By Daniel Hill
West Virginia: 12 of 15, 80 percent
TCU: 14 of 19, 73.68 percent
Big 12 Conference: 26 of 34, 76 percent
Granted, one of those conference games was against one of the best offenses in the nation, West Virginia.
The prolific West Virginia offense gained a first down on 12 of 15 first down attempts.
Against a notably less explosive TCU offense, Baylor allowed the Horned Frogs to convert on 14 of 19 third down attempts.
“We have to get off the field on third downs,” senior defensive tackle Gary Mason Jr said. “That was our big problem. We could have easily taken away three touchdowns if we could have just gotten off the field on third down. It hurt us a lot. That kind of made the outcome of the game not go our way”
Forcing an opponent into a third down situation is a normal goal for any defense.
However, the Baylor defense has to sustain their first and second down defensive efforts by making the required stops on third downs.
“All week, that was our game plan, to get those guys into third down and long situations,” junior nickelback Ahmad Dixon said. “We knew that they were a powerhouse team on first and second down, that’s when they normally make their big plays. If you get them into third down and make them predictable, they tend to fold.”
Only, TCU didn’t fold on third downs and neither will any Big 12 opponent.
“We had those guys in third down situations, and we just didn’t make the plays we needed to make,” Dixon said.
On third down plays, Baylor has allowed opponents to convert 63.64 percent of the time, which ranks 120th.
Obviously, Baylor has to make changes on third down.
In regards to improving the third down defense, the Baylor defense believes they can and will improve.
“Yes, it’s very fixable,” Mason Jr. said.
“It was all alignments, sometimes guys lined up a little too far from the sticks (first-down marker), and allowed those hitches (route pattern) to convert. But all of that is easily fixable. I’m anxious to go to practice and work on the fixes and what we need to get better on. I hope it all comes together certainly. I’m very positive for this.”
Not only, can alignments be improved upon by the defense, but the fundamentals of tackling also have to be a focus for the Bears.
“That is one of the main things that we have to focus on this week is wrapping up and breaking down and tackling better because we had way too many missed tackles this last game, and that’s just something that we can improve on,” junior safety Sam Holl said.
Tackling and defensive alignments are two things the Bears can do to improve their defense as a whole and improve their stinginess on third downs.
Even though the Bears have struggled on third downs so far in the Big 12, there are still reasons to be optimistic about the defense for the remainder of the season.
“Right now, I feel like we are hungry,” Holl said.
“We are looking forward to the rest of the season. We are looking forward to this week. We can make a statement for the rest of the season. I have no doubt that we will be ready for this weekend,” he said.