Baylor stages remarkable comeback, ruins UCF Big 12 Conference debut, 36-35dfwnewsa | September 30, 2023 | 0 | Texas News
By PHILIP ROSSMAN-REICH
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Baylor erased a 35-7 third-quarter deficit, scoring 29 unanswered points and taking the lead on a 25-yard field goal from Isaiah Hankins with 1:21 left to play to beat Big 12 newcomer UCF 36-35 in the Knights’ first conference home game Saturday afternoon.
The 28-point comeback marked the largest comeback in Baylor history and the largest comeback allowed in UCF history.
UCF drove to the Baylor 41-yard line, including a wild fourth-down scramble from quarterback Timmy McClain that saw him backtrack from the 30-yard line to slip a tackle in the end zone before finding R.J. Harvey at the UCF 46-yard line for a 16-yard gain.
But Colton Boomer missed a 59-yard field goal as time expired, sealing UCF’s defeat.
“We have a bunch of guys on this team who just don’t give up,” Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen said. “The amount of work that we’ve put in, you can’t give up. There is no time to be giving up. We put in too much work to get up for big moments like this.”
The Bears used two turnovers and four straight scoring drives to complete the improbable comeback, closing to 35-33 with just more than six minutes to play after Caden Jenkins scooped up a fumbled snap and raced 72 yards for a touchdown.
It was an uphill climb for the Bears throughout the game, but they maintained confidence knowing that they moved the ball well despite struggling to score. Baylor went five for seven in the red zone.
That faith kept the Bears in the game.
“All we care about is winning and all we care about is each other,” Baylor wide receiver Monoray Baldwin said. “We were staying with each other. If we’re staying with each other and staying in the game, all we have to do is focus on the game.”
UCF raced to a 21-0 lead thanks to big plays from Johnny Richardson, who took the Knights’ opening play of the game 79 yards. They led 28-7 at the half thanks to Demari Richardson forcing a fumble and returning it 87 yards for his own scoop-and-score.
But the Knights offense struggled to get going after a touchdown drive to open the third quarter. UCF tallied only 98 yards before the team’s final drive with two turnovers, an interception that set up a Baylor touchdown and the fumble returned for a touchdown.
“Let me make it really simple, we did the things to lose the game,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “They did the things to win the game.”
Shapen, who returned from a three-game absence following an opening-week MCL injury, finished 21 for 34 and 293 yards with 105 yards in the second half. Baldwin finished the game with seven catches for 150 yards and a touchdown.
UCF’s McClain finished with 234 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception.
QUARTERBACKS ON THE MEND
Baylor welcomed back quarterback Blake Shapen after he suffered an MCL injury during the Bears’ season-opening loss to Texas State.
Meanwhile, UCF starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee was dressed and warmed up for the Knights after injuring his leg three weeks ago at Boise State. He did not play.
Malzahn said after the game Plumlee was cleared to play Friday. But Malzahn said he did not feel comfortable playing him without Plumlee going through a practice first. Plumlee had only completed 7-on-7 drills.
His status for next week’s game at Kansas is still uncertain depending on how he responds to practice this week.
FUEL FOR THE NEXT
Baylor has been in this situation before, scoring a huge 38-35 road win at Oklahoma last year. But the Bears lost their final four games. Players after the game called the comeback win over UCF fuel for the rest of the season and the kind of game that could turn their season around after a frustrating 1-3 start.
Shapen said the Bears have to stay together and use the game moving forward. He said they expect everyone to keep doubting Baylor.
The Bears were picked to finish sixth in the conference in the preseason and now sit at 1-1 in Big 12 play. The Knights were favored by 11.5 points entering the game. Saturday’s win over UCF was their first over an FBS team, falling short on a late score to Utah at home in Week 2.
UCF continued to work a quick strike offense as one of the more explosive in the nation.
The Knights’ 79-yard touchdown run from Johnny Richardson on the opening play was the team’s longest play from scrimmage this season and the first time the Knights scored on their opening play since a win over Rice in 2009.
UCF scored on its first three possessions with just eight plays and 2:28 off the clock.
The Knights scored 28 first-half points despite holding the ball for only 6:58. Baylor had the ball for a little more than 11 more minutes in the game. The Knights still outgained the Bears 469-446 despite the comeback.
UCF entered the game outscoring its opponents by 18.3 points per game and 218.2 yards per game but have had the ball for 1:02 per game less than its opponents.
THE TAKEAWAY: UCF is learning very quickly how different football is in the Big 12. Even playing at home, no lead is comfortable in conference play.
The Knights hoped to celebrate their first Big 12 victory against the same team they made their mark against 10 years ago in the Fiesta Bowl. But UCF is still learning how to put together a complete game in conference play and dropped to 0-2 in their first foray into the Big 12.
For Baylor, Shapen showed how much he can change the offense, leading Baylor to its largest comeback in program history.
UP NEXT: UCF heads to No. 24 Kansas next week. Baylor will host Texas Tech.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll
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