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By Krista Pirtle
Washington travels 2,161 miles to the Alamo Bowl with facets Baylor has faced all year: a decent defense, a fiery quarterback whose rush game is nonexistent and a strong running back.
Sophomore quarterback Keith Price’s numbers pale in comparison to Baylor’s Robert Griffin III; his ball placement and quick release, however, are similar to that of the Heisman candidate’s. Price set a school record this season with 29 scoring passes.
Baylor can try to blitz him like it did against the Sooners’ Landry Jones; Price is squirmy, however, and can find a solid read while he scrambles.
This is where the Baylor secondary must step in and play lights out.
In the Bears’ final conference game against Texas, coverages were blown and gaps were not filled. Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett saw the problems and drew up a solution that paved the way for his defense to force six turnovers.
Price, however, is a more confident quarterback than Texas’ Case McCoy and has no problem attacking over the top. Baylor safeties Mike Hicks and Sam Holl will need to be at their best to jump his reads and force him to run the ball himself.
Attacking the secondary will be key for the Huskies, but their rush game can prove just as destructive.
Junior tailback Chris Polk is 5’11” and weighs in at 222 pounds.
He and Baylor’s senior running back Terrance Ganaway are neck and neck in statistics with Polk averaging 111.8 yards per game and Ganaway with 112.2.
Ganaway is more of a downhill runner, willing and eager to break through the gap the offensive line has created and then lower his shoulder to power an extra handful of yards.
Polk looks for the outside edge where the receivers can set up extra blocks for him.
The Huskies also have a play featuring Polk that resulted in touchdowns against both Arizona and Washington State. Two additional players are on the line of scrimmage while a pair of receivers overload on the right side of the ball.
Polk will either start on Price’s left side or switch from the right to the left as the play is being called.
Once the ball is snapped, the player on the far left end of the line blocks the right tackle on his outside shoulder allowing a flag route down the sideline for Polk, leaving him wide open to catch the ball and take it to the house.
The key defensive player in this set is the linebacker on the weak side; he cannot bite toward the middle because he will be beat on the outside.
Shutting down Polk will be key for Baylor. When Washington wants to line up in the wildcat formation, the Huskies favor lining sophomore Jesse Callier in shotgun behind center to plow a handful of key yards.
As far as the Washington defense goes, it is about as mediocre as the Big 12’s.
Baylor’s wide receiver screen is an option but not the best bet with sophomore safety Sean Parker, who has a team-high four interceptions on the season.
The Bears can rotate between running the game clock and firing from the hurry-up.
The more time Robert Griffin III has the ball, however, the less likely the Huskies are to score.