By Krista Pirtle
What looked like a successful start for the Baylor defense against SMU on Sept. 2 has turned out to be fool’s gold. In the non-conference games to follow, the warning signs were there that the defense was struggling.
The Bears are 3-3, losing three straight games where they allowed 63, 49 and 56 points respectively.
So far this season, the Baylor defense is No. 120 in the nation after allowing 553.2 yards and 44 points per game through the first six games.
The Baylor offense is setting up shop on the opposite end of the spectrum, ranking No. 3 nationally in both total offense and scoring offense with 574.2 yards and 48 points per game. Baylor head coach Art Briles thinks that if there’s room to improve, it will happen.
The spark for improvement, Briles thinks, is not found in the removal of defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who has become the No. 1 target o
f the blame by those outside the team.
At the football conference on Monday afternoon, Briles was asked about Bennett’s job status throughout the remainder of the season.
“He’s a good football coach and has taken care of business on that side of the ball,” Briles said. “If a car is rolling down the highway, you’re not going to jump out while it’s moving. We’ve got six games left.”
The solution for the lack of tackles is being searched for in the Bears’ schemes and personnel.
“If the players don’t do what we expect them to do, we switch players,” Briles said. “If it’s a scheme deal, we look at our schemes.”
Of the many problems this defense has had, start with third downs.
The Bears’ defense is allowing opposing offenses to convert at a 63 percent rate. Baylor prided itself in its nine forced turnovers during non-conference play. Currently, it’s another facet where the defense is lacking.
“That’s really the most disturbing fact, in Big 12 Conference play ,that we don’t have a turnover,” Briles said. “We’re minus-nine in that category. It’s not a good stat to have on your side if you’re a stat guy. As far as forcing turnovers, creating turnovers – that’s a constant thing that you’re always doing. It’s kind of a momentum deal to where things get rolling, you get one or two turnovers – it stops or creates the flow of the game depending on which side you’re on. Our job is to protect the ball on offense and get turnovers on defense. We haven’t done an extremely good job of that prior.”
While the defense has failed to turn the ball over, the offense has not, committing nine in conference play, including six in the 49-21 loss to TCU.
“A lot of outside people like to point their fingers at the defense, but the offense and special teams have made their share of mistakes,” Baylor quarterback Nick Florence said. “We’re in this together. It’s a team game. Our defense made some stops (against Texas) that we could have taken advantage of, and we didn’t.”
Baylor junior nickelback Ahmad Dixon said he has complete faith in Bennett and sees the No. 1 target as the players’ production on the field. “Even though we’re not winning and looking bad defensively, I still stand behind him,” Dixon said. “I know the plays he calls and the kind of guy he is. If we line up and play good it’s going to work. He’s calling plays, but we’re missing tackles and not batting down balls and getting interceptions. It’s on us.”