By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
After suffering their first loss of the season last weekend against Duke, head coach Matt Rhule and Baylor football hits the grid iron again at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium as its faces Kansas.
Baylor is now done with its non-conference play and is starting Big 12 Conference play. Rhule said that, while the team isn’t where he wanted to be going into the conference schedule, it’s time to move on and learn from the mistakes made so far.
“I think as a team right now, at least for me, I know I’m not proud of how we played. I’m certainly always proud of our players; I’m proud of our team. I’m not proud of the way we played,” Rhule said. “And I said after the game, that starts with me. As I’ll tell the team later, we went through non-conference play; we wanted to be 3-0, we ended up being 2-1 … We’ll look forward to getting started in conference play and hope that we can learn from what happened on Saturday.”
Kansas, unlike Baylor, is coming off a dominating win over Rutgers by a score of 55-14 without allowing the Scarlet Knights to score in the second half. They also recorded 504 total yards, with 405 of those yards coming from the ground game. Freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr. led the way with a net of 163 yards and one touchdown. Rhule said this Kansas team, even though it had a rough start to the season, is becoming a good team and Williams is a special running back that stands out.
“Even losing that first ballgame this year to Nicholls State, the way [Kansas head coach David] Beaty’s kept that team together,” Rhule said. “What they did against Rutgers on Saturday, they’ve done a great job … Williams is dynamic [with] back-to-back 100-yard games. They are a fast football team … They do a good job of spreading you out and finding a way to run the football. Anytime you have a back that gets back-to-back 100-yard games — especially one against a Big 10 team — that’s saying something.”
Baylor senior defensive end Greg Roberts has seen what the Kansas rushing game has been able to produce and knows it will be a key aspect of the game to stop it. He said it all starts up front and, from there, it will make everyone’s job easier to help lead to success.
“I think the utmost and foremost is the d-line. If we do better, I feel like we will make our backers’ jobs and our secondary’s jobs a lot easier, so I feel like it starts with us,” Roberts said. “We’ve got to do better at maintaining our gaps and setting edges and getting off of blocks…”
On the other side of the ball, Kansas has also performed past what they have done in recent seasons. Last game against Rutgers, the Jayhawks’ defense had three interceptions and two forced fumbles, all while holding Rutgers to 14 points split between the first two quarters. Rhule said coming off a game where Baylor’s turnovers let the game slip away, it will be important to focus on ball security and figuring out how to read the Jayhawks’ defense.
“The story of Kansas right now is really their defense and how dominant they’ve been. You take Saturday’s game for us, if we don’t turn the football over, that’s a much closer game,” Rhule said. “We’ll need to protect the football … We have to get it done this week versus this defense. They give you a ton of different looks. They changed their defense from last year.”
Senior offensive lineman Patrick Lawrence echoed Rhule in that the Jayhawks’ defense is a fast, talented squad who is out on the field ready to play. This weekend, Lawrence said, the offense is prepping for a physical game and one that will hopefully lead to a successful running game.
“They have a great defense. They fly around. When you watch them on tape, they’re flying to the ball,” Lawrence said. “I think they’ve had six turnovers in the past two games so it’s something that we’re preparing for and we want to go out and do better than we did last week, running the ball and just executing.”
A major storyline for the Bears so far has been the quarterback rotation. Rhule has rotated quarterbacks freshman Charlie Brewer and senior Jalan McClendon through the lineup and that is not changing for the matchup with Kansas, Rhule said. Right now, Rhule said the coaching staff is watching both players to see who the best starter would be, but that both are performing well.
“This week, we are going to look at both guys. If we played today I wouldn’t do anything different,” Rhule said. “I really want to give guys the opportunity to be successful. Now through three weeks, we will look and see who gives us the best chance going forward and who is going to practice at a high level. I do it all from numbers.”
Senior safety Verkedric Vaughns has been watching film of Kansas and said they are a serious competitor.
“They’re a very good team. We’re not going to take them lightly at all … It’s going to be a fight like every other week,” Vaughns said. “Much respect for them. We look at it like that, but we also have got to consider just the mistakes that we’ve made the first game and create more turnovers … just focusing on every detail so we can get a win.”