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- American football player and coach
WACO — Baylor's quest for a 10-win season took a hit last week when starting quarterback Gerry Bohanon suffered a pulled hamstring, leaving the Bears in the hands of a redshirt freshman making his first college start.
In the fourth quarter of Saturday's regular-season finale, Texas Tech wobbled Baylor's defense with two long touchdown passes, as well as blasting that young QB.
Blake Shapen and the Bears prevailed nevertheless.
Shapen led two long drives in the fourth quarter, both after Tech had narrowed the margin to three points on Donovan Smith touchdown passes, and No. 9 Baylor held off the Red Raiders 27-24 on an overcast senior day at McLane Stadium.
Tech (6-6, 3-6 in the Big 12) failed to send the game to overtime when Jonathan Garibay, perfect on his first 13 field goals this season including two game-winners, missed left from 53 yards as time ran out.
"Incredibly proud of our team, the fight that they showed on all three sides of the football," said Sonny Cumbie, Tech's interim head coach since Oct. 25. "Incredibly proud of how they continued to fight these last five weeks.
"What I told them after the game is true: Today in college football, today in life, it's so easy when things go against you to take your ball and go home, to take your ball and stop playing and to stop fighting. If anything, these kids did just the opposite. They stood in the gap in a very difficult situation."
Highlights: Baylor 27, Texas Tech 24
The combination of victories by Baylor (10-2, 7-2) and by No. 7 Oklahoma State later Saturday against No. 10 Oklahoma put the Bears into the Big 12 championship game next week against the Cowboys. OSU beat OU 37-33.
Tech quarterback Donovan Smith completed 15 of 23 passes for 263 yards. He brought the Red Raiders within 20-17 on a 38-yard touchdown pass to McLane Mannix with 11:37 to go and within 27-24 on a screen pass that tight end Travis Koontz turned into a 75-yard TD with 6:40 left.
Shapen answered the Mannix touchdown by flipping a 9-yard TD pass to tight end Ben Sims with 7:00 left.
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After the Koontz TD, Baylor melted more than five minutes off the clock with a 13-play drive that included a scary moment for the Bears. On a third-and-5 and under pressure, Shapen escaped from deep in the pocket toward the Tech sideline. Tech linebacker Riko Jeffers blasted him a yard short of the line to gain.
With Shapen on the sideline, the Bears went for it on fourth-and-1 at the Tech 45 and big back Abram Smith got the 1 yard. Shapen returned and steered Baylor to the Tech 12, but linebacker Colin Schooler knocked down his pass on fourth-and-2.
Tech, taking over from there with 1:18 and with no timeouts left, advanced to the Baylor 35 on a 19-yard Donovan Smith-to-Mannix pass, leaving three seconds. But Garibay's attempt for a tying field goal went left.
Dating to late last season, Garibay has made game winners to beat Baylor, West Virginia and Iowa State, the latter from 62 yards.
"Ten times out of 10, I'd want him out there kicking that field goal," Cumbie said. "It didn't go our way, but he's the reason why, really, we're 6-and-6 and going to a bowl game."
Donovan Smith was 5 of 7 on the final series. The redshirt freshman from Frenship hit Erik Ezukanma for 8 yards, Koontz for 12 and 10 and Xavier White for 6 before the pass to Mannix that set up the field goal.
Cumbie praised Smith's poise in the hurry-up offense.
"He did a great job," Cumbie said. "Our players got him the ball and really executed well in the one-minute situation without any timeouts left. I'm really proud of him and really proud of all the guys.
"I think one of the things that happens in those situations is ... there's not a lot of thinking. You're just just reacting, and he's reacting and he's really good."
Smith was only 5 of 10 for 57 yards before he heated up in the fourth quarter.
Mannix's touchdown reception was his first since the 2019 game at Kansas. The senior slot receiver was wide open behind coverage.
Cumbie chalked it up to "some of the film study that we'd done and just knowing when we go fast, it's basically just a vertical seam. And if you see a lot of single high (coverage), you're going to have creases in that seam and that's where we were able to attack it."
On the TD pass to Koontz, Tech stationed wide receiver Erik Ezukanma in the backfield and sent him out to the left while the offensive line set up the screen to the right.
"We knew we were going to draw a lot of attention with Erik in the backfield, going to the flat," Cumbie said, "so we used him on that one. And great job by our offensive line. I think there were several key blocks thrown."
Abram Smith carried 30 times for 117 yards, his eighth 100-yard game of the season for Baylor.
Tech closed within 17-10 at halftime after a 1-yard touchdown by Tahj Brooks at 1:08 before the break. That capped a nine-play drive that featured a 22-yard run and a 31-yard reception by Kaylon Geiger.
Geiger took a reverse pitch around left end to start the series. Then on third-and-9 from the Baylor 40-yard line, Geiger ran a deep route down the left sideline and went up over defensive backs Zeke Brown and Jairon McVea to pull in Donovan Smith's throw.
That moved the Red Raiders to the 9, and Brooks powered up the middle to the 1 to set up his touchdown.
Baylor led 10-0 a little more than four minutes into the game. On the third play from scrimmage, Shapen and running back Trestan Ebner connected on a deep shot down the left sideline for a 61-yard touchdown.
SaRodorick Thompson fumbled on the Red Raiders' first play and cornerback Mark Milton recovered at the Tech 42. Two plays later, Shapen hit Ebner for 31 yards on a flag route.
But facing a first-and-goal from the 8, the Tech defense stiffened. Nose tackle Jaylon Hutchings blew up a run to the right side, allowing safety Eric Monroe throw Abram Smith for a 6-yard loss.
Baylor eventually settled for a 28-yard field goal from Isaiah Hankins at the 10:50 mark.
Garibay made a 46-yard field goal at the end of the next series. The key play in the march was a 24-yard burst by Ezukanma on a wide-receiver sweep.
Midway through the second quarter, Donovan Smith fumbled as cornerback Raleigh Texada blindsided him on a blitz off the edge. That put Baylor in business at the Tech 24, and Abram Smith cashed in the scoring chance with a 4-yard touchdown that made it 17-3.
► Baylor coach Dave Aranda indicated that some younger coaches on his staff are being hired by new Tech coach Joey McGuire.
"There'll be some coaches, some younger guys, that are on our staff now that, tomorrow, are going to be on that staff," Aranda said. "All that stuff's happening. Being a young coach myself, you've got an opportunity to be a full-time guy and to do all those things, I'm all for them."
Tech chose McGuire, formerly the associate head coach at Baylor, to replace Matt Wells. McGuire told A-J Media on Wednesday he has agreements with six assistants. He was just waiting for the regular season to end before he could announce some.
"At the very beginning of the week," Aranda said, "it was like, 'How do you handle the signals or how do you handle guys that are here that are going to be there?'
"A lot of the guys came to me and (said), 'This is kind of weird. This is what coach and I talked about. This is what I want to do.' My message was, 'I'm all for you.' There's a great amount of trust here.' "
►Tahj Brooks led Tech rushers with 40 yards on 14 carries. SaRodorick Thompson started but didn't go back in the game after fumbling on the first series.
Cumbie said there was no physical issue.
"We just decided to go with Tahj," he said.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Texas Tech football falls to Baylor, 27-24