ARLINGTON — Texas Tech had the college football audience at “hello” on Saturday night. It takes more than a good first impression to have your way with Baylor, though.
Tech built a quick two-touchdown lead and then, like other Baylor opponents this season, lacked the staying power to match the Bears’ high-powered offense. No. 4 Baylor beat the Red Raiders 63-34 at AT&T Stadium, extending its winning streak to 13 and taking over first place in the Big 12 Conference.
“I thought we had good energy early, but just faded as we got going,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Too many mistakes in all phases. We’re just not good on any side of the ball right now, and that’s all on me.”
Baylor (9-0, 6-0 in the Big 12) took command in the Big 12 after No. 23 Texas (7-3, 6-1) fell out of first place with a loss earlier in the day to No. 12 Oklahoma State.
Baylor was missing three key offensive players — receiver Tevin Reese and running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin — who were hurt the game before against Oklahoma. Still, the team that came in averaging 61 points and 686 yards got right around those averages again — 63 points and 675 yards.
The Bears had to overcome their biggest deficit of the season, falling behind 14-0 and then 20-7 in the first quarter.
“When you withstand that surge against a good team, come back and finish the way we finished as a team, to me that’s impressive,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “That shows you have a tough football team, a tough-minded football team that’s mature and believes what’s happening inside the locker room.”
Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield, starting for the first time since Oct. 5, threw four touchdown passes for the Red Raiders (7-4, 4-4). But Tech lost the turnovers column — 3-1 — for the seventh time in eight conference games.
“We put the ball on the ground too much, and we didn’t play our best game today,” Tech receiver Eric Ward said. “That’s very apparent.”
Baylor receiver-return man Levi Norwood scored three touchdowns, sandwiching 40- and 58-yard scoring receptions around a 58-yard punt return. That made up for Reese’s absence. And redshirt freshman running backs Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin led a ground game that pounded out 340 yards, a season high against Tech. Linwood rushed for 182 yards against Oklahoma after Seastrunk (groin) and Martin (knee) left with injuries.
He had his fourth 100-yard game Saturday, carrying 29 times for 187 yards. Chafin added 11 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns, the second a 47-yarder that increased the Bears’ lead to 49-27. The Bears also had two 100-yard receivers.
Baylor had 86 rushing yards at halftime, but wore down the Red Raiders in the second half. They scored four touchdowns — all on the ground — in the final two quarters.
“It goes back to what’s been happening these past few weeks,” said Tech linebacker Will Smith, who was in on 16 tackles. “We did a great job early. The second half, fitting our gaps, we’ve got to get off blocks and secure tackles. That’s the main thing: We’re not finishing our tackles. We’re not running our feet.”
The Red Raiders started like gangbusters with touchdowns on their first three series, making Kingsbury’s decision to go with Mayfield instead of Davis Webb look sound.
“Baker had a good week of practice, and I felt like he fought hard in the previous game,” Kingsbury said. “He just has to protect the football better, but he’s a fighter and he kept us in it early, and he’s just got to learn from his mistakes.”
Running back Kenny Williams threw his second TD pass of the season, a 6-yarder to Jace Amaro, and then Mayfield threw two: 20 yards to a wide-open Amaro down the middle and 6 yards to Ward, who made a spectacular, tumbling catch while running a fade route.
As soon as the Red Raiders had the upset alert in place, though, the Bears responded to the challenge. Down 20-7, Baylor unleashed a 42-7 burst, good for a 49-27 lead.
The Bears scored four touchdowns in less than 13 minutes to go in front 35-27 before halftime.
Norwood, a junior wideout, was the one who steadied the Bears when they were wobbled early. Bryce Petty threw his first TD pass to Norwood at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter, and then Norwood’s punt-return TD brought the Bears back to 20-14 at the 1:39 mark of the first period.
As it turned out, Tech’s attention-getting early lead didn’t even last a quarter. Bears receiver Antwan Goodley ran by freshman cornerback Justis Nelson and caught a 31-yard touchdown pass with four seconds left in the period, putting Baylor ahead 21-20.
Petty kept getting better, throwing for three touchdowns and running for two. Mayfield started to have lapses, fumbling three times, losing one, and throwing an interception.
Baylor’s recovery came at the Tech 43-yard line in the second quarter. The Bears then used five consecutive run plays, capped by Chafin going in from the 3. The extra point made it 28-20 at the 8:18 mark of the second quarter.
Tech battled back. A Terrance Bullitt fumble recovery deep in Baylor territory set up a 3-yard scoring pass from Mayfield to Jakeem Grant, but the Red Raiders couldn’t get into halftime down 28-27.
Moments later, Norwood caught a seemingly harmless pass on the perimeter and was face to face with Tech safety Keenon Ward. But Norwood faked out Ward and outran the pursuit 58 yards to the end zone.
The Bears scored touchdowns on four of six possessions in the second half.
“I thought the effort was good early and just faded,” Kingsbury said. “We’ve got to play a complete game. We haven’t done that all year.”
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