By Daniel Hill
On Saturday, the Bears will take on the Sam Houston State Bearkats, but it’s been a week since Baylor defeated SMU by a score of 59-24 in their rocky season opener.
“We didn’t feel like we were completely clean against SMU and we worked on correcting things,” said head coach Art Briles.
Baylor had a total of 10 penalties in the SMU home opener that cost the team 85 yards.
The offense knows that it has to eliminate the false starts that plagued them on Sept. 2.
“We can’t have that,” senior quarterback Nick Florence said. “That’s uncalled for. You can say part of it is first-game [jitters], but it’s just guys taking a little break mentally. I did that a few times on some things and we can’t let that happen. We learn from that, and I think we’ll be able to clear those things up this week.”
Last season, Sam Houston State went 14-1 and made it to the national championship game of the FCS level.
Even though the Bearkats are not a Division I opponent, Baylor knows that it can’t take its competition lightly.
“They are a phenomenal team,” junior nickelback Ahmad Dixon said. “Last year they went to the national championship and we are very aware of that. We know that they are not just a team that we can run over. We know what they are capable of doing, so we have to put them away early.”
With last year’s 10-win season behind it, fans, coaches and players are excited about Baylor football this year.
The recent success has led to a stronger home field advantage for the Bears at Floyd Casey Stadium.
“I just know it was really good the other day, and I know it was really good last year,” Briles said. “It is becoming a tough ticket. The great thing about college is you can really have a home field advantage. It helps us when opponents come in here, and they know they are walking into a tough stadium to play in. It’s going to be loud, and the student body is going to be involved.”
The Baylor defense forced two fumbles and had two interceptions versus SMU.
The Bears hope to win the turnover margin once again this week with the aggressive defensive approach.
“If you win the turnover battle, you have a good chance of winning the football game most of the time,” Briles said. “We did a good job winning the turnover battle against SMU. If we continue to do that, we will continue to climb the ladder and getting happy because that is how you win games. You work on the offensive side of the ball to protect it and you work on taking the ball on the defensive side.”
Baylor’s revamped defense features junior Eddie Lackey at linebacker and Dixon at nickelback.
At times against SMU, Baylor placed six defensive backs on the field.
Dixon was impressed with the inspirational Baylor debut of Lackey at linebacker as he recorded an interception to go along with eight tackles.
“Eddie is very quiet,” Dixon said. “To see him on the field do what he does, it’s very uplifting. I have a class with Eddie, and he is straight to the point. On the field, to see him be so verbal, and so into the game gives me energy and I feed off of that.”
“Levi [Norwood] is an excellent return person, because he fields the football and he has a good sense of making the first guy miss,” Briles said. “[Darryl] Stonum has the ability to be good at that because he has experience at it.”
Norwood enjoys the role of returning punts.
“I love doing it,” Norwood said. “If they told me I wasn’t playing receiver, and I was just returning the punts, and I’d be fine. I would be ready to make plays back there. It’s exciting back there.”
Norwood also has confidence in his fellow return man, Stonum.
“He’s fast just like everyone else, he’s matured, and he knows where to cut and where to make things happen. He’s a pretty smart player” Norwood said.
In all aspects of the game, offense, defense and special teams, the Bears need to improve in order to compete with the cream of the crop in the Big 12.