By Daniel Hill
Baylor football fans are feeling a sense of panic this week after the Bears lost 49-21 to TCU on Saturday. I wish I could offer some words of encouragement and tell you that everything will be okay this football season, but some numbers just don’t lie.
Baylor’s defense is one of the worst in all of college football. Of the 124 FBS Division I teams, the Bears defense is ranked 121st in points allowed.
Unfortunately, it gets worse. When it comes to yards per game, the Bears defense is dead last, ranking 124 out of 124 while giving up a whopping 558.8 yards per game.
It would be all too easy to blame the loss to TCU on Baylor senior quarterback Nick Florence’s season-high four interceptions. But when the defense is so porous that the offense is forced to score a touchdown on every possession, it’s no wonder that the offense feels pressure to make plays and take unnecessary chances to try to score more points.
If Baylor had a respectable defense, would Florence be more conservative and throw passes more cautiously? Most likely.
Also, you have to give TCU credit where credit is due. TCU’s defense is the 11th best in the nation and they proved it against Baylor. Horned Frog head coach Gary Patterson has always taken pride in coaching a defensive-minded team with a physical attitude. TCU’s defense ranks first in all of college football with 14 interceptions.
Credit must also be given to TCU freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin. After only two practices at the quarterback position (Boykin had been a running back), he was thrust into the starting quarterback role before the Iowa State game. Boykin struggled against the Cyclones and threw three interceptions. But after a full week of taking reps in practice as the starting quarterback, Boykin showed natural talent against Baylor by throwing for 261 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Boykin’s athletic ability also posed problems for the Bears defense.
Baylor has only faced one top-25 defense all season in TCU. In the Bears’ remaining seven games, four teams boast a top-25 defense (Iowa State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Texas Tech).
To go along with TCU’s tough defense, another reason the Bears lost on Saturday was because they lost the turnover battle by a shocking margin. The Horned Frogs took advantage of Baylor’s four interceptions and two fumbles to have six forced turnovers. Baylor, on the other hand, forced zero turnovers.
While this was the Baylor offense’s first time seeing a top defense this season, the entire team must make improvements.
When you hang your hat on a high-octane offense, a few turnovers can quickly change the complexion of a game.
For example, at the start of the fourth quarter on Saturday the Bears were only down by seven points (28-21) and TCU had the ball. The defense was unable to keep TCU out of the end zone on freshman running back Laderice Sanders’ touchdown run. This gave TCU a 14-point advantage. In the next two consecutive Baylor possessions, TCU forced turnovers. These turnovers, combined with Baylor’s deficiencies on defense, led to a quick 42-21 TCU lead with 9:11 remaining in the quarter.
The bottom line is that Baylor can’t continue to dig its own grave with offensive turnovers.
When the offense gives the ball away, things quickly go downhill for any football team, especially one with a defense ranked 121 in the nation.
Baylor’s prolific offense will inevitably score points throughout the game. If the team can win the turnover battle through defensive takeaways, then Baylor will win more often than not.
In Baylor’s three wins this year, it has forced six more turnovers than it has committed. In two losses, Baylor is has given the ball away seven more times than it has taken it away.
The formula for a Baylor victory is simple.
Take care of the ball on offense and force turnovers on defense.