Final act for century-old rivalry as Baylor hosts No. 3 Texas in Longhorns' Big 12 farewell tour
Thu, Sep 21, 2023
NCAAF News (AP)
Playing at Baylor is the first of many lasts for the No. 3 Texas Longhorns this season.
It's the first Big 12 game in Texas' final season in the league. And it is the last game in a rivalry that has been played 112 times since 1901 and every year since 1944.
The Saturday night game in Waco promises to bring the first of several hostile crowds hoping to send the Longhorns to the Southeastern Conference with an emphatic loss.
There is a lot of history between two schools 100 miles apart in Central Texas. Texas (3-0) and Baylor (1-2) have been in the same conference together since 1915 at the start of the old Southwest Conference. Texas long had the upper hand, but the first time Baylor won a Big 12 title, the Bears clinched it with a win over Texas on a freezing day in Waco in 2013.
"I can't tell you how many times this offseason it's been, 'Hey Dave, just win one game please,'" Baylor coach Dave Aranda said.
"That's been brought up to me multiple, multiple times. I sense it and I know it," he added. "We're definitely going to talk about the history and just some of the bigger games of the past, because I think that's way important with something like this."
Texas expects nothing less. Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian told his team months ago to "embrace the hate" on their Big 12 farewell tour. Baylor won't the only longtime rivalry ending this season.
"We have to walk in there and play our brand of football in a lot of these historical games that are going to come to a close this season. Now more than ever are their horns down. Now more than ever are they going to say, 'Let's take one more shot at them on their way out,'" Sarkisian said. "We can't sit there and be a punching bag. We have to go in and be in attack mode."
Texas tight end Gunnar Helm gets it.
"Big 12 play," Helm said. "It's a whole new ball game."
The Bears will start Sawyer Robertson for injured starter Blake Shapen for the third consecutive game. Robertson is a transfer from Mississippi State who has passed for 444 yards, but has three interceptions against one touchdown pass and is completing just 45% of his throws. It will be the second straight week Texas has faced an opponent's backup quarterback.
Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers followed his big game against Alabama with a ragged one against Wyoming. His 131 passing yards were the second-lowest of his career as he missed several open receivers. Still, he extended is streak of pass attempts without an interception to 205, which ranks second in school history.
"Every aspect of the passing game needs to improve," Sarkisian said. "We weren't sharp."
FOURTH QUARTER LONGHORNS
Texas has been dominant in the fourth quarter the last two weeks, scoring 21 points each against Alabama and Wyoming to break open close games. Add in a 21-point third quarter in the season-opener against Rice and the Longhorns have been a team with the confidence and talent to dial up late touchdowns.
Baylor needs a breakout game from running back Richard Reese to help control the tempo against Texas. He was last season's Big 12 offensive freshman of the year after rushing for more than 900 yards in 2022. But he didn't score in the first games and was mostly quiet until scoring twice last week against LIU.
Texas running back Jonathon Brooks, 6-foot and 207 pounds, is turning into a late-game battering ram. He pounded out 164 yards on 21 carries against Wyoming, and a 61-yard run in the fourth quarter.
"I'm not fast," Brooks said. "I mean I'm not slow, but I just try to make the first person miss."
Texas defensive back Jerrin Thompson has made a couple of game-changing plays already this season. His fourth-quarter interception return against Alabama set up the game-breaking touchdown. His pick-six against Wyoming in the final minutes sealed that game as well. Texas has five in interceptions by four players this season.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll"