WACO — Taylor Young didn’t expect this. Matt Rhule certainly didn’t expect this. Pushed for an answer, not even Turner Gill expected this.
FCS darlings Liberty spoiled Rhule’s coaching debut at Baylor, upsetting the disjointed Bears 48-45 Saturday night at McLane Stadium. It was a Big 12-worthy offensive explosion with the two teams combining for 1,117 yards and 10 total touchdowns.
“We can’t come with the mentality of thinking that this is an easy game, especially in college football,” Baylor quarterback Anu Solomon said. “You see upsets all over the place, all over the country. So with this, you’ve just got to take it with a grain of salt. It is what it is. We lost, can’t do nothing about it except move on and get better.”
Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert called his own number in the fourth quarter to give the Flames a 10 point lead. Less than two minutes later, the Bears answered with a touchdown but a lapse in coverage led to another Liberty touchdown with just over six minutes remaining.
Freshman John Lovett, forced into a featured role due to an injury to starter JaMycal Hasty, scored from 34 yards out to again cut the lead to three points. Baylor’s last chance drive with under a minute left ended in a game ending interception.
Gill coached the Buffalo for four years and spent two years at Kansas before spending the last five seasons with the Flames. He now has as many wins against Big 12 teams with Liberty as he did in two conference years with the Jayhawks.
“Well, there’s not much defense playing, but hey, it doesn’t matter about all that,” he said. “It’s just about who can score as many points and score as possible and sometimes you have to have those type of games. We’ll probably have some games go the other way, where you have to win one 7-6 or something like that.”
Calvert finished with 447 yards on 44 completions. Antonio Gandy-Golden tore apart the Baylor secondary for 192 yards and two touchdowns on 13 receptions.
The Bears’ defensive backfield was chopped and changed. Blake Murphy was playing receiver last Saturday before moving to corner on Sunday for this game. Verkedric Vaughns shifted from corner to safety less than two weeks ago.
“They’ll gain from this,” Rhule said. “They play for one of the toughest coaches in (defensive backs coach) Fran Brown. We have proud kids. They’re not going to say, ‘I got beat and I can’t do this,’ they’re going to say, ‘I got beat and I’m coming back.’”
Solomon, in his first year at Baylor after transferring from Arizona, was named the starter late last week and performed well, finishing 14-for-29 with 278 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
True freshman John Lovett had 89 yards and two touchdowns in his college debut. JaMycal Hasty finished with 56 yards and one score. Hasty left the game late in the first half and didn’t return, with Rhule saying he had a sprained MCL and would miss a couple weeks.
A total of 10 true freshmen saw the field for Baylor in the opener. They will look to use any experience they gained against Liberty when UTSA comes to Waco next Saturday night.
“You saw a bunch of guys that said ‘Hey, this is what happened, let’s move forward,” Rhule said. “I put this one on me. They’re so young, and we’ll learn from this and the sky’s the limit. I think they will be good.”