West Virginia seemed to have the victory in hand.
The Mountaineers boasted a sizeable 38-13 lead over Baylor through three quarters, who entered without any wins on the season as it sat at a 0-6 record and was starting down at a 0-7 mark.
But something changed. Baylor seized momentum. WVU started struggling. And the Bears were within two points of sending the game into overtime.
WVU did win, 38-36, thanks to a sack from senior linebacker Xavier Preston on the two-point conversion attempt to improve to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12, while keeping Baylor at a winless 0-7 this season. Although it was a win, there was disappointment and a feeling that the team should have done more in the end.
What exactly led to Baylor’s nearly successful comeback attempt?
The WVU offense sputtered in the fourth quarter and did not score. The defense struggled to contain an athletic quarterback, and there was an onside kick that Baylor recovered.
Redshirt junior quarterback Will Grier admitted the team got complacent. We’ve seen WVU letting off the gas pedal before this season.
Just look at what happened at Kansas. It led 35-10 before the Jayhawks got within a score on two different occasions before pulling away for the 56-34 victory. Or East Carolina, where the team pointed to not playing with the same energy in the second half despite cruising to a 56-20 win in the home opener.
"At the end we weren’t being us," Grier said.
A big part, though, appeared to be Baylor’s quarterback change. Sophomore Zach Smith was an impressive (statistically) 16-of-27 passing for 261 yards, but the offense was having a difficult time moving the ball against WVU’s defense.
Baylor turned to true freshman Charlie Brewer, a dual-threat quarterback that brought a new energy to the team right from the moment he entered the field. Brewer was a former 3-star recruit, AP State Player of the Year and state champion from powerhouse Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas.
Brewer threw for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the final quarter, alongside 48 yards on the ground to help the Bears score 23 unanswered points before being sacked by Preston on the two-point conversion attempt with 17 seconds left.
"He did a great job coming in and lighting a spark behind those guys and getting those guys to play and run for him and making plays with his legs. He’s a pretty good player," said WVU senior linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton. "He got in and just changed the complexity of the game."
A win is still a win, and WVU is thrilled it finally recorded its first victory in Waco after being outscored by a combined 55 points during its trips there in 2013 and 2015. It is just one game out of first place and in the thick of the Big 12 title race.
But the Mountaineers knew they could have finished better, especially since nearly everything clicked through the first three quarters.
"You need to finish strong," said WVU sophomore defensive lineman Reese Donahue. "It’s kind of hard to believe that you play so good all game long and just a couple plays in the fourth quarter and you’re right back in the game."