The call came on a 4th-and-one from the Baylor 33 and Texas nursing a closer-than-expected 10-7 lead. But upman Rashad Bobino took the direct snap from center and plowed for seven drive-saving yards. It set up RB Chris Ogbonnaya's three-yard TD run, his first of the season. More important, it finally gave Texas some separation from the upstart home team.
"Rashad runs that well because he's built stocky and moves the pile," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "That was a key momentum change."
Indeed, the Big Mo was clearly on the Baylor sideline when QB Colt McCoy opened the third quarter by hooking-up with MLB Joe Pawelek for the Longhorns third turnover the ballgame. Baylor drove to the Longhorn 36 before true freshman DE Sam Acho stopped the drive with a critical stop on a third-down shovel pass. The result was a 25-yard punt to the Texas nine, followed by the 91-yard drive that kept the Bears at arms' length.
"We probably grew up more as a football team today than we did last week because we had to overcome adversity," Brown said.
It pales with the adversity that Baylor nearly overcame. It was a week when an assistant coach resigned following 'reckless exposure' charges in Waco nightclub and starting Baylor QB Blake Szymanski was relegated to a partisan bystander after suffering a concussion at Kansas. Enter senior backup Michael Machen. Until Saturday, Machen's only attempt resulted in an INT. He certainly didn't play his way out of a job with 25-of-44 passing for 231 yards and one TD.
"Every time I've ever coached a against a second-team quarterback," Brown said, "he's played great. I can't figure out why that it is. It was the same at Kansas three years ago. It's 100 percent with me that it's not good when (a QB) comes off the bench because he's relaxed and plays well."
Machen tossed three INTs and FS Marcus Griffin's 91-yard pick-six to cap the scoring sent the Baylor faithful to the parking lot. Co-defensive coordinator Duane Akina frequently relied on three DEs on third down situations to try to generate some semblance of a pass rush. The Horns notched just one sack, but Machen was forced to create while on the run.
"We had good pressure and the quarterback was under duress," Akina said. "He had to move his feet, get outside and had to re-route. We forced some bad throws."
The biggest issue remains Texas' spotty running game which could not move the ball with any consistency against the Big 12's worst run defense. Baylor surprised Longhorn offense coaches by showing more of a nickel package and coming with some corner blitzes, but the running game woes obviously have been long term prior to kickoff in Waco.
Midway through the season, it's legitimate to ask if RS-freshman Vondrell McGee is the RB best suited for Texas stretch running game. The youngster relishes running up the middle but is a quick-hit into any hole. The Horns have little choice but to remain with a zone running scheme now that its two two FBs are in the MASH unit. NT Derek Lokey took snaps at FB on 3rd-and-short situations after Antwan Cobb (knee) was lost for the season at Iowa State. Charles' speed is mitigated by his hunting-and-pecking along the LOS. Charles finished with 49 yards on 17 carries (2.9 ypc) but managed just two yards on six second-half carries. McGee averaged 6.3 ypc (57 yards on nine attempts). Otherwise, Texas' most effective running plays Saturday was QB Colt McCoy's scrambles , gaining 61 yards (netting 47) on 10 attempts.
Charles would ideally fit about two dozen carrier per contest, coaches said earlier in the season. The junior has averaged 12 carriers the past two weeks. It begs the question: are we looking at running back-by-committee or is Charles still The Man.
"We had 177 yards rushing and we're excited about it," was Brown's response after facing the nation's No. 112 rush defense.
Baylor runs the so-called Texas Tech spread offense but the unsettling thought is that Red Raider WRs won't have the drops that continue to plague Baylor catchers. This was still a one-possession game in the fourth quarter. So, did Texas take a step-forward or a step-back following its drubbing of Iowa State?
"I'm not sure we would have won this game the first week of the season," Brown said. "Our football team continue to improve. I liked the attitude of our coaches today because it wasn't easy. The demeanor with the coaches and players was really good because because we never, ever thought we had a chance to lose the game."
Texas turned the ball over on downs on its opening drive following a fake FG attempt. Jordan Shipley overthrew TE Jermichael Finley streaking down the left sideline and the Bears began operations at their own 27. Backup QB Michael Machen's first pass attempt resulted in a 43-yard completion to X-receiver David Gettis against Erick Jackson. It was Machen's longest completion of the day and Jackson basically rode the bench even though the Texas secondary nickeled-and-dimed Baylor all afternoon. When asked if Jackson was injured, Akina replied: "We've been working a lot different guys back there all week."
Baylor's opening drive ended when Caleb Allen's 50-yard FG attempt drifted wide right.
Freshman QB John Chiles checked-in on Texas' third series and moved the chains on 3rd-and-seven with his seven-yard scramble. He did it again on 3rd-and-five stepping off seven with the zone read option. RS-freshman RB Vondrell McGee darted up the middle for 19, setting up 1st-and-10 from the BU 32. The drive stalled with Chiles' incompletion following a sack on second down. Dependable Ryan Bailey put Texas on the scoreboard with a 46-yard FG into a stiff southerly breeze. It was a 3-0 ballgame at the end of the opening frame. The Horns were just 4-of-10 passing at this point but then got the wind at their backs.
