No. 24 Texas beats Baylor, keeps Big 12 title hopes alive

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AUSTIN, Texas – Bijan Robinson wouldn’t say if he played his last college game on Friday. But if he did, the Texas junior made it a memorable one.

Robinson rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns, Jaylan Ford made his fourth interception of the season, and No. 24 Texas defeated Baylor 38-27 on Friday.

The Longhorns (8-4, 6-3 Big 12) kept alive their chances of making the conference title game. If Kansas can beat No. 15 Kansas State on Saturday, Texas will face No. 4 TCU for the Big 12 championship.

Robinson carried 29 times, including 22 in the second half, when he gained 150 yards.

Texas ran on 22 straight plays after Baylor returned a fumble by quarterback Quinn Ewers for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

“We understood that we had to run it down their throats, because the pass game wasn’t working so well in the first half,” Robinson said.

The Longhorns outgained Baylor 266 yards to 56 in the second half.

Robinson gained 65 of Texas’ 75 yards on its go-ahead drive, scoring from the 1 to give the Longhorns a 31-27 lead with 8:25 remaining.

On Baylor’s next possession, Ford intercepted a pass by Blake Shapen, tying a Texas record for picks in a season by a linebacker. The Longhorns converted the turnover into a 42-yard touchdown drive, the final 11 on a run by Robinson’s backup, Roschon Johnson, who hurdled a defender to reach the end zone. Johnson finished with 13 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns.

Baylor trailed by five early in the fourth quarter when Ewers dropped back from his 33. A blitzing Al Walcott forced a fumble. Lineman Gabe Hall scooped up the ball and ran 16 yards for a touchdown. A 2-point conversion put Baylor ahead 27-24.

Baylor (6-6, 4-5) sacked Ewers five times. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 194 yards.

Baylor made a quick move toward ruining the Longhorns’ senior day celebration. First the Bears pressured Ewers into a safety when he was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone. Then Shapen connected with Jaylen Ellis for a 47-yard touchdown and a 9-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Ellis caught only one other pass this season before that one, a 50-yarder.

But Texas responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive that Ewers, not much of a runner, finished with a 3-yard burst up the middle. Baylor punter Issac Power contributed to the Texas cause with an 11-yard shank, and the Longhorns needed to only travel 29 yards for a second score.

There was an exchange of field goals, and a 45-yard Baylor touchdown drive that required just five plays and 32 seconds. Shapen finished with a 14-yard pass to tight end Ben Sims for a 19-17 halftime lead.

Texas put itself in danger with three false starts and a lost fumble by Jordan Whittington early in the third quarter. But a determined Whittington turned a short pass into a 19-yard gain, setting up a 1-yard score by Johnson late in the period.

“In the end, the story of this game is about resiliency,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Continuing to fight, and fight the right way.”

Shapen went 18 of 36 for 179 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for Baylor, which lost its last three games after winning three in a row. The Bears produced a season-low 280 yards.

“We came into this game, all the way to the end, thinking we were gonna win,” Baylor linebacker Bryson Jackson said. “So just a kick in the face. It hurts.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Baylor: The Bears were 5-1 against AP Top 25 teams last season, when they finished 12-2 and beat Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship game. But this season Baylor is 0-5 against the Top 25, losing to No. 4 TCU last week on a game-ending field goal. “Last week, we had TCU on the ropes, and this week, we had an opportunity to close out a game and we couldn’t do it,” Sims said.

Texas: The Longhorns, after two seasons of trying to sustain momentum under Sarkisian, now have some with their third victory in four games. They’ve already won three more games than they did in Sarkisian’s first year. “It’s easy to quantify the season with victories,” Sarkisian said. “But I think the style of play is really starting to come to fruition. We’re playing a physical brand of football.”

ROBINSON’S PLACE

Robinson has rushed for 3,410 yards in his three seasons at Texas, including 1,580 this year. He ranks fourth on the school’s career list behind Ricky Williams (6,279), Cedric Benson (5,540) and Earl Campbell (4,443).

UP NEXT

Baylor awaits its bowl game assignment.

Texas either awaits a bowl assignment or, if Kansas manages to beat its rival, prepares to face TCU in the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 3.

TCU’s run, Oklahoma’s struggles highlight changing Big 12

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NORMAN, Okla. – Change is afoot in the Big 12 – even before Oklahoma and Texas depart for the Southeastern Conference.

Fourth-ranked TCU has replaced the Sooners as the Big 12 team in the running for a College Football Playoff spot. Oklahoma won the conference and made the playoff in 2015 and from 2017-19. This year, the Horned Frogs (11-0, 8-0 Big 12) have clinched a berth in the conference title game and are positioned to be the league’s playoff team. TCU hosts Iowa State on Saturday in its regular-season finale.

No. 15 Kansas State (8-3, 6-2) is a surprise contender for the other spot in the championship game after being picked to finish fifth in the league. The Wildcats would make the title game if No. 24 Texas loses to Baylor on Friday. If Texas wins, Kansas State would need to beat rival Kansas on Saturday night to qualify.

Meanwhile, frequent contenders Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are out. The championship game, to be played Dec. 3, will be the first since the game returned in 2017 without a team from Oklahoma. And defending champion Baylor can only play spoiler by knocking Texas (7-4, 5-3) out of title contention.

