By Daniel Hill
The Baylor football team got off to a rough start in Big 12 Conference play by losing four consecutive games to West Virginia, Texas Christian, Texas and Iowa State. In its last two games, Baylor has shown marked improvement: a victory over Kansas and a narrow defeat to Oklahoma.
This Saturday, Baylor has a chance to turn the world of college football upside down with No. 1 Kansas State coming to Waco for a nationally televised showdown at 7 p.m. Baylor senior quarterback Nick Florence knows Kansas State presents a massive challenge.
“It’s motivation to play whoever comes to Waco,” Florence said. “They are a good team. They have a lot going for them, they play great football, and they play disciplined football. And yeah, they are number one. It is what it is. Our goal is for them not be number one when they leave Waco, so we are going for it and that’s the way we have to approach the game.”
Baylor senior wide receiver Terrance Williams leads the nation in receiving yards per game with 159.0. Williams was recently named one of the 10 semifinalists for the 2012 Biletnikoff Award. The Biletnikoff Award is presented annually to college football’s top receiver.
Although the Bears did lose to Oklahoma last Saturday, many positive signs have emerged from the last two games. For example, turnover ratio, rushing offense, total points allowed and total yards allowed are all heading in the right direction. On the season, Baylor is allowing opponents to score 39.4 points per game. In just Big 12 play, the Bears allow 44.3 points per game.
The Baylor defense is certainly improving, though. In the first four Big 12 games, Baylor conceded 52.5 points per game to West Virginia, Texas Christian, Texas and Iowa.
In their last two games against Kansas and No. 12 Oklahoma, the Bears have allowed just 28 points per game.
Not only are opponents scoring less, but they are also moving the ball less against the Bears.
In the last two games, Baylor is allowing only 401 yards per game. Compare that to Baylor’s first four Big 12 games, in which Baylor allowed 599.5 yards per game. For the season, Baylor allows 518.5 yards per game. Another area that has improved for the Bears is the turnover ratio.
The Bears are 4-1 this year when they win the turnover battle. Baylor did lose to Oklahoma despite winning the turnover battle 2-0. In the first four game stretch of Big 12 play, the Bears only had two takeaways and lost the ball due to a turnover a whopping 13 times. In the first three Big 12 games, Baylor didn’t force a single turnover and gave the ball away nine times.
In the last three games, Baylor has forced six takeaways. The Bears are not just taking the ball away from their opponents, but they are also possessing the ball for longer periods of time thanks to the newfound rushing attack powered by junior running back Glasco Martin and sophomore running back Lache Seastrunk.
In the last two games, the Baylor offense has rushed for an average of 275.5 yards. In the rest of Big 12 play, the Bears rushed for an average of 148.7 yards.
One reason Baylor has improved lately has been the growing cohesion among the offensive line.
The offensive line is gaining experience and comfort with each other and that has helped the rushing attack.
“I choose to believe we are getting better,” head coach Art Briles said. “I don’t know if the facts will prove me wrong or not, but as of now, I think we are a better team than we were a month ago on offense, defense and special teams. We have two new tackles, a new center and a guy who moved to guard, so four out of five guys were new. Now they’ve played nine football games, and they’re better than they were, and they should be.”
With Kansas State looming on Saturday, the Bears know that they have to play fundamental football in order to compete with Kansas State.
“Just being disciplined and playing our assignments and being where I need to be,” junior linebacker Eddie Lackey said. “I guess that’s just the biggest part of playing a team like Kansas State, just because they don’t make a whole lot of mistakes being the number one team in the nation. You have to be disciplined, and you have to play a role and play every play like that’s going to decide the outcome of the game.”
Kansas State’s Collin Klein is the pulse of the Wildcats. He carries the team.
Klein is the Heisman Trophy frontrunner for a reason. He has amassed 2,020 yards passing and 12 touchdowns.
Klein is also a major threat on the ground. He’s rushed for 748 yards and 19 touchdowns.
The Wildcats head coach, Bill Snyder, is known as the “scheme doctor” because he does such an exceptional job game-planning for Kansas State’s opponents.
As the No. 1 team in the nation, the Wildcats have a target on their back and they are sure to receive Baylor’s best punch.
If Baylor can continue playing solid football, then it can certainly present Kansas State with a challenging game at Floyd Casey Stadium.