By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer
Baylor football looks to snap a two-game losing streak against Iowa State after a competitive — and some may say controversial — matchup last year.
When the Bears faced off against the Cyclones in 2018, Baylor rallied 505 total offensive yards and seemed to be on their way to a comeback after trailing 20-0 into the third. With two Baylor touchdowns to close the third quarter and open the fourth, the team was driving down for the third time, but momentum was cut short after quarterback Charlie Brewer was disqualified for questioning an official’s mark on ISU’s 20. The Bears ended up falling 28-14.
Head coach Matt Rhule said the Bears got stuck in the red zone last year with a “mental error here, a false start there” and that the team cannot beat themselves going forward into the first conference game.
“The game’s about points and the thing that takes points off the board is penalties, drops, missed assignments,” Rhule said. “You just have to make sure you stay focused, stay in the moment. Just play one play at a time, don’t get caught up in anything else. That’s true for every Big 12 game. The team that plays the best, wins. So we just have to focus on ourselves and make sure that we’re mentally ready to play as well as we can possibly play.”
Rhule’s team comes off a 21-13 victory against Rice, a game that senior wide receiver Chris Platt said was a wakeup call going into a serious Big 12 matchup.
“I feel like it was something we really needed,” Platt said. “ The other two were like two or three quarters. But to be in there all four quarters was pretty much needed before the start of conference.”
The Cyclones come to Waco with a robust veteran team made up of 21 seniors and a “powerful and strong front [defensive] seven,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said at Big 12 Media Days last July.
According to Platt, the margin of error has to be limited with an opponent like ISU.
“They’re the type of team that’s going to capitalize off penalties and turnovers,” Platt said. “We’ve got to minimize that.”
After finally getting a four-quarter battle in Houston, Rhule said that Saturday is “another chance to play,” and that the team has learned a lot about their mindset just in time for conference.
“You’re never as good as you think you are when you win, and you’re never as bad as you think you are when you lose. We didn’t lose, but I think we kind of left that game feeling like we lost,” Rhule said. “I sat here last week and told you guys, it’s going to be a 60-minute game this week and that’s what we needed. … Iowa State, Matt Campbell, [sophomore quarterback] Brock Purdy, I know that they are prepared to go to overtime because they’ve done it. We didn’t go to overtime, but we did go to the last drive, at least.”
The Cyclones fought tooth-and-nail for their first win of the season, going into triple overtime with the University of Northern Iowa, finally getting the 29-26 victory on a 1-yard run by redshirt senior running back Sheldon Croney Jr.
Iowa State then dropped its second contest of the year to in-state rival Iowa 18-17 before bouncing back with a steamrolling 72-20 victory over Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday. Purdy set a new ISU school record against ULM with a 510 yards of total offense, including three rushing touchdowns and three passing touchdowns.
With Big 12 play starting up, Rhule said the team is handling the conference game the same as every other matchup — a game-by-game learning process.
“We play the same nine people year-in and year-out and there’s not a lot of room for error,” Rhule said.
The Bears and the Cyclones kick off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in McLane Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.