TCU coach Sonny Dykes said the changes are a sign of the Big 12’s strength. The Horned Frogs will be playing in the title game for the second time.

“Sometimes people dismiss it as, `Well, the league stinks,”‘ he said. “Well, if the league stunk, it seems like it would be the same team that was there every year. I do remember a time in the Big 12 where Oklahoma was in the championship game almost every year.”

Oklahoma won the title each year from 2017 to 2020 and was in the running to reach the championship game all the way until the regular-season finale last season under coach Lincoln Riley. But the Sooners – picked to finish second in the league – are 6-5 under Riley’s replacement, Brent Venables.

Oklahoma has three conference losses by seven or fewer points. Venables said there are no easy games in the league.

“The quality of the coaching, the quality of the play, doesn’t allow for that,” he said. “Right now, we just don’t have that margin for error on our side of the ball. It’s been challenging, that goes without saying. But for me, I like a good challenge. And every week has been a good challenge.”

Oklahoma State reached the title game last year and looked ready to return after opening the season with five straight wins. But quarterback Spencer Sanders suffered a shoulder injury and the Cowboys’ season started to tumble. A less-than-healthy Sanders, playing behind a banged-up offensive line, threw four interceptions in a 28-13 loss to Oklahoma last Saturday.

“I mean, I could be real obvious and say if we don’t get guys injured, that would help,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “Yeah, but I mean, try to be nice. Just got a few guys beat up. So unfortunately, we’re down a few guys.”

Even Texas making the title game would be unusual. The Longhorns have only reached the championship game once since the event’s return, and they haven’t won the league title since 2009.

No matter what, the second-place team will have at least two losses, and possibly three. In an example of the Big 12’s depth, Iowa State – TCU’s opponent on Saturday – is in last place in the league standings, but leads the conference in scoring defense and total defense and ranks eighth nationally in both categories.

“It says exactly what this league is … that it is really good from top to bottom and there’s a ton of parity, and it’s really, really difficult with the schedule that you have to go through in this league to go through unscathed,” Dykes said.

No. 4 TCU tops No. 18 Texas 17-10 to earn Big 12 title berth

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AUSTIN, Texas – TCU was far from pretty against Texas, yet the Horned Frogs are still undefeated and playing for a Big 12 championship.

And maybe even bigger things to come.

Kendre Miller rushed for 138 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter that broke open a tense defensive struggle, and No. 4 TCU beat No. 18 Texas 17-10 on Saturday night to clinch a berth in the Big 12 title game.

TCU’s Max Duggan, who was sacked four times in the first half and hounded all game, connected with Quentin Johnston for a 31-yard touchdown over broken coverage in the fourth quarter.

“Nobody expected this kind of game,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes said. “We have tremendous confidence in our ability to take over the game late.”

The TCU defense turned in its best game of the season. The Horned Frogs held Texas running back Bijan Robinson to 29 yards, gave up just 199 total yards, and forced Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers into a miserable passing night. The Horned Frogs allowed Texas a single field goal on consecutive drives inside the TCU 10 in the second half.

“I think our defense has a little chip, a little something to prove,” TCU linebacker Johnny Hodges said.

The win keeps the Horned Frogs (10-0, 7-0) undefeated and in the hunt for even bigger prizes in Dykes’ first season. They are No. 4 in the College Football Playoff ranking after being picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big 12.

TCU is also 10-0 for the first time since 2010, when the Horned Frogs played in the Mountain West Conference, finished 13-0 and won the Rose Bowl.

“I think we’ve just decided, ‘Look, let’s go on this journey together, and not worry too much about the destination,” Dykes said.

Texas (6-4, 4-3, No. 18 CFP) hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in the second half of each of the last three games. The Longhorns’ only touchdown against TCU came on Jahdae Barron‘s scoop-and-score on a 48-yard fumble return late in the fourth quarter.

THE TAKEAWAY

TCU: Duggan stayed composed on a tough night. TCU was grinding the game away when his unforced fumble resulted in the Texas touchdown that nearly swung the game. But Duggan came back with a critical third-down completion that helped TCU’s run finish out the final 4 minutes. He was 19 of 29 passing for 124 yards.

“Crazy chain of events,” Dykes said. “He moved on, put it behind him and did a great job managing the team the rest of the game.”

Texas: Ewers has had a wildly up-and-down freshman season but he’s now had another bad outing in the second half of the season and is struggling badly with accuracy. He was 17-of-39 passing for 179 yards and an interception, but it appeared coach Steve Sarkisian never considered going to backup Hudson Card.

“It wasn’t all on Quinn,” said Sarkisian, who is 11-11 in his second year. “Everybody took turns tonight. We were just off.”

ANALYZE THIS

Texas had the advantage of having former TCU head coach Gary Patterson on the sideline as a Longhorns special assistant. Patterson’s fingerprints seemed to be all over a Texas game plan that threw everything it could at Duggan until the Longhorns finally wore down late.

BATTLE OF THE BACKS

The matchup featured the two top rushers in the Big 12 in Robinson and Miller. But Robinson was often left with nowhere to run and carried just 12 times. He rushed 32 times for more than 200 yards against the Horned Frogs last season in a Texas win.

Miller was asked if he’s the best back in the Big 12.

“Yes,” Miller said.

UP NEXT

TCU plays at Baylor next Saturday.

Texas plays at Kansas next Saturday.