Editor's note: updated 12/04/11 at 11:00 p.m.
WACO — It wasn’t the ending Texas envisioned.
The Longhorns needed to limit their turnovers. They couldn’t. They wanted to contain Robert Griffin III. They couldn’t do that either.
Texas turned the ball over six times on the way to a 48-24 loss at Baylor on Saturday in the final game of the regular season. Griffin, the Bears’ Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, torched the Big 12’s top defense for four touchdowns and threw for 320 yards.
The Longhorns (7-5; 4-5 Big 12) scored on three of their first four possessions, but turned the ball over four times in the second half.
“We can’t have that, that’s not going to help us win that game by any means,” said play-caller Bryan Harsin.
UT fell behind early as BU (9-3; 6-3) found the end zone on the second play of the game with a 59-yard strike. After a missed field goal, Texas surrendered a 20-yard touchdown run, one snap after giving up a 48-yard completion.
“Those 14 points were unnecessary,” said junior safety Kenny Vaccaro, a childhood friend of Griffin’s. “We’re in zone coverage, don’t get beat over the top, that was our problem.”
The Longhorns responded, though, as Case McCoy found Blaine Irby for a two-yard touchdown. Irby’s third touchdown in as many games made it 14-7. Texas forced a punt on the Bear’s next drive, the only one of the game, and then tied it with a three-yard pass to converted tight end Luke Poehlmann.
It was feast or famine for McCoy, however. He was 24 of 39 for a career-best 356 yards and three scores, but his four interceptions thwarted any chance for an upset of the No. 19 Bears. The sophomore fumbled a snap in the second quarter, the first in a stretch of six giveaways on seven drives.
“You can’t turn the ball over,” McCoy said. “We can say it all we want but until we start executing things, and that’s mainly on me tonight, I’ve got to take the blame for this one.”
Texas didn’t want to get in a shootout with Griffin and the high-powered BU offense, but that’s exactly what the Longhorns got themselves into at Floyd Casey Stadium.
And without their top two leading rushers, it was an uphill battle for UT. Add in a season-worst 12 penalties for 105 yards, and a hamstrung offense had too much to overcome — even without the turnovers.
“We had to be on the lower end of the penalties to win the ball game,” said UT head coach Mack Brown.
It’s not like Texas didn’t have its chances, though.
Junior wide receiver Marquise Goodwin dropped a pass in the end zone that would have pulled UT within 17 points in the fourth quarter. It was the lone mistake for Goodwin, who caught five passes for 129 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown grab.
“If I catch the ball it’s a different ball game,” Goodwin said.
It was just that kind of night for Texas. The Longhorns moved the ball well and they outgained Baylor 557-511, but the mistakes cost UT a chance for its eighth win of the season and some much-needed momentum heading into the bowl season.
Now, the Longhorns have 15 practices to correct the miscues that plagued them in Waco before heading to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl, where they will have another shot to end on a high note. Perhaps California will offer the Longhorns a better conclusion.
Printed on Monday, December 5th, 2011 as: Griffin thwarts defense, Texas falls to Baylor