By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
After going 1-11 last season, Baylor football head coach Matt Rhule and the Bears are used to getting up after being knocked down, both physically and mentally. In its most recent test on Saturday in Norman, Okla., the team fell 66-33 to the Sooners in what was the biggest loss since Rhule began his tenure as Baylor head coach.
One thing Rhule noticed was just how much competing his team did throughout the entirety of the game, even when the Sooners continued to grow their lead over the Bears.
“I was really proud of some guys. We had some guys like [senior defensive end] Greg Roberts really lead the way and settle our group down,” Rhule said. “From spotting them that 14-point lead, for the next 31 minutes, we outscored OU 23-21. I thought our guys fought, I thought they hung in there … We wanted to compete to the end, we wanted to fight to the end … As I stood there on the field, there were a bunch of guys that wanted to play and wanted to finish the game and wanted to go play one more play on that field. I truly respect that.”
Roberts is one of the several players Rhule mentioned for his level of play in the loss. In his Baylor career, Roberts has three total sacks; two of those came from the game Saturday. He had a season high in solo tackles with four and tied his career high for tackles for loss that resulted in 15 lost yards for Oklahoma. He said it was tough to play such a resilient quarterback in Kyler Murray, who is a dual-threat player. While it may have been tough facing him, Roberts said the objective has to be to keep your eyes on the goal and keep going.
“I feel like they’re a great team, and that’s what great teams do,” Roberts said. “They had a dynamic guy in the backfield, and he did what he does. You can’t really get frustrated. You’ve just got to play it play-by-play.”
Rhule said he sees Roberts continually getting better and growing his talent. The way he is able to do that is through his attitude toward practice and his work ethic day in and day out.
“I think Greg’s biggest thing is he works hard in practice. He never takes reps or days off,” Rhule said. “He goes until exhaustion and he certainly plays with that same attitude on Saturdays. He has been here for four years and this is his fifth. He never had a sack until this year. He has two against OU and one against Kansas the week before and he has played two and half or three and a half games and he has three sacks already.”
Baylor sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer got hit hard in the back on Saturday, whiping his neck back. It looked as though he was shaken up on the play. Rhule said he had to disagree with the officials after no penalty was called on the play, which resulted in the him receiving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“I’ll just say this: I’m not unsportsmanlike. I got that penalty because I thought it was time to stand up for our players,” Rhule said. “Charlie walked off the field and he said, ‘Coach, thank you, that means a lot.’ And you know, he shouldn’t have to feel that way. But sometimes in life, enough is enough, and you have to stand up for your players.”
For the second week in a row, Brewer played for the majority of the game and had 400 yards passing for two touchdowns. A more surprising statistic was Brewer being sacked six times. Rhule said Brewer refused to come out of the game, even though the game was out of Baylor’s hands at that point. He wanted to keep fighting until the last whistle blew.
“I mean, he took that big hit. I was going to take him out. He grabbed his helmet and said, ‘I’m going back out there, we’re going to score again.’ That’s really what it is to me is I’m looking for the people that love to play and want to compete,” Rhule said. “He just wanted to playing, and he knew he was taking hits. He knew he was getting beat up. But he was also moving the team. He was also throwing for a lot of yards. He was also competing.
Entering the fourth quarter, Baylor was down 49-23, yet that did not keep the Bears from wanting to finish the game and continue playing for the best of their ability. Rhule said this game was the game for himself to fight for the team and for the team to fight itself after the worst loss of the season.
“It’s time, in my opinion, for Baylor to stand up and fight for itself. It’s time for our players to go fight,” Rhule said. “So I wanted to stand up for our players, and I wanted to stand up for Charlie and [senior quarterback Jalan McClendon] and all the guys that go out there and lay it on the line. And I’ll do that again this week. I’ll fight my tail off here. I’m doing that right now.”