Analysis: Baylor defense must be ready for West Virginia offense

The Baylor defense celebrates after making a tackle near the goal line against Oklahoma. The defense will tested this week by West Virginia redshirt junior quarterback Will Grier. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Journalist

By Collin Bryant | Sports Writer

Baylor football (0-6) returns home after back-to-back losses at Kansas State and Oklahoma State on the road. The Bears will host No. 23 West Virginia (4-2) for homecoming.

Even at home, getting a win won’t come easy. Baylor will have to deal with the high powered Mountaineers’ offense and it starts with redshirt junior quarterback Will Grier.

Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said Grier is a triple threat on offense and the defense will have a difficult task in trying to stop him.

“I think the thing about [Will] Grier is that he doesn’t just throw it. He can run and he’s really intelligent. The things that they ask them to do, or it looks like, ‘Hey run box run it, passing box throw it.’ And then see all that,” Rhule said. “He was a good player at Florida, and he’s a really good player now. He can beat you with his feet. He can pull the ball down and run. He can beat you with his head, and he can beat you with his arms. I also like his toughness, his moxie. You can tell he’s a kind of guy that you want to go win with.”

Grier has already amassed 2092 yards passing and 21 touchdowns while completing over 65 percent of his passes this season. However, it isn’t just Grier playing well. West Virginia is outscoring its opponents 44 to 27, which may not be good for a Baylor offense, that only put up 16 points last week against No. 14 Oklahoma State.

Rhule said the worry against West Virginia is its ability to disguise their offense and exploit weaknesses in the defense.

“I think they use the whole field. They’re explosive in terms of getting the ball in playmakers’ hands. They see what defense you’re in and they’ll violate that defense. They’ll give you something that looks like ‘Hey this is this route,’ and then they’ll do a double move off of it, so you have to be so disciplined in the back end,” Rhule said. “Even when you see the route and you know what it is, you’re kind of afraid to go make a play. I think the biggest thing, from studying what they’re doing, is that they’re committed to running the football. They’re going to run the football. I think it’s really well put together and really well-designed, and they have a toughness about them.”

The Mountaineers have rushed more than 200 times, scoring 13 rushing touchdowns this season. West Virginia has gained over 1000 yards, averaging 185 yards a game, showing the Mountaineers can move the ball using the ground game.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said in his weekly press conference that with Rhule’s defensive coaching ability and Baylor’s defensive personnel, the Bears have the ability to put pressure on the offense during every series.

“Coach Rhule is a defensive guy, he got Temple to a point where they were leading the country in defense,” Holgorsen said. “He’s playing a lot of different guys, you kind of know what their philosophy is. They’re a four-down team that wants to pressure you hard up front, their linebackers are extremely aggressive. They’re led by No.1, the Taylor Young guy that seems like he’s been there for eight years. He’s kind of an undersized guy that is one of the better middle linebackers in the country. He really does a good job.”

Baylor senior linebacker Taylor Young leads the team in experience with 35 career starts. During his time at Baylor, he’s tallied 297 career combined tackles, a total that ranks 12th among active defenders. He also ranks third among active players with 199 solo tackles.

Rhule said he thinks his secondary is ready to compete after struggling last week against Oklahoma State.

“I think one of the hard things about playing corner is that you have to have a game where you get beat, and it stinks. And you get beat a couple times,” Rhule said. “You come in on Sunday, and either you’re done, shell-shocked, and never come back again, or you come in on Sunday and say, ‘That ain’t happening again.’ And that’s Grayland Arnold. Grayland Arnold is out there with a cast on his hand because he broke his arm, and he knocks the ball out.”

The Bears are 46-43-4 in Homecoming contests, including a 10-11 record since joining the Big 12. They are looking to secure their first victory at 7:00 p.m., Saturday at McLane Stadium.

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