Shapen ushers No. 11 Baylor to 20-10 win over K-State

Peter Aiken/Getty Images
0 Comments

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Baylor had played poorly on the road all season, and was locked in another tight tussle with red-hot Kansas State, when quarterback Gerry Bohanon grabbed his right hamstring heading out of bounds in the first half Saturday night.

Nothing to worry about.

Just call on a redshirt freshman who’d thrown three career passes.

Blake Shapen completed 16 of 21 passes for 137 yards to steady the Bears on offense, and their defense smothered Kansas State, helping secure a 20-10 victory that kept their Big 12 title hopes alive.

“Every situation Blake’s been put in going back to the spring, fall, throughout our practices when he rotates through – he’s risen to every occasion,” Baylor coach Dave Aranda said. “There’s some gunslinger in him. I think you saw that.”

Shapen got some help from Trestan Ebner, who ran for 86 yards and a touchdown, and Tyquan Thornton, who had five catches for 75 yards, as the Bears (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) won their fourth straight over Kansas State.

“We knew this was going to be a really tough test coming into Manhattan, a big crowd, on the road, and obviously we’ve had some trouble in the past on the road,” Baylor wide receiver Drew Estrada said. “All week we knew it would be a battle.”

That said, the Bears got plenty of gifts. The Wildcats (7-4, 4-4) muffed a punt that led to the game’s first points, and Chris Tennant missed a 39-yard field goal that would have made it a one-possession game with 10 minutes to go.

Sixth-year senior Skylar Thompson was just 15 of 29 for 158 yards before leaving with an injury in the fourth quarter of his final home game. Deuce Vaughn had 128 yards rushing for the Wildcats, but most of it came on a 65-yard TD run.

“They had really good plans on both sides of the ball,” Wildcats coach Chris Klieman said. “They’re a physical team, they play really hard. We got behind early on the miscue; we just couldn’t get out of that hole.”

The game was billed as a matchup of run-oriented teams that don’t mind playing defense, and it took a special teams blunder – Phillip Brooks fumbling a punt – for anybody to reach the end zone. The miscue by Kansas State gave the Bears a short field, and Ebner scored a few plays later to stake them to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

It stayed that way until late in the second, when Baylor converted a pair of third downs and a fourth during a 74-yard march that took 15 plays and gobbled up nearly 7 1/2 minutes. Bohanon did most of the work with his arm, so it was fitting that he capped the drive with a short toss to Drake Dabney for a 14-0 lead.

The Wildcats answered quickly when Vaughn shook loose for a 65-yard touchdown run. It came after the Bears had forced fourth-and-5 and Kansas State was punting and an offsides call on Byron Hanspard Jr. provided a free first down.

Baylor managed to add a field goal before halftime, but it came at a cost: Bohanon was scrambling out of bounds when he clutched his right hamstring. He pounded the ground with his left fist and it was clear he was done for the game.

Despite throwing just three passes all season, Bohanon’s understudy was ready to go.

After the Wildcats kicked a field goal to get within 17-10 in the third quarter, Shapen led the Bears on an 82-yard drive that included a crucial third-down throw to Ebner for a first down. Isaiah Hankins capped it with another field goal to make it a two-possession game with 13 1/2 minutes left, and the Bears held on the rest of the way.

“I’m proud of our team. I’m proud of our players. This has been an obstacle,” Aranda said. “To come out and have a week of really strong decisions and choices, to do hard things, to do simple better, to have a mindset of getting ready for a fight and focusing on things you can control daily – I think all that went into tonight.”

BIG PICTURE

Baylor’s defense showed up after holding Oklahoma to season lows in just about every meaningful statistical category in a 27-14 victory last week. The Bears held the Wildcats to 4 of 13 on third downs and 263 yards of total offense.

Kansas State struggled early this season when Thompson was hurt. And while the veteran played poorly under heavy pressure against Baylor, the Wildcats have proved to be better with him on the field. Jaren Lewis replaced him with a few minutes left Saturday night and threw an interception on his first pass.

UP NEXT

The Wildcats visit Texas on Friday. Baylor welcomes Texas Tech to McLane Stadium on Saturday.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

florida gators
Donald Page/Getty Images
0 Comments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.