WACO, Texas — WACO, Texas — For one half, the Sam Houston State Bearkats were dreaming of a big upset.
The Bearkats led Baylor 20-10, were controlling the line of scrimmage and driving the ball at will.
Then the second half started and so did the turnovers and bumbles that doomed any chance of getting a win.
Baylor quarterback Nick Florence passed for three touchdowns and set up another with a 60-yard run as the Bears rallied in the second half to a 48-23 victory on Saturday night. Florence threw touchdowns to Jordan Najvar and Terrence Williams in the third quarter, and his long run in the fourth set up Glasco Martin's 5-yard TD after Sam Houston State had pulled within 24-23.
Brian Bell passed for 285 yards for the Bearkats, but he also committed four turnovers and tripped on fourth down at the Baylor one when Sam Houston State had a chance to punch in a touchdown to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
"We should have finished playing the game," Bell said. "That was my fault. That's our motto this year, 'Finish,' and that's what we've got to do."
The Bearkats, who played for the Football Championship Subdivision national title last season, clearly weren't intimidated by playing on the road in the Big 12.
Bell led Sam Houston State on two long touchdown drives in the second quarter. He scored on a 1-yard sneak and his 26-yard TD pass to Tim Flanders stunned the home crowd of 44,856 that had just watched highlights of former Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy last season. Bearkats cornerback Dax Swanson also saved a touchdown with an interception at the goal line at the end of the first half.
"We should have played better in the second half," Flanders said. "We had them where we wanted them."
The Baylor defense made the play that turned the game around for the Bears early in the third.
Terrance Lloyd sacked Bell, forcing a fumble that was scooped up by Trevor Clemons-Valdez at the Sam Houston State nine. Florence found Najvar wide open in the flat on the next play for an easy touchdown that pulled the Bears within 20-17.
"We had to get a stop. An urgent stop. That's what we did," Baylor defensive back Ahmad Dixon said.
Baylor grabbed the lead at 24-20 when Florence found Williams for their second touchdown connection. The throw split two defenders and Williams tip-toed in the back of the end zone to keep one foot in bounds for a legal catch.
The Bearkats bumbled away a big chance at the start of the fourth quarter. Trey Diller's 55-yard punt return set up the Bearkats inside the Baylor 10. But on fourth down at the Baylor one, Bell tripped and fell coming out of the snap, downing the ball at the Baylor 5-yard line before the Bearkats could run their play.
"That would have been a big play," Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz said.
Baylor finally put the game away when Florence rolled to his left, turned up field and got to the sideline to rip off his long run that set up Martin's 5-yard touchdown.
Lache Seastrunk scored on a 15-yard run and Darius Jones added a 73-yard interception return with 12 seconds left for Baylor's final touchdowns.
Baylor's eight-game win streak is the second longest in the nation. Bears coach Art Briles acknowledged that his team wasn't sharp, but he wasn't about to complain.
"I've been in this thing long enough to know that if you've got more points than they do at the end of the game, you ought to be happy," Briles said.