It didn't matter much. Following Finely 19-yard play-action grab across the middle, SS Brandon Stiggers came down with the juggling INT against Finley. The Bears set up shop at their own 39.
Three snaps late, MLB Jared Norton returned the favor with his tipped-drill INT in heavy traffic at the Longhorn 36. At this juncture, Texas had moved the ball between the 30s but had not hit pay dirt. McCoy's toss to WR Billy Pittman, following RB Jamaal Charles' five-yard run, moved the ball to midfield. Texas dialed-up McGee's number to move the chains on a couple of third-down conversions, operating with a fresh set of downs at the BU 27. McCoy scrambled for eight before Charles 13-yard run off the halfback reverse set up 1st-and-goal form the six.
Those who detest Texas' sideways running game presumably reached for the Maalox in field-shortened, goal line situations. A pair of weaving, churning, yet ultimately bouncing-outside Charles carries netted close to five yards. A wide-open TE Peter Ullman could not come down with McCoy's tall pass in the back of the end zone, setting up fourth-and-goal from the one. Then disaster struck.
The Bears got instant penetration on the option toss left. Stiggers came up with his second turnover of the quarter, forcing an errant toss intended for McGee and returning his forced-fumble 60 yards before McCoy could drag him down by the face mask.
"We felt like, from studying film, that that the option play was going to be there," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "If I had to do it over again, I'd run the power-play.
The sudden-change put the Bears in prime real estate at the Texas 17. They scored in one play when Machen found Thomas White on inside screen, scoring from the 17. It was just the second TD pass for the Bears in Big 12 play this season.
The Horns would answer quickly. Call this the "McCoy and Jones drive" that covered 66 yards on five plays. The sophomore QB got things started with his 13-yard scramble. He then found Nate Jones on a first-down pitch-and-catch. McCoy pump-faked and then churned 16 yards on a designed QB draw. Jones juggling grab in the back of the end zone (despite pass interference from WLB Nick Moore, put the Horns back on top with 5:13 remaining in the first half).
Baylor started their final drive of the first half at their own nine. An anemic pass rush, plus plenty of cushion from Texas DBs, allowed Machen to get into a groove, completing three straight third-down plays. Now the crowd was into it and you could see Baylor oozing with bravado engineered most impressive drive of the first half. It reached the Texas 20, but the Bears rank dead last in the the Big 12 in Red Zone scoring.
Lamaar Houston's 8-yard sack (with three DEs on field) killed the Baylor uprising. The Bears went for it on 4th-and-20 from the 30 but SS Ishie Oduegwu had a goal line PBU as Texas took a three-point lead in the locker room.
The defense forced a three-and-out and Texas opened the second half at midfield following a 33-yard punt. The Horns could do nothing with either the prime real estate or the wind. McCoy was lassoed for an 11-yard loss on second-down and then threw directly to MLB Joe Pawelek who returned it 17 yards to the Texas 42. The Baylor drive was aided by a personal foul against Sergio Kindle. But true freshman DE Sam Acho wasn't fooled on a third-down shovel pass, forcing a 25-yard Baylor punt to the Texas nine.
A block in the back penalty, a delay of game, and a McGee fumble (recovered by LG Charlie Tanner) marked the series for Texas until...Rashad Bobino rushed for seven yards on a successful fake punt on 4th-and-one from the Baylor 33. A 12-yard McCoy scramble, a 14-yard curl to Jones, and a 15-yard toss over the middle to Billy Pittman put Texas in the Red Zone. Then, on a key 3rd-and-four from the 14, Jones' catch over the middle went for 11. RB Chris Ogbonnaya's first TD of the year came with 3:01 remaining in the third quarter and gave Texas the 10-point cushion that most expected with, well, 3:01 remaining in the first quarter. The result, though, was a 91-yard, 15-play drive that milked 7:08 off the game clock
The defense forced a three-and-out and Texas had one more possession with the wind. Things started well with McCoy's 31-yard completion to Jordan Shipley on a drag route. But McCoy was sacked on third-and-15 on the final play of the quarter, A horrendous bounce on Justin Moore's punt resulted in a five-yard net; the Bears took over on their 39. The Bears responded with a 43-yard march, resulting in a 35-yard FG to draw within a TD with 12:21 remaining.
The Bears forced a three-and-out and, with 10:08 remaining, Baylor fans had a rare opportunity to stick around for the fourth quarter. But CB Deon Beasley stepped in front on Machen's 3rd-and-two toss at the Texas 43.
After McGee moved the chains with his four-yard run on third-and-one from the Baylor 34, McCoy followed with his best throw the afternoon. It was a 30-yard toss to Charles who tightroped the left sideline on the wheel route. The RB was well-covered but McCoy put the ball right on the money.
"It was just a tremendous play-and-catch to separate us some more," Brown noted.
The catch set up McGee's four-yard scoring run to make it a two-possession game and the big gust of wind from the south was probably a collective sigh of relief from Austin.
"The most important thing is we never gave up," McCoy said. "We kept competing and fighting."
Texas improves to 6-2 and is bowl-eligible for the 10th consecutive season. The Horns return home for the first time in a month to face crumbling Nebraska, 2:30 p.m. (CDT). next Saturday.
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