WHY TEXAS (5-7, 4-5) WON: If you’re an optimist, Texas won because it had nothing to lose, played past all the injuries and rallied around backup quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, doing just enough offensively and just enough defensively to head into this offseason happy that even on a down year, there were still upset wins over Oklahoma and Baylor. If you’re a cynic, Chris Johnson’s first-quarter injury forced Baylor into its fourth string emergency quarterback, coupled with four turnovers, absolutely helped Texas avoid a 4-8 season. Our view? Johnson’s injury, Poona Ford’s big play and those critical turnovers helped the Longhorns hand Baylor only its second loss at McLane Stadium.
WHY BAYLOR (9-3, 6-3) LOST: See above. Art Briles’ offense went south as soon as Johnson was lost. The Bears looked befuddled in the first half, then heated up by abandoning the pass and going all-in with the Wildcat in the second. Baylor’s 17 unanswered points in the second half put the Bears in place late, but Johnny Jefferson’s critical fumble with 2:30 left was a real killer. The Bears should have gone to the run much earlier.
THE EYES OF TEXAS: … were on three specific Bears — running back Shock Linwood, who rushed for 148 yards against Texas last season and already had 1,298 yards and 10 touchdowns this year; wide receiver Corey Coleman, Baylor’s top offensive weapon who’s already scored 20 touchdowns; and defensive end Shawn Oakman, a top-flight pass rusher with 4.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries. How’d they do? Linwood (7 carries, 31 yards) was a non-factor after injuring his ankle in the first half. Coleman (3-34) also was quiet, then announced he was going pro after the game. And Oakman finished with three tackles.
Offense — Tip of the cap to Daje Johnson, in his final game. Three catches for 51 yards and a big 52-yard kick return.
Defense — Have to give it to Ford. He didn’t have the best stats, but he made the biggest play. Two biggest, actually, because he stripped Johnson of the ball and also recovered it.
THIS AND THAT:
(1) Chris Warren III followed up his huge 276-yard Thanksgiving with a 108-yard effort Saturday.
(2) P.J. Locke III filled Dylan Haines’ cleats nicely — third in tackles, a forced fumble and a TFL.
(3) Tyrone Swoopes, who started and ended this season as UT’s starter, had 2 TDs and no turnovers.
(1) Sad that the season ended so early for seniors like Johnathan Gray and Peter Jinkens.
(2) Think UT works on defending against the Wildcat this offseason? Maybe just in case?
(3) That first-half brawl was not the way to close this season.
Texcetera: Baylor was the only team in the country that had scored on its opening drive every game this season. Not anymore. … Nine true freshmen ended up starting games for Texas this season; safety P.J. Locke was the ninth. … Texas is now 11-3 under Charlie Strong when it scores first. … Swoopes ended up leading the team in rushing touchdowns this season, with 12. … Caleb Bluiett’s 57-yard touchdown was the fourth-longest TD in school history for a tight end. … A game of firsts — Locke not only made his first start, but also forced his first career fumble; and Duke Thomas picked off his first pass of the season. … Nick Rose’s 53-yard field goal was the longest in his career, and Texas’ longest since Kris Stockton’s 53-yarder vs. Rice in 1998. That’s a span of 227 games.
On deck: The offseason. It comes early this year. No bowl game, so the next things coming up for the Longhorns include assistant coach arrivals and departures, the hiring of an offensive coordinator and new play-caller, and an all-hands-on-deck approach to rally in recruiting. At least Saturday’s win helps the Longhorns in terms of momentum, morale and recruiting.