Football looks for key homecoming win over Oklahoma State

Baylor junior wide receiver Denzel Mims runs past the defense on Oct. 13 in Austin. The Bears are 4-4 and need two more wins to secure bowl eligibility. Baylor faces Oklahoma State at 11 a.m. Saturday in McLane Stadium. Jason Pedreros | Multimedia Journalist

By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer

After a two-week road stint with bye week splitting those road games, Baylor football returns home to face Oklahoma State for its homecoming game at 11 a.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium.

Baylor (4-4, 2-3) is coming off its worst loss this season, falling to West Virginia 58-14 in Morgantown, W. Va. on Saturday. Head coach Matt Rhule said the team is prepared to get back on the field to show improvement from what it saw from film and that will lead to a better outcome on Saturday.

“We are ready to come back from that disappointing loss and disappointing performance on Thursday night. I think our guys have regrouped,” Rhule said. “The players addressed the game on Friday during a player-only meeting where they watched the tape and tried to get some things corrected … We are going to focus on us and make sure we come out and play our best game and put out players in a position to be successful.”

The Cowboys (5-3, 2-3), unlike the Bears, are coming off one of their best games this season after upsetting then-No. 6 Texas 38-35 on Saturday. Oklahoma State senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius led the Cowboys to victory, scoring all five touchdowns, three passing and two rushing. With the dual-threat ability Cornelius possesses, Rhule said he poses a threat to the defense because it leads to a player having to focus on the quarterback, rather than having him drop back into help with coverage.

Anytime you have a quarterback that can run and is used in the run game, it eliminates one defender who now has to play the quarterback,” Rhule said. “It just adds a whole other level of preparation.”

Not only does Cornelius pose a problem for the Baylor defense, but so does junior running back Justice Hill who has four 100 yard rushing games this season and is averaging 5.7 yards a carry. Rhule said Hill is a “big time back” and runs like “he’s a pro-style running back.”

Sophomore corner back Raleigh Texada had three tackles in the game against the Mountaineers with a pass break up and knows Cornelius is a huge focus for the defense going into the game. Texada also said the defense is ready to go out and prove itself in front of the fans and the way it will do that is by focusing on one play at a time.

“[Cornelius] is good and this defense, we’re just going to take it a play at a time and just do our job,” Texada said. “We’re excited and the team has definitely been working and we can’t wait to get out there.”

The Baylor defense had a hard time controlling the Mountaineer offense last week, giving up 568 total yards, seven total touchdowns and only recorded one sack in the game. With those kinds of numbers lingering over the team, Rhule said the issues from the secondary in the game needed to find a way to get the ball out of senior quarterback Will Grier’s hands, but were unable to do so.

“I think that different guys have gotten beat, but at the end of the day with eight minutes left in the second quarter it was 13-0 and we have to find a time to make a stop … That was a veteran team that was embarrassed about how they played at Iowa State,” Rhule said. “We have learned from it and we have to come back and answer.”

The offense had its own issues last week as sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer left the game early due to concussion like symptoms, leading to senior quarterback Jalan McClendon taking over to lead the offense. It has not been announced whether or not Brewer will be cleared to play Saturday as Rhule said he’s in concussion protocol but for as of right now, the team plans to have McClendon and freshman quarterback Gerry Bohanon ready.

Bohanon is a true freshman who has yet to play a down this season but could have his chance this week and even in a few games to end the season because of the new redshirt rule, which allows him to play in four games without burning a year of eligibility.

No matter who is at quarterback, the offense’s duties stay the same and that is to protect the quarterback. Freshman tight end Christoph Henle said while the defense of Oklahoma State may be a tough opponent, the offense needs to give the quarterback time to make his reads and be ready for whatever looks the Cowboys give them.

“They have a really good defensive line, a really good defense,” Henle said. “We just have to protect the quarterback. We can’t have a quarterback hit over 10 times every game. We have to change up some stuff and just protect the quarterback … change our passing game up and adjust to their defense.”

With it being almost a month since the Bears have played in front of a home crowd, the homecoming game would be the best time to get back on track and give the team momentum for the final stretch of the season with bowl eligibility looming in the shadows. Rhule said playing at home will give the fans a perspective of how hard the players have worked and should help the team overcome difficult moments throughout the game.

“Hopefully we recognize that we’re battle tested and we’ve played some good players,” Rhule said. “We can respond to adversity better than we did on Thursday night, and it’s nice to do that at home.”