Sophomore nickelback Travon Blanchard provided the Baylor defense a spark and helped create turnovers in the game against Texas Tech last weekend. Blanchard’s defensive effort led the Bears’ defensive control over Texas Tech’s offense, which resulted in the Bears’ first Big 12 conference win of the season.
Blanchard has been effective in pass coverage and stopping the run for the Bears this season, head coach Art Briles said.
In his last two games, the Orange, Texas, native has forced two fumbles, recovered one fumble and made one interception. Blanchard credits his turnovers to his high energy level that he tries to bring to each game.
The production from the nickelback hasn’t been a surprise to Briles, however.
“We’ve always known Blanchard would be a really good player,” Briles said. “[His production] is a maturity deal that we just [had] to go through the bad to get to the good. [He just had to] understand his role in the system, be disciplined and know what he’s doing. You back that up with ability and that’s where he’s at now.”
With turnovers being such a big deal for an offense that can score as quickly as Baylor’s can, Briles said having a guy like Blanchard on defense is valuable.
“The guy is a playmaker; the guy’s long, he can run and he can make plays,” Briles said. “He’s a really good player and brings a good dimension to us.”
The head coach explained the importance of creating turnovers and said Blanchard has made big contributions with his play.
Despite this being Blanchard’s first year starting on the defense, the sophomore maintained that he has been comfortable from the beginning of the season.
“I’ve been starting since spring, so even though we’ve just [started Big 12 play], I’ve been in the starting lineup for a while. Each week you just get better and make sure you’re not the same as you were last week. Our defense is getting better each game,” Blanchard said.
The Bears’ defense had talked about trying to make a statement in the first game of Big 12 play. Given the fact that Baylor had lost to Michigan State in their last appearance at AT&T Stadium, the Bears were seeking redemption at the familiar venue, the nickelback said.
“Last time we were [at AT&T Stadium] we left with a very bitter taste in our mouth as a defense,” Blanchard said. “We felt like we didn’t close the game out very well, at all. That’s one thing that [our] coaches preached to us during the game and before the game – is finishing the game.”
Although the team came away with the win against a conference foe, the Baylor defense wasn’t pleased with the result, Blanchard said.
“As a defense, we hold ourselves to a really high standard and we weren’t too happy about giving up 35 points,” Blanchard said. “The good thing about it is that most of the points were self-inflicted, so we can fix it and polish things up before it comes back to haunt us in the big game.”
The next game on the schedule for Baylor is the Kansas Jayhawks. The Bears will travel to Lawrence to take on a team who hasn’t won a game this season. Blanchard said although Baylor is favored by 44 points against the Jayhawks, it won’t be difficult to stay focused.
“We take every game the same. Right now the biggest game of the year is Saturday against Kansas,” Blanchard said. “We have to make sure we stop the run and make them one dimensional and predictable. After that, we have to rally to the ball, make tackles and force takeaways.”