By Collin Bryant | Sports Writer
Baylor head football coach Matt Rhule announced in his weekly Big 12 teleconference on Monday that sophomore quarterback Zach Smith would start on Saturday against Duke and that senior quarterback Anu Solomon sustained a wrist injury on Saturday. Baylor football fell 17-10 to the University of Texas-San Antonio at McLane Stadium in the first meeting between the two schools.
“We’re going to turn to Zach and let him do his thing,” Rhule said. “We’ll rally around Zach. He’s a competitor, you know. Anu got banged up a little bit in the game and Zach is ready to go. He’s healthy now. I think that ankle’s 100 percent. He’s moving around well.”
One of the major issues for Baylor against UTSA was their offense.The Bears (0-2) put up only 274 yards in total offense compared to the 375 for UTSA (1-0). In particular, the passing strategy was ineffective.
Solomon completed just 10 of 26 passes for 121 yards with one touchdown and one interception. For UTSA, the passing attack was crucial to its success. Roadrunners’ senior quarterback Dalton Strum completed 15 of 20 passes for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Without reason or explanation after the game from Rhule, sophomore quarterback Zach Smith made a brief appearance early first quarter. Smith completed one pass to Chris Platt for 16 yards, but failed to pick up the first down. Despite the struggles of Solomon throughout the rest of the game, Rhule did not turn to Smith again.
The defense, however, improved tremendously from week one to week two. The Bears only put up 155 yards through the air compared to Liberty’s 457 yards, and held the team to only 17 points versus the 48 allowed last week.
Baylor’s new offensive scheme struggled in the transition, passing substantially less compared to past seasons. Whether it be the new coach, young offensive line, or the struggle at quarterback, something still seems to be missing to create a winning combination.
After Baylor’s offensive woes on Saturday, the question of who should be starting quarterback came up once again.
Rhule said that he was unsure if the team’s support was still behind Solomon.
“You know, I don’t know that,” Rhule said. “I went over and challenged him at one point during the game, and they were rallied around him. I think so.”
Rhule also admitted that he contemplated making a switch to Smith at some point in the game, but that “it wasn’t the time or the place” to make the switch.
After the game, Solomon said that his play simply wasn’t good enough, but that he still feels that he can compete at a high level.
“I wasn’t connecting. Receivers were ready to play today. I just wasn’t connecting with them,” Solomon said. “I feel confident to compete, but I mean it is what it is you know, this game is on me.”
Rhule decided to stick with Solomon on Saturday, but he didn’t wait long to make a change moving forward. Smith, who played in 10 games last season with four starts, threw for 1526 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2016.
Though the Bears have gotten off to a slow start, Rhule believes in the direction of the team. Rhule voiced his belief in his process, naming various successful processes in his past.
“This is going to be awesome. This is going to be a process. My process is the same process we won a National Championship at Penn State,” Rhule said. “My process is the same process I watched with Tom Coughlin. My process will work with these kids. When I say my process, it’s just working hard, growing kids up, stop making mistakes. We just aren’t doing the process at a high enough level yet, and we will, we will.”
While team morale may be low, Rhule is confident the season can be turned around and that adversity was inevitable when he accepted the position.
“That’s why I came here. I came here because I knew it was going to be hard. I knew these kids needed a coach that believed in them, that was going to fight for them,” Rhule said. “They fought for me tonight, so I’m proud of them, and I’ll come back next week and be ready to go.”
Baylor hopes to capture its first victory when it travels to Raleigh, N.C. to take on Duke (2-0) at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.