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No. 20 Baylor football has a tough task coming up this Saturday when they try to contain University of Louisiana-Monroe dual-threat senior quarterback Kolton Browning, who helped ULM score 42 points against the Bears last season in a 47-42 Baylor win.
This season, the Bears boast the second-best scoring defense in the entire NCAA by allowing 8.0 points per game.
“He’s [Kolton Browning] just a great athlete,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “He was a four-sport guy in high school. He extends plays. He’s got great awareness, great body control and great balance. He has a very active arm. He’s just a player and he’s a winner. He does a great job.”
Defending dual-threat quarterbacks has been a challenge for defenders at all levels of football.
The NFL experienced this firsthand with the emergence of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.
All of these mobile quarterbacks spell trouble for opposing defenses through the air and the ground.
Schemes incorporating mobile quarterbacks are more common in college football, but it still doesn’t make it easier to defend.
Against Wake Forest, Browning completed 48 passes on 68 attempts for 315 yards and three touchdowns to lead ULM to victory.
Browning’s ability to scramble and extend plays is what sets him apart.
“He’s definitely the focal point,” Briles said. “They put the ball 68 times in his hand last week throwing it. That’s not talking about the four or five called runs two or three sacks and scrambles that he had too. So out of their 107 plays, he was probably the main focus on 80 of them. He’s the guy.”
Solid tackling will be key for Baylor as they try to keep the offense honest.
Last year, Baylor gave up 560 yards of total offense with Browning going 25-of-39 for 272 yards passing and two touchdowns. He also ran for 49 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown on the ground.
Browning is third in the country with three or more games with three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, behind Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel and Clemson senior quarterback Tajh Boyd.
“He’s good at passing the ball and he’s good at running,” junior linebacker Bryce Hager said. “That’s what got us last year. He’s pretty good at scrambling around.”
The Bears do come into this game having the advantage of prior experience with the ULM offense.
The previous year, the Bears gave up 31 first downs: 13 rushing and 16 passing.
ULM’s balanced offense kept the Baylor defense honest, which made shutting down the quarterback even more difficult a task.
“We will have a good game plan for them coming into this week, so we’ll know how to stop all that stuff,” Hager said. “We have the film from last year, so we are able to correct it.”
The defensive line understands that the quarterback needs to be accounted for because of the mobile threat. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett must make sure that the defense is one step ahead of the offense. Busted plays is what allowed big plays last year.
“It’s a tougher test,” senior defensive end Terrance Lloyd said. “The quarterback is mobile, so I think it will be a big thing for our D-line to know that he’s mobile and able to move around in the pocket.”
The schemes that are used to defend drop-back passers are different from dual-threat quarterbacks because of the additional pressure placed on defenders. Not only does this have a physical effect on the personnel, but also a psychological effect. It’s important for the defense to stay patient and not to force any plays. Having awareness becomes increasingly important because in an instant Browning can run for a first down or more.
Unlike last year, Baylor hopes to shore up on missed tackles and contain Browning and the ULM offense.
With each game this season the task becomes more difficult, but the new look Baylor defense is up to the challenge.