By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer, Video by Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
The last time No. 18 Baylor football traveled to Stillwater, Okla. two years ago, the Bears suffered their sixth straight loss, falling to the Cowboys 59-16. This time around, Baylor travels to Boone Pickens Stadium with an undefeated (6-0) record with each athlete mentally locked in and ready for the next opportunity.
The Bears come off a 33-30 double overtime homecoming brawl against Texas Tech Saturday. The fight wasn’t easy as the team lost their leading tackler, senior linebacker Clay Johnston, who suffered a season-ending knee injury as he intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter.
Although losing Johnston was a huge hit to the defensive core, head coach Matt Rhule isn’t worried.
“We’ve got some special young guys that are just kind of waiting their turn,” Rhule said. “I think we have enough guys to get it done. I think the biggest thing is just, you know, everybody when your opportunity comes, be ready for it and when we need your best, produce your best.”
The Bears’ defense will need to be all-hands-on-deck as the Cowboys offense is nothing short of hot. Led by redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders, OSU averages just shy of 40 points per game and 249 yards in the air.
That isn’t the biggest threat though. The Cowboys’ ground game is led by sophomore running back Chuba Hubbard, who leads the FBS in total rushing yards, rushing yards per game and yards after contact. The sophomore ranks second nationally with 12 rushing touchdowns and reached the 1,000 yard mark for the season in only his sixth game.
But, this is the same Baylor defense that ranks third in the Big 12 with defensive yards allowed per carry (3.18) and that has held its first six opponents to 107 total points, outscoring them 227-107.
Rhule said the defense just needs to “win the physical battle.”
“The biggest thing with Hubbard is trying to make sure we don’t give up the home run ball to him. He’s made a lot of explosive plays,” Rhule said. “He can do it both between the tackles and off tackle. So, when we have a chance to tackle him, we have to tackle him. We have to fight for every yard.”
Baylor’s defense has been able to make teams fight for every yard though. The unit has forced their opponents to punt after their first possession in all six games, totaled 11 sacks over the last two games and has dominated the turnover battle with five fumble recoveries and five interceptions this season.
It’s all about learning, adapting, and “eliminating all distractions,” said junior linebacker and safety Henry Black.
“We definitely learned from that game (in 2017),” the veteran said. “If you do your job, everything will be fine. Everybody has to step up.”
That includes the offense. Baylor’s offensive group struggled last weekend as junior quarterback Charlie Brewer threw his first three interceptions of the season.
Unable to establish a run game until the second half against Tech, sophomore wide receiver Tyquan Thornton said everyone is more locked in this week, working on the “little details” and “knowing everything” about this week’s opponents.
Baylor has won five of its last seven meetings against OSU, including a 35-31 homecoming win last year with seven seconds remaining. The last time Baylor has pulled off a win in Stillwater was in 2015. Before that, the Bears had lost 11 straight matchups in the Cowboys’ home stadium.
The Bears kick off the matchup at 3 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla.