Mathis runs for 163, Legg’s FG lifts WVU over Baylor 43-40

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Tony Mathis rushed for a career-high 163 yards and two touchdowns and Casey Legg kicked a 22-yard field goal with 33 seconds left to lift West Virginia to a 43-40 victory over Baylor on Thursday night.

Mathis came up big in the absence of West Virginia’s leading rusher, CJ Donaldson, who was ruled out of the game after entering the concussion protocol during a loss at Texas on Oct. 1.

Mathis said he put no extra pressure on himself to perform in Donaldson’s absence.

“I just went through the same routine I do every week and just bought into it with what the coaches were telling me,” Mathis said.

Mathis scored on a 34-yard run with 7:05 left and set up the winning field goal with a 37-yard run to the Baylor 8. He surpassed his previous best of 118 yards against Kansas last year.

“He was decisive,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “And that’s where he hasn’t been this year.”

West Virginia (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) compiled 217 rushing yards.

Baylor had one last chance starting from its 23-yard line. But backup quarterback Kyron Drones threw two incompletions and was tackled near midfield on a scramble as time ran out.

Defending Big 12 champion Baylor (3-3, 2-2) lost its second straight game despite rolling up 590 yards of offense.

The Bears lost starting quarterback Blake Shapen in the third quarter when he slid at the end of a scramble and took a helmet-to-helmet hit from West Virginia’s Andrew Wilson-Lamp. Wilson-Lamp was flagged for targeting. The call was upheld upon review and Wilson-Lamp was ejected. Shapen left the field, went to a medical tent to be evaluated and did not return.

Baylor coach Dave Aranda said Shapen and injured running back Craig Williams will get examined on Friday “and we should have an idea after that.”

Shapen completed 14 of 22 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns.

Drones replaced Shapen and led Baylor on two touchdown drives. After Qualan Jones scored on a 2-yard run with 13:39 remaining, West Virginia’s Dante Stills blocked the extra-point kick, teammate Jacolby Spells picked up the loose ball and ran the length of the field to give the Mountaineers two points. Baylor still led at that point 37-33.

After Mathis’ long scoring run, Baylor squandered several TD chances.

West Virginia safety Aubrey Burks intercepted Drones at the West Virginia 19. Dillon Doyle got the ball back for the Bears with an interception of JT Daniels at the West Virginia 26 with 3:12 remaining. But Baylor had to settle for John Mayers’ 44-yard field goal with 1:40 left to tie the game at 40, setting up the Mountaineers’ winning drive.

Legg is a perfect 8 of 8 on field goal tries this season.

“Great job by West Virginia and coach Brown, their fight and execution really showed up tonight,” Aranda said.

BACK FROM THE BRINK

Brown has heard plenty of speculation about how his team is in a lull this season. But after starting 0-2, West Virginia has won three of its last four.

“I’m proud of our group,” he said. “We overcame adversity. I think `the demise’ is kind of getting ahead of itself.”

BIG PLAY RECEIVERS

Baylor’s Gavin Holmes set career highs with seven catches for 210 yards. West Virginia’s Kaden Prather had eight catches for the second straight game and set a career high with 109 yards. Both had a TD catch.

LONG SCORES

Baylor has scored 13 touchdowns on offense this season from at least 25 yards out, and they got two of those in the first half Thursday night.

THE TAKEAWAY

Baylor: The Bears now find themselves in the middle of the league standings with half of the season still remaining.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers improved to 6-0 at home against Baylor and got a much-needed win because they could be underdogs in every remaining game in a bid to become bowl eligible.

“For us, I hope this really sets us up for a stretch run,” Brown said.

UP NEXT

Baylor hosts No. 19 Kansas on Oct. 22.

West Virginia plays at Texas Tech on Oct. 22.

 

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.