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By Krista Pirtle
Saturday is do or die for the Baylor Bears as they travel to Ames, Iowa, to take on the Iowa State Cyclones at 6 p.m. for their homecoming in 40-degree weather.
“We’ve had our first half of the season, and now we’re going into our second half,” head coach Art Briles said. “I don’t know if it’s a good analogy or not, but I use why divorces happen – there’s a variety of reasons, but sometimes it’s because you hear things, you see things, you do things, and sometimes it amounts over time. Then it goes to a point to where you think you can get away from it. What we’re trying to do is start cleaning. We have six games left, and those six games will determine our football season.”
Senior quarterback Nick Florence is a semi-finalist for the Davey O’Brien award and a finalist for the Campbell Trophy, and he leads the nation in total offense with 407.2 yards per game.
Helping his numbers on the outside is senior wide receiver Terrance Williams who was recently named a mid-season All-American by Sports Illustrated who leads the nation with 168.8 receiving yards per game and 21.6 yards per catch.
The Baylor offense has challenged opposing defenses, but Iowa State prides itself in its defense behind senior linebackers Jack Knott and A.J. Klein.
“They’re just good,” Briles said. They’ve got a really good defense, and they’ve got a lot of good people. They’ve had good people for a long time. The two linebackers, [A.J.] Klein and [Jake] Knott, both started 33 straight games. Really, really good football players. Up front, they’re big, strong and physical. They’ve always had skilled people on the back end.”
However, when Iowa State allows its opponent to score 24 or more points, its record is 3-22.
“They are a really good defensive team, and have always been a really good defensive team,” senior wide receiver Lanear Sampson said. “They play hard, and they hit hard. They are physical, and that’s what they are known for.”
The Iowa State offense is led by a pair of quarterbacks, senior Steele Jantz and sophomore Jared Barnett. The Cyclone’s top receiver, senior Josh Lenz, sat out the team’s game last Saturday against Oklahoma State due to a quadriceps injury. He has been given the okay to play against Baylor.
The defensive side of the ball offers a chance to prove itself for Baylor. After three straight losses giving up 70, 49 and 56 points without forcing a turnover, improvements are anticipated after a week of practice.
“The scheme is controllable from a standpoint of making the calls, and the other is having the confidence and having the ability to make plays while the ball is in the air,” Briles said. “We’re always working on being aggressive. That’s the name of the game on both sides of the ball.”
Last week against Texas, juniors cornerback K.J. Morton and safety Sam Holl went down with injuries, watching the end of the game at Texas in their sweat suits from the sidelines.
Both are listed on the depth chart, but there is some uncertainty with Morton.
So far this season, sophomore linebacker Bryce Hager is No. 4 in the nation and No. 1 in the Big 12, averaging 11.7 tackles per game.
Junior nickelback Ahmad Dixon is No. 2 in the conference with 9.8 tackles.
No matter the statistics, at this point, Baylor football is focusing on finishing well.
“We have six ball games left,” Florence said. “There is still a ton of football left. We were in kind of the same situation last year, and we were able to come out of it and overcome it. People remember how you finish a season, and that’s we are going for.”
Step one: beat Iowa State.