WACO, Texas – Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen was racing untouched to the end zone while running back Richard Reese was being tackled in the backfield on fourth-and-1 just before halftime.
That bootleg was the punctuating touchdown for the 17th-ranked Bears, who beat Texas State 42-7 on Saturday and avoided becoming another Top 25 team to lose at home to a Sun Belt Conference team.
Shapen took off to the right after the fake handoff, and past an over-pursuing safety, for that 35-yard touchdown that came right after Texas State (1-2) had closed to 14-7 on Layne Hatcher‘s 12-yard touchdown pass to Ashtyn Hawkins with 1:59 left in the first half.
“Blake is comfortable getting out of the pocket that way,” Bears coach Dave Arada said. “They know it, we know it, and we still execute it. We need to get more things like that.”
It wrapped up a nine-play drive after the Bears (2-1) started at their own 4. Craig Williams, a fifth-year junior nicknamed “Sqwirl” who earlier ran 30 yards for a touchdown, had muffed the kickoff.
“Very pivotal moment for us,” Texas State coach Jake Spavital said. “We got it to a one-score game with the ball coming out in the second half.”
Reese, a true freshman, ran 19 times for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Shapen completed 15 of 26 passes for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Baylor jumped in front when Reese went straight up the middle for a 14-yard TD on the game’s opening drive. He added scores of 52 and 5 yards in the fourth quarter, giving him five rushing TDs in the Bears’ two home games.
“We did start off a little shaky, slower than we would have liked to,” said receiver Gavin Holmes, who had a 28-yard TD catch after halftime. “But yeah, I think that two-minute drive kind of put us into gear for that second half.”
Texas State lost 29-20 at home to then-unranked Baylor in last season’s opener, but Shapen’s run before halftime Saturday pretty much ended any thought that the Bobcats could follow up last weekend’s Sun Belt upsets – Appalachian State at Texas A&M, and Marshall over Notre Dame.
Aranda still felt a nervous energy among his players in the locker room at halftime.
“The second quarter was that, we could feel some of that nervousness. … In a battle, trying to get it right and it’s not going right,” he said. “Some of the talks at halftime were that. I think some of what we were fighting was expectations, it’s supposed to be like this, or it used to be like that, and I have to do a better job of being out in front of that.”
Williams’ TD run in the second quarter came on the first snap after Shapen returned to the field after having to sit out a play because his helmet came off after a tackle. There was initially a targeting penalty on that tackle, but that was taken away after replay review, and backup quarterback Kyron Drones came on to throw a 10-yard pass.
Baylor was without three starting skill players on offense. Tight end Ben Sims, running back Taye McWilliams and receiver Monaray Baldwin were in concussion protocol this week. Aranda said the Bears are “hopeful” of having them back next week.
Even without Sims, three of Shapen’s five completions on the opening drive of the game went to three different tight ends.
Texas State: Hatcher and Hawkins hooked up for 29 yards on the first play of the second half, but that drive ended with a lost fumble. “Kind of the landslide started to happen right there,” Spavital said.
The Bobcats, who are 0-10 against Top 25 opponents since becoming an FBS team in 2012, twice failed on fourth-down tries in the first half. After they converted on fourth down in the third quarter, their field goal attempt four plays later was blocked.
Baylor: It was a lethargic start in the nonconference finale for the Bears, who kicked off just after 11 a.m. local time, a week after their double-overtime loss at No. 12 BYU ended after midnight in Utah and they didn’t get back to Waco until about sunrise Sunday. They finally took over after halftime and, even with a lost fumble and failed fourth-down conversion, closed out the lopsided victory and had 509 total yards.
Baylor, which dropped eight spots last week after the BYU loss, should be in about the same spot in the new poll after winning a game it was supposed to win.
Texas State: Hosts Houston Baptist in its last nonconference game next Saturday night.
Baylor: At Iowa State (3-0) next Saturday for its Big 12 opener.