Texas took another step towards equaling that '90 team's regular season win total of 10 by punishing a Baylor team intent on stopping the run (which it did an adequate job of) by trying to slow the UT receivers in man coverage (which it did not). Chris Simms completed TD passes of 36 yards to Roy Williams and 31 yards to Sloan Thomas, plus gainers of 46 and 34 yards to Williams, in the first half in opening up a pedestrian but insurmountable (for this opponent) 28-10 halftime lead.
The Horns totaled 216 yards in the air in the first half before sticking largely with the ground game in the second half.
"It was exciting for us," Simms said of the rare opportunity to attack man coverage. "Anybody that covers our receivers one-on-one is to our advantage. I believe that and our receivers believe that." Baylor is surely a believer now as well.
"We felt like we had to take vertical shots to take advantage of the man coverage," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "That's the most man we have seen all year."
Things could have been far worse for the man-playing Bears. Despite the list of big pass plays above, Simms just missed on at least a couple others, including an overthrow of Williams running free behind the BU secondary on the Horns' first offensive play that would have gone for a 57-yard touchdown. "One more big play would've been nice," Simms said post-game.
The QB, though, laid in two perfect strikes on his two big-play TD tosses, putting the ball over the defender and into Roy's and Sloan's hands on each of 'em. The receivers also did their part, not only hauling 'em in, but also getting a foot down at the back line of the end zone.
True freshman running back Cedric Benson topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the fourth consecutive game, totaling 108 yards on 26 carries, but he didn't bust loose against a Baylor defense that came in giving up 194 yards on the ground. With the Bears stacking the line to stuff Benson, Texas managed just 130 rushing yards but garnered 276 through the air for a total offensive output of 406 yards, its lowest total since the OU game.
The defense, though, turned in a typical post-OU performance, limiting Baylor to 10 points on the scoreboard and 195 total yards. In the second half, the Bears managed just 27 yards of offense. Carl Reese's bunch also kept the Horns from falling behind early. Baylor had two first quarter possessions that started inside Texas territory, one at the 43 after a 42-yard punt return by Bobby Hart and another at the 37 after a Derrick Cash interception of a ball that bounced off of intended receiver Thomas. On the possession after the punt return, the D allowed the Bears just one yard on three plays, forcing a BU punt, and after the INT, Reese's guys gave up 11 yards on five plays, forcing a Baylor field goal attempt that Tyrone Jones skied and blocked. "Our defense stopping their offense after the interception was really, really big," Mack Brown said.
For the second consecutive week, Quentin Jammer also came up big, limiting BU's leading pass catcher Reggie Newhouse to one grab for 18 yards after turning in a similar shut-down performance against Mizzou's Justin Gage. And the one Newhouse catch came with the Horns in zone coverage.
Texas played a variety of defenses to slow the Bears' aerial assault, including 3-3, 4-2 and 3-4 looks. Nickel back Dakarai Pearson led the team in tackles with nine.
Reese said he thought his D played "soft" on Baylor's end-of-the-half field goal drive that cut the UT lead to 28-10, leading the defensive coaches to make a halftime adjustment to play more man coverage and attempt to put pressure on the Baylor QB, whichever of the three happened to be on the field at the time.
Facing a pass-oriented, spread Baylor offense (and perhaps playing in front of his home town fans) seemed to reinvigorate the play of true freshman 'backer Derrick Johnson. "Derrick plays well in space when teams spread out," Reese said. "He runs like a deer." Johnson had six tackles, including two TFLs, plus three QB hurries. One of those hurries led to a second quarter Nathan Vasher interception that set up the Horns' final TD a couple of minutes before the half.
Along with his zigzagging INT return, Vasher thrilled on just about all of his seven punt returns. He didn't take one the distance, but he did total 173 return yards on his seven attempts, including a 60-yarder that gave the Longhorn O a short field for its second TD (a Simms' sneak).
Victor Ike also set up the O with a short field early in the third quarter by taking the opening kickoff of the second half back 60 yards to the Baylor 37. Texas took six plays to cover those 37 yards to take a 35-10 lead.
Aside from Vasher's and Ike's returns and Jones' block, the UT special teams had another spotty performance with poor kickoffs, several long returns allowed and a badly missed field goal.
But, again, it all added up to a win.
"If you look at teams in the top 10 this time of the year that are decisive favorites, there's more talk about the BCS than, in our case, about Baylor," the Texas head coach said. "I'm really proud of the way the kids handled themselves."
In workman-like fashion.
Game notes: Tillman Holloway left the game early in the second quarter with a neck and shoulder injury and did not return. The extent of his injury is unknown. Junior Beau Baker replaced Holloway at left guard. "That's why you've gotta have depth," Davis said. "With Antwan (Kirk-Hughes) and Tillman out, we're really thin at guard but it's good that Beau Baker came in and played well for as long as he did." Kirk-Hughes, the Horns' regular starter at right guard, made the trip to Waco but did not suit out. Swing guard Derrick Dockery got his second straight start at the spot.