels Forced Fumble of Ke'Mon Freeman
The Bears second turnover occurred at the goal line as redshirt freshman Blake Lynch lost the ball trying to get into the end-zone. It was a crushing play for the Bears, that went from being the spark that the Bears desperately needed, to a huge boost for the Mustangs. It went from being a 10-6 Baylor lead, to a touchback for the Mustangs. Baylor needed something positive to happen with just over 2-minutes to go in the half. They would get it from starting nickel back Patrick Levels. On the first play, Ke'Mon Freeman took the ball on a simple A-gap dive. He ran between the center and the left guard. In the hole, he met two Baylor defensive linemen, and made a great spin move to break free. Or so he thought. He would be met by Levels at the 23-yard line. The senior wrapped his left arm around Freeman's back and his right arm grabbed the ball and ripped it from Freeman.. Baylor would have the back and would get a game tying field goal a few plays later.
3. Davion Hall Interception at Goal line
With the Bears holding on to a 13-6 lead, Seth Russell had badly under thrown KD Cannon for his 2nd interception of the game. SMU would return the ball to the 18-yard line, giving the Mustangs the ball in the red-zone and a chance to tie it up. With two Ke'Mon Freeman rushes sandwiching an off-sides on the Bears, the Mustangs found themselves at first and goal at the 4 yard line. Ira Lewis and Greg Roberts teamed up for a 1-yard tackle for loss on first down, setting up 2nd and goal from the 5. The Mustangs lined up in a tight formation, with a tight end and wide receiver on the wide side of the field, and two receivers on the short side. SMU would put the lone receiver into motion bringing them into a trips formation. The motion receiver would continue and flare out to the pylon. The front receiver would run a deep crossing route. The slot receiver read a zone, and squatted his curl route right at the goal line.
The Bears actually made a mistake on this play, simply forgetting the deep cross pattern at the back end of the end zone ran by star Courtland Sutton. Orion Stewart sunk down into his zone, reading the shorter route. However, Davion Hall came over from the far side of the field, and set himself in the path of the throw. Quite honestly, this might have been more of a bad throw by Hicks, as he tried to thread the ball to Courtland Sutton, who had no one withing 8-10 yards of him. Hall though jumped up and got the ball, returning it 68 yards to the SMU 38 yard line. This would setup play #4 on this list.
4. Seth Russell Touchdown Run
This was not Seth Russell's day. That is probably obvious by the first three plays on this list being defensive. He missed some easy throws throughout the game, especially to Chris Platt deep over the middle. In fact, he had an easy touchdown pass that he simply missed earlier on this drive. With the Bears facing 2nd and 5 from the SMU 19 yard line, Seth had his best play of the game. The Bears lined up in a 4-wide receiver set, with two on each side of the field. Terence Williams was next to Russell. With the Bears going to tempo after a Williams run, the Bears ran a quick pass play that Russell appeared to want to go to Denzel Mims quickly. However, he brought the ball back don, and with the pocket collapsing around him, he took off to his right.
A SMU defender had him dead to rights at the 23, but Russell changed his angle and caused a missed tackle. He now had a run/pass option with KD Cannon a few yards away from him. However, Russell chose to tuck it and run. Cannon's mad pealed off of him and ran to Russell, taking an awful angle and not even touching Russell who reached the 9-yard line before 2 SMU players seemingly had him cornered. Russell though would jab step to the outside and then cut inside causing the two Mustangs to run into each other. After that, it was a few more easy steps into the endzone, giving the Bears their first two touchdown lead of the game.
5. Orion Stewart Pick-6
Lets come back to Stewart again, the Bears senior safety. Just a few plays after Russell's touchdown run, the Bears defense would get on the scoreboard. After a 10-yard reception by James Proche on 2nd and 8, the Mustangs tried to go with a quicker tempo on the Bears with first down. The Bears were a little slow to lineup, as Verkedric Vaughns was not in the right position at the snap of the ball. That left Stewart and Jameson Houston alone on two receivers. The outside receiver ran a staggered go route, cutting out to the sidelines. This gave plenty of room for the slot receiver to run a quick out route to the side lines.
Stewart set up the play perfectly. At the snap, he was almost 8 yards away from James Proche, the slot receiver. After SMU quarterback Ben Hicks finished the run play look, Stewart was still 6-yards away, but just starting to break towards the play. He ran a full on dead sprint right in front of Proche who was already looking back for the ball. It wasn't a bad throw, but that is an NFL caliber throw. You have to have good arm strength to get the ball out there quickly enough to avoid the interception. Hicks's, a redshirt freshman, compounded the lack of zip on the ball by telegraphing the play. Stewart, a fellow Waco Midway High School alum, had the perfect read and taught the young quarterback a valuable lesson.
6. KD Cannon Touchdown Catch
With SMU getting their first touchdown of the game to cut it to a 26-13 lead, the Bears needed another spark to start the 4th quarter. Seth Russell and Terence Williams would get the drive started on the ground with a combined 27 yards to get the Bears down to the SMU 32. On 2nd and 1, the Bears would line up in a heavy set, with 3 receivers and two tight ends. The Bears would use the zone/read play action with Russell and Williams to keep the safeties honest. Blake Lynch was lined up in the slot and ran a deep slant, drawing the deep safety to him. That left KD Cannon in man coverage against a SMU corner back on a go-route. This is the match up the Bears wanted all game. Even with off-coverage and the defender turning and running at the snap, Cannon would get by his man getting good separation. The ball was perfectly delivered as the corner tried to undercut the route and jump up to get the ball. However, it was too good of a throw, falling right into Cannon's arms 3 yards into the endzone. This would make it 33-13 and giving the Bears their 20 point lead back.