Bears on the brink of securing a bowl

Sophomore cornerback Verkedric Vaughns runs onto the field before the Bears matchup against Oklahoma State University on Sept. 24 at McLane Stadium. The Bears won 35-24. Photo Credit: Timothy Hong

Jordan Smith | Sports Writer

The Baylor football team looks to be the first team in the Big 12 to claim bowl eligibility this weekend as it takes on the Kansas Jayhawks in its homecoming matchup at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium.

“Right now we’ve got a bunch of good football teams in front of us, and we have to play really good each and every week to make sure that we win,” interim head coach Jim Grobe said.

Baylor is sitting at the top of the Big 12 conference and is ranked No. 11 in the country with a 5-0 record on the season, with the last two being close ball games.

One thing that has helped Baylor win every game so far this season is their ability to close out games in a strong way. The Bears in the fourth quarter alone have outscored their opponents 45-0.

Senior quarterback Seth Russell gives credit for the comeback win against Iowa State to the offseason workouts and his teammates’ unwavering determination.

“We had a lot of guys talking, saying this is where our work was going to pay off,” Russell said. “During the offseason with our workouts, our summer workouts, our fall camp workouts and stuff like that, this is where it’s all going to matter, and I feel like the guys really bought into that on the offensive and defensive side, and it was huge. We were able to pull off a big win away.”

With a win against the Jayhawks, the Bears will become bowl eligible and head to their seventh-straight bowl game. The last time Baylor wasn’t in a bowl game was in 2009. It would be Baylor’s 23rd bowl game in the program’s history.

“What I think our players understand, and I think Coach Bennett talked to the defense about this yesterday,” Grobe said, “Is that it is a good message to the football team that there is nobody left on our schedule that we are not capable of beating, but that there is nobody left on our schedule that isn’t capable of beating us.”

Max Olson, a staff writer for ESPN, said, the Bears have completely derailed all preseason concerns that were made about their lack of depth, making defensive stops 76 percent of the time and only allowing 1.4 points on average per drive during this 5-0 start to the season.

Grobe said he knows the road to success is never easy, but a win would validate the hard work and dedication these players give week in and week out.

“Certainly every team’s goal is to win a championship, so we can’t downplay that, but what I do think we need to understand is that we just need to play every week without worrying whether or not we get bowl eligible or where we stand in the Big 12,” Grobe said.

Russell said he likes the idea of being bowl eligible after the first six games of the season and said he is looking forward to getting the job done against Kansas this weekend.

“It’s huge,” Russell said. “That’s always our first goal is to be bowl eligible, and if we win this next one then we get that and we’ve achieved that accomplishment. So as long as we stay focused, you know, go out there and play ball, then we’ll get the win.”