Behind an excellent day from Gerry Bohanon and superb defensive line performance, Baylor (5-1, 2-1) destroyed West Virginia (2-4, 0-3) 45-20. The Bears led 45-13 halfway through the fourth quarter before the Mountaineers added a late touchdown to make the score closer than the game.
Bohanon hit Tyquan Thornton on a slant for a 75 yard touchdown on the game’s second play. Bohanon finished with 18-of-29 for 336 yards and had four passing touchdowns and added one on the ground. He made nice reads and threw the ball well on nearly every play. That’s exactly the performance Baylor’s missed from a quarterback in recent seasons. Thornton had 187 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
While the offense struggled a week ago in Stillwater, it didn’t today. The offensive line provided far more protection. The Bears were more willing to pass, as Jeff Grimes expanded the playbook. And Abram Smith had nine rushes for 75 yards, including a 31 yard touchdown.
The defense came to play too. Terrel Bernard returned from injury and blew up the backfield. Jalen Pitre nabbed an interception early. Most impressively, the defensive line overwhelmed West Virginia’s offensive line. The Bears had five sacks. West Virginia’s offense isn’t built to play much on long downs, and it couldn’t do much today. The Mountaineers had just 2.4 yards per rush entering the fourth quarter, when the game was well out of hand.
Drew Estrada built off his strong performance last week. He secured a well-thrown 58 yard pass from Bohanon to set up a Baylor touchdown in route to 90 receiving yards on the day.
The Bears also expanded their passing game to hit tight ends. Ben Sims caught two touchdown passes.
Dave Aranda also started out aggressively. On the second offensive drive, the teams were tied 7-7. From his own 34 yard line, Aranda went for it on 4th and 1. The Bears converted and ended the drive with a touchdown. Some decried Aranda’s fourth down decisions last week—and the situation was a bit different—but he stayed true to his belief that the math supports being aggressive on fourth down, and it worked. Even up 42-13, he went for it on 4th and 1 in a possible punting situation, which led to an Isaiah Hankins 45 yard field goal.
Blake Shapen came in at QB with four minutes left to gain some experience. He completed two passes for 18 yards.
The Big 12 makes anything possible. Maybe Texas has suddenly turned into something since switching quarterbacks. But it seems a far safer bet to assume that Oklahoma was drastically overrated; the Sooners beat the Mountaineers 16-13 and barely knocked off Nebraska. Baylor’s already defeated Iowa State. Baylor certainly can play in the Big 12 title game.
The Big 12—at least the current configuration—can wait two weeks for the Bears. BYU comes to town at 2:30 next Saturday. That might be the toughest test this season, but the Bears showed today that they’re better than they were last Saturday and could be good enough to take down the Cougars.