WACO, Texas (AP) — Blake Shapen had known since the end of spring practice that he would be the starting quarterback for 10th-ranked Baylor. He spent that time really getting to know his teammates, and they were certainly on the same page to start the season.
Shapen completed 17 of 20 passes for 214 yards with two long touchdowns and had a nifty dive into the end zone for another score on the final play of the first half as the Bears beat FCS team Albany 69-10 in their season opener Saturday night.
“I think tonight was just a glimpse of what you’ll see in the future,” Shapen said. “I think it was good for some of our guys, and especially me, to get out there and be able to touch the ground again and be able to play again.”
Gavin Holmes, the sixth-year Bears wideout who missed all of last season because of a foot injury, returned a punt 72 yards for a score. Monaray Baldwin had two touchdowns, on a 47-yard catch for Baylor's first score before adding a 50-yard reverse run after halftime.
The reigning Big 12 champion Bears have a six-game winning streak, matching fourth-ranked Clemson for the longest active among FBS teams. The Tigers open their season Monday night against Georgia Tech.
Shapen's 1-yard TD run gave Baylor a 35-7 halftime lead. Shapen swept to the right sideline and dived toward the end zone. He switched the ball from his right to left hand and was able to reach it out to hit the pylon before falling down out of bounds.
“One of the things that I appreciate about Blake is that he is very understated, and not a lot of drama with him,” coach Dave Aranda said. “Probably the most drama is what’s on his head with his mohawk and all that. Outside of that, you know, there’s not a whole lot happening, which is very just Joe Cool with all of it.”
Shapen started twice late last season when Gerry Bohanon was hurt last, and in the Big 12 championship game completed his first 17 passes and had three TDs. Shapen won the quarterback job in spring practice over Bohanon, now South Florida's starter.
“Being able to know that I’m going to be the guy, and know that I’m going to be the one playing, has helped a lot,” Shapen said.
The Bears led 21-0 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter when Holmes broke away from an initial tackler after fielding the punt, then weaved through other defenders toward the sideline and into the end zone. He started four games as a freshman in 2017, but was limited to one game the next two seasons after twice tearing the ACL in the same knee. He had 33 catches while starting all nine games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
FIRST DANE START
Albany sophomore Reese Poffenbarger threw a 17-yard TD to Julian Hicks while completing 13 of 26 passes, and was also the team's top rusher with 45 yards on 12 carries. The transfer from Old Dominion had never taken a college snap before coming out of a four-quarterback competition in fall camp to start the first game.
“I thought we found a quarterback that can make plays with both his feet and his arm,” Albany coach Greg Gattuso said.
Albany: The Great Danes are 3-13 overall since making the FCS playoffs during the 2019 season. They were 2-9 last fall, after going 1-3 in a spring season when the 2020 fall season was pushed back because of the pandemic.
“I thought our kids competed hard in the first half,” Gattuso said. “We were beat up in the second half. Took a lot of starters out. A lot of cramping. There (were) moments in the game where we competed really well.”
Baylor: Third-year coach Aranda got what he wanted with a crisper start this season. This game was never in question, and the Bears added four touchdowns in the final 17 minutes after the starters were out of the game. Long before their Big 12 title and Sugar Bowl victory last season on way to a school-record 12 wins, the Bears grinded out a 29-20 win in their opener at Texas State, a Sun Belt team that went on to a losing record.
The Bears did what they were supposed to do against a lower-division team, so they won't move up because of that. But they will surely remain in the Top 10 going into a tougher game next week on the road.
Albany: Plays its home opener Saturday against New Hampshire.
Baylor: At No. 25 BYU next Saturday. The Bears last year won 38-24 at home over the Cougars, who join the Big 12 next season.
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Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press