After standing toe-to-toe with nationally ranked Ensworth for the better part of three quarters, Baylor's offense shot itself in the foot during the final six minutes of the third and never recovered Friday night.
Ensworth's Hunter Travis intercepted two passes, returning both inside the Baylor 5 to set up the go-ahead touchdown and a field goal to lead the Tigers to a 16-9 Division II-AA victory.
"We've talked about how the last three weeks we've really hurt ourselves with turnovers," Baylor coach Phil Massey said. "We've lost three games to really tough teams and have given each of them two or three turnovers. You just can't do that and expect to win against good competition."
The Red Raiders took a 9-0 lead into halftime after all-state kicker Rafael Gaglianone made field-goal attempts from 57, 40 and 49 yards.
Baylor's defense did not allow Ensworth to cross midfield until the final minute of the half, and for the game, the Red Raiders gave up just 214 total yards.
The Tigers were without leading rusher D'Andre Ferby, who sat out with a calf injury, and managed just 105 rushing yards. Ensworth, which extended its winning streak to 29 games, also committed nine offensive penalties.
"We were not very good offensively tonight," Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers said. "You can't have procedural penalties the way we did and expect to move the ball.
"But I thought we played great defensively. Really, the defense scored both our touchdowns for us."
The Tigers held Baylor to 125 total yards, including 49 rushing yards, only 10 of which were gained in the second half.
Ensworth's first TD drive was kept alive by a helmet-to-helmet penalty on Baylor, after the Tigers had been stopped on third-and-19 at the Red Raiders' 30. Two plays later, Rico McGraw found a crease on the left side of the line for a 10-yard scoring run, pulling the Tigers within 9-7.
Two series later, Baylor quarterback Nick Tiano was pressured and his pass near the home sideline was picked off by Travis, who returned it to the 1. McGraw scored on the next play, giving Ensworth the lead for good. But the Tigers added insurance when, on the following series, Tiano's next attempt was again intercepted by Travis, who took it back to the 5.
"I couldn't ask more from the defense. They played outstanding," Massey said. "We created turnovers and didn't give up the big play to their offense. And Rafael was huge with his field goals to get us some early momentum.
"We're just really struggling offensively right now, especially up front. We've got to fix that real quick."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...