Getting the job done one game at a time

By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer, Video by Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter

What does a “1-0 every week” mindset mean to No. 22 Baylor football?

Well, for starters, it meant that junior running back John Lovett didn’t know the team broke into the AP Top 25 or who the Bears will face after Texas Tech this weekend.

“A lot of people, like outsiders, might think we’re focusing on Texas or Oklahoma, but we’re just worried about what’s next,” the leading rusher said. “Which is 1-0 against Texas Tech.”

This Saturday, the Red Raiders come to McLane Stadium for the first time, sporting a 3-2 record and coming off a conference 45-35 win against Oklahoma State.

Tech’s two recorded losses aren’t something to brush off, as the team fell to Pac-12 leader Arizona (28-14) and No. 6 Oklahoma (55-16). Head coach Matt Rhule expects the homecoming game to be an “absolute battle.”

“I mean, we’re playing a team that’s lost to two teams that are combined nine and one,” Rhule said. “I think our guys are ate up with the preparation because there’s so much to prepare for.”

The Bears have been training to face junior quarterback Jeff Duffey, who was voted the Maxwell Player of the Week. Duffey leads the Tech offense with an average of 314 passing yards alone per game, along with 32 points. The junior is backed up by an impressive offensive line that’s only allowed four sacks this season.

Coming off a six-sack game against Kansas State last week, the defense is expecting a Red Raiders offense that’s wanting to “show the world what they could do,” sophomore defensive tackle James Lynch said.

“You go from K-State where they have like six-in splits on the line to now like three-foot splits. And the offense is totally different,” Lynch said. “It’s very difficult, and they got a lot of playmakers. Their O-line’s athletic. So it’s going to be tough for us this week, but we’ll be ready for them.”

But the defense has shown its ability to adapt and hold on as Rhule’s team has outscored opponents 194-77 this season, including a 23-21 nail-biting win where Iowa State scored three unanswered touchdowns in week four.

As the defensive unit begins to establish a rhythm, Rhule said the next step is staying “efficient on first downs, try to limit their yards, and try to win third downs” while holding opponents in the red zone.

“We don’t want to bend,” Rhule said. “But if we do have to bend, we certainly don’t want to break and I think our mentalities get a little bit stronger in those areas.”

The Bears are second in the league (26th NCAA), holding their opponents to 50% on red zone trips.

Offensively, Baylor is just as productive.

Led by junior quarterback Charlie Brewer, who’s only one of three collegiate quarterbacks with over 11 touchdowns and no interceptions, the undefeated team ranks No. 21 in the country on touchdowns on 75% in the red zone.

The Austin native continues to find offensive weapons as sophomore receiver Tyquan Thornrton has broken out this season with over 300 yards and three touchdowns alongside senior Denzel Mims, who leads the team with 438 for five touchdowns. On the ground, junior running back JaMycal Hasty follows Lovett (who leads the team with 312 yards, three touchdowns) with 179 yards.

With both sides of the ball looking to be in control, Rhule hopes to continue the momentum.

“We haven’t been elite yet, but we’re getting better,” Rhule said. “I want to be a team that complements each other. Defense picks up the offense. Offense picks up the defense. Special teams helps all along.”

Baylor kicks off its homecoming game at 3 p.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium.