WACO, Texas — With nothing to lose but another game, Baylor benched its starting quarterback and tailback late in the third quarter against West Virginia and went with the kids on the bench.
The results very nearly allowed the Bears to snap their six-game losing streak. Freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer and tailback Trestan Ebner helped lead a fierce Baylor comeback, scoring 23 straight fourth-quarter points.
But linebacker Xavier Preston sacked Brewer on Baylor’s two-point try with 17 seconds left in the game to clinch West Virginia’s 38-36 victory.
Fans at McLane Stadium gave the team a standing ovation as the players and coaches left the field. The Bears have lost seven straight, but they’ll have life, and possibly a new starting quarterback, next week when Texas comes to town.
It’s possible that Brewer could be the new starting quarterback. That means he could renew a rivalry with Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, a freshman and former high school rival.
“I’m not really worried about that,” Brewer said of a possible matchup with Ehlinger. “I’m worried about getting our team ready to play.”
Baylor coach Matt Rhule said it’s too early to say whether Brewer would rise to the top of the depth chart. He wants to look at game film before deciding whether his starter should be sophomore Zach Smith, who has started since the third game, or Brewer, who saw his first career action three games ago.
“I’d hate to jump to any conclusions,” Rhule said.
Rhule said Smith started showing symptoms of the stomach flu Saturday afternoon. Smith played for the first three quarters in Saturday’s game.
Smith’s performance wasn’t bad — he completed 16 of his 27 passes for 261 yards. But when he was directing the Bears, they produced only 13 points. And that wasn’t nearly enough to keep up with the Mountaineers, who coasted to a 38-13 lead after three quarters.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier threw five touchdown passes, pushing his season total to 26. He’ll probably maintain his national lead in that category. He also surpassed 300 yards for the seventh straight game. No other quarterback in the country can match that consecutive streak.
David Sills V caught three of the touchdown passes. He now has 15 for the season. No other receiver in the country has more than nine. Sills posted his third touchdown reception — a 53-yarder — on the first offensive play of the second half but caught no more after that. He had scoring receptions of 35 yards and 16 yards in the first half.
Grier then tossed a 40-yarder to Marcus Simms and one from six yards to Ka’Raun White. By then WVU owned a 38-13 advantage with 2 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
That’s when Rhule pulled Smith in favor of Brewer, who he described as having “moxie.” Brewer also can run the football, giving the Bears some zone read calls options that West Virginia hadn’t anticipated.
Ebner also came in to relieve Terence Williams and JaMychal Hasty at tailback.
Brewer threw touchdown passes of 40 and 9-yards to Ebner. And Ebner also had a 40-yard touchdown run.
Baylor’s special teams came up with an onside kick recovery provided by freshman walk-on kickoff specialist Jay Sedwick. And the defense shut out the Mountaineers in the fourth quarter to keep the comeback hopes flickering.
Brewer completed 8 of 13 for 109 yards and also added 48 rushing yards on 10 carries. Ebner rushed for 54 yards on three carries and snagged five passes for 109 yards.
West Virginia guessed correctly on the two-point try, sending a blitz to knock down Brewer before he could sprint out and look for tight end Jordan Feuerbacher in the end zone.
The remaining fans cheered as if their team had won the game.
“There’s going to be a day when the scoreboard is going to be flipped,” Rhule said. “When it all comes together, I tell you what, it’s going to be something else, something else.”