A target on their backs: No. 11 Bears look to break losing streak against hostile TCU

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

When Texas Christian University and No. 11 Baylor met on the football field nearly a year ago, TCU left with a 16-9 victory. But that defeat marked Baylor’s last loss as the Bears went on to clinch a bowl game and spark their current 10-game win streak.

This Saturday the two teams will face off for their 79th meeting, thier first being in 1920. The Horned Frogs lead the matchup 44-33 and have held the Bears to a four-game losing streak. Baylor last secured a victory over TCU in 2014 (61-58), with their last win in Fort Worth coming the year prior (41-38).

Under head coach Matt Rhule, the Bears have been outscored 61-31, and the third-year head coach fully understands what he called a “tremendous challenge” in front of his team this weekend.

“[Head coach Gary Patterson] does a masterful job of taking away the things that you do well,” Rhule said. “He’s going to take away your top three runs in every formation, your top three passes, they’re going to take it away by scheme. And then they have great players playing really aggressively. They don’t give you free stuff.”

The TCU defense comes into the game with 44 tackles for a loss of 130 yards, 15 sacks and 10 interceptions, which can be a problem for Baylor — in the last two matchups against the Horned Frogs, Baylor turned the ball over six times and was unable to create any turnovers of its own.

Looking back on the Bears’ nerve-wracking 17-14 win against West Virginia on Halloween, the Baylor offense struggled with three turnovers, allowing eight sacks, and though they had 453 total yards of offense, the team was only able to find the end zone twice.

Rhule admitted the team has started to “think we have to win a certain way,” and that they have to revert back to playing Baylor football.

“We haven’t really been 8-0. We’ve been 0-8; we know how to do that. But we haven’t been 8-0, so how do you handle that?” Rhule said. “The key is not to write a script before the game of how the game’s going to go. That’s how people lose. They say .‘OK, we’re going to do this, this, this and this.’ They get in the game, it’s not going that way and then they panic.”

Instead, Rhule said the team has to handle every play as if they’re getting beat and have a plan for when their opponent has an edge. Six-year senior Chris Platt agreed, stressing the importance of not “listening to the buzz” from students and treating the matchup like every other game where “the most important game of the year is the next one.”

A few offensive threats Rhule pointed out in TCU include sophomore receiver Taye Barber, the Horned Frogs’ flexibility and depth on quarterbacks, and notably, junior wide receiver Jalen Reagor.

Reagor has 454 yards on 32 receptions this year, not including 239 yards on punt returns. Last year against Baylor, the receiver tallied up 86 yards in the air and Rhule said the elusive Waxahachie native “torched us on a middle screen where seven, eight guys had a chance to tackle him.”

It’s also important to note that the Horned Frogs are without their starting true freshman quarterback Max Duggan and backup Mike Collins, who both were injured last week against Oklahoma State. Fifth-year senior quarterback Alex Delton also left the program earlier in the week, leaving the question of quarterback up in the air for this weekend.

Sophomore safety JT Woods said that regardless, TCU has proven they can make do without their starting quarterback.

“Last year they didn’t have their starting quarterback, but they still went out and beat us. They have enough talent to go out and play with whoever goes at quarterback,” Woods said. “We know they’re a threat and they could beat us on any given day. […]They’ve got Jalen Reagor doing the wildcat, so they could probably do wildcat the whole game and still give us a run for our money.”

Woods also knows the importance of holding the wide receiver to limited yards.

“If he bounces it on the outside, he can definitely get his speed going and hurt us a little bit,” Woods said. “We have to keep him contained, keep him in between the tackles when he goes on jet sweeps and all that stuff. We have to stay over the top of him and not let him get to his max velocity.”

Baylor also has weapons of its own, led by junior quarterback Charlie Brewer with