By Daniel Hill
After four Big 12 contests, the Baylor Bears are still winless in the conference after Iowa State defeated the Bears 35-21 on Saturday. Now is the time for Baylor football to either sink or swim.
Seven games into the season, with a 3-4 record, some trends have become disturbing with this Baylor team. In all four of Baylor’s losses, the Bears are a combined minus-11 in turnover ratio. Aside from just the turnover ratio, the Bears have also failed to capitalize on golden opportunities and make the crucial plays down the stretch that generate victories.
“We are just one or two plays away it feels like, and it’s been the same thing the past couple weeks,” junior tight end Jordan Najvar said. “If we can make the play it’s a totally different game. In this conference, in order to be a good team you have to make those plays. We are going to work hard to fix that, and we will fix that for the upcoming weeks.”
After Baylor recovered a sneaky onside kick from Iowa State to start the game, the Bears were given prime field position. The gift of field position would ultimately amount to nothing as Baylor senior quarterback Nick Florence fumbled into the end zone where Iowa State recovered for a touchback.
Then Baylor forced the Cyclones to punt. However, the ball was touched by a Baylor player and was recovered by Iowa State.
On its first possession, Iowa State attempted a field goal and missed. Fortune seemed to turn the Bears’ way and they capitalized on the errant field goal to march down the field as senior running back Jarred Salubi rushed for a two-yard touchdown.
For the first time ever under defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, the Baylor defense forced two takeaways and yet the Bears still lost the game.
Senior linebacker Rodney Chadwick made his first start of the season and intercepted Iowa State senior quarterback Steele Jantz. Junior safety Sam Holl also recovered a fumble for the Bears. Those two takeaways are the only turnovers forced by the Baylor defense so far in Big 12 play.
The defensive struggles of this Baylor squad have been well documented and they are ranked 122nd in points against and 120th in yards allowed. Defensive struggles aside, the Bears are struggling as a team. They simply are not making the type of game-changing plays that produce positive results.
A perfect example of this is when the football bounced right out of senior safety Mike Hicks’ hands for what should have been an easy interception.
“It was a slant route,” Hicks said. “I saw the quarterback eye-balling his receiver, but the referee was right in my way. At that point I wasn’t sure where the meeting point between the ball and receiver was going to be, and sure enough the ball came right to me. Maybe the referee distracted me, but no excuses that ball should have been caught and intercepted. Trust me, that won’t happen again.”
This Baylor team is stocked with tons of talent but the results simply haven’t shown up in the win and loss column. Missed opportunities have equaled inconsistent performances. Specifically, turnovers have plagued the Bears this season. In their three wins this year, Baylor is plus-six in turnovers. In Big 12 Conference play, the Bears are minus-eleven in turnovers. If the Bears can solve their turnover woes, the team should be able to gain some momentum for the final five games of
“We focus on it at practice every day,” Florence said. “We work on protecting the ball and me making good decisions throwing the ball. We just have to do better protecting the ball. It seemed like things didn’t go our way the other night. We just have to put a complete game together. That’s our biggest thing; we still haven’t put a complete game together.”
Florence leads the nation in both total offense with 414.1 yards per game and 378.9 passing yards per game. Even with the extravagant offense, the Bears have not yet performed as a team at a high level for a full 60 minutes.
There are still five games left in the 2012 campaign and plenty of time for the Bears to find their stride and make an impressive run to finish the season. This starts with taking care of the football and capitalizing on golden opportunities.