SAN MARCOS, Texas (AP) — Baylor had three interceptions, Abram Smith rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and the Bears defeated the Texas State Bobcats 29-20 on Saturday.
Baylor played its first regular season game outside the Big 12 in 715 days after its 2020 non-conference games were canceled due to COVID-19-related issues.
“For them to have something to feel good about, it’s been a while,” Bears coach Dave Aranda said.
Baylor finished 2-7 last season, losing five straight after winning its season opener against Kansas on Sept. 26, 2020.
The Bears are unbeaten in eight games against the Bobcats dating back to 1909, but it was a stiffer test after having outscored Texas State 279-73 in their previous meetings.
Trestan Ebner added 120 yards rushing on 20 carries, giving the Bears their first pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game since 2018.
“(What) I am proud of is I thought our identity on offense, you got a feel for what we are trying to accomplish,” Aranda said.
The grit of the running game was matched by the team’s intensity defensively.
“That was one of the better defenses I’ve seen in a long time,” Bobcats coach Jake Spavital said.
Baylor returns 10 starters on defense and that unit responded by holding Texas State to 235 yards, including 79 yards rushing. The Bears’ defense scored nine points, including a safety to end the game.
Texas State’s Brady McBride was continually pressured — looking like he was trying to find his way out of a cornfield maze.
“When we blitzed, we noticed he got the ball out quicker,” Bears senior Jalen Pitre said.
Baylor had an early read on McBride. J.T. Woods stepped in front of a receiver on a first-down dump pass and raced 20 yards for the Bears’ first touchdown.
Pitre and Jairon McVea each had an interception in the fourth quarter to help seal the season-opening victory.
McBride’s elusiveness was needed and paid off when he scrambled out of the pocket and tossed a 23-yard pass downfield to Donnovan Moorer to Baylor’s 28-yard line. The play would lead to Texas State’s lone touchdown, a 12-yard strike from McBride to Marcell Barbee.
Texas State hosted Baylor for the first time in series history.
It also marked only the second home game at Bobcat Stadium against a Big 12 team. Texas Tech made the only other visit to San Marcos, defeating Texas State 58-10 on Sept. 8, 2012.
Known previously for pass-first, dynamic offenses, Baylor’s defense demonstrated its might in the season opener.
Aranda wants the Bears to play with an attitude on defense, but he doesn’t want them to cross the line into sloppy play. He felt they crossed that line against the Bobcats.
Baylor had 11 penalties for 99 yards.
“Until we clean up the penalties,” Aranda said. “I know we did those things (defensively), but when there is still 20 points, you take those penalties off and there isn’t any.”
The Bears limited the Bobcats to 45 yards rushing and just 14 first downs prior to their penultimate possession, a 10-play, 65-yard drive capped by Jahmyl Jeter’s 2-yard touchdown.
Baylor’s confidence in the unit was displayed early when its staff opted to attempt, and convert, a fourth-and-1 at its own 34-yard-line with 4 minutes left in the first quarter.
NOT THIS TIME
Pitre had two interceptions last season for Baylor, returning both for a touchdown. The senior was brought down quickly after McBride’s second interception.
Baylor: vs. Texas Southern on Saturday.
Texas State: at Florida International on Saturday.