AUSTIN — Like Rocky Balboa after his thumping from Clubber Lang, No. 25 Texas decided to re-establish what had got them there.
Using a relentless ground game and an ability to turn turnovers into points, the Longhorns outslugged Baylor 56-50 on Saturday evening at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.
The win snapped a two-year losing streak to the Bears and was a little offensive redemption following last week’s dismal 63-21 Red River Rivalry debacle against Oklahoma.
“Last week was really more of a wake-up call,” Texas tailback Joe Bergeron said. “Our mindset going through this week was we needed to re-establish ourselves as a football team and as an offense, and let (Baylor) know who we are.”
The sophomore bruiser contributed a career-high five touchdowns, including four in the first half to help Texas pull ahead 42-31 at the break. Bergeron finished with 117 rushing yards — all for positive yardage — including scoring runs of 15, 2, 9, 4 and 8 yards to lead the Texas (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) ground assault.
“This is the offense that we want, this is who we want to be — very balanced,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown, who called last week’s offense “inept.”
Both teams combined for 1,132 total yards, with the total eclipsing the century mark with just under 10 minutes left in the game. Baylor (3-3, 0-3) outgained Texas 607 to 525 on a combined 160 plays with the Bears racking up just four more rushing yards (255-to-251) on the same amount of carries (44).
But it was the Longhorns’ ability to eat up chunks of yards on long scoring drives in the first half that helped Texas lead Baylor in first-half time of possession by more than nine minutes (19:31-10.29). Much of that time came on drives that Bergeron scored on, with the series lasting an average of 8½ plays for 60.75 yards and 3:33.5 minutes. That included a four-play, 30-yard drive of 1:56 that was set up by D.J. Monroe’s 70-yard kickoff return that Bergeron capped with a 9-yard run to start a 21-0 secondrun by Texas that put the Horns ahead for good.
“Really, I just see the goal line, I see the holes that the line creates, the little crease — that’s what I tell (the offensive line), just give me a crease,” Bergeron said of his touchdown runs. “And I saw the crease, I see the goal line, I see the touchdown and that’s it. Really it’s just a blur.”
The big shift started after the game’s first turnover when Texas cornerback Josh Turner intercepted Baylor quarterback Nick Florence four plays into the ensuring series. Five plays later, Longhorns freshman Johnathan Gray ran it in from 25 yards out for his first career touchdown to put Texas up 35-28 with 6:18 left in the second quarter. A back-and-forth game to that point, the Bears never regained the lead.
The Longhorns had the game’s first blow as true freshman tailback Daje Johnson took the opening handoff 84 yards down the home sideline for a touchdown on the very first offensive play from scrimmage.
“It was great. It was something we felt like throughout the week that was something we could do,” Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “I think that’s a huge statement we wanted to make throughout the week.”
Baylor answered with a right cross after the Longhorns slipped on the canvas with a 35-yard loss on a botched punt and Florence bounced off a Texas defender at the goaline for an 8-yard touchdown run to tie it nearly 3 minutes later.
The Longhorns and Bears traded 70-plus yard touchdown drives as Bergeron punched it in from 15 yards out and Baylor’s Glasco Martin goes in from the 2.
But then the haymakers started as receiver Terrance Williams tripped up Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs on a give-and-go for an 80-yard touchdown catch from Florence following the first of four punts for the Longhorns to pull ahead 21-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Texas went back to the ground with a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by Bergeron’s 2-yard score 1:03 into the second quarter as the Longhorns outscored Baylor 28-7 in the frame with all three touchdowns coming on rushes.
The Bears opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run, including the first of two 40-plus yard field goals from kicker Aaron Jonesto , but Bergeron’s 8-yard touchdown run stopped the bleeding with 6:31 left in the third quarter put Texas ahead 49-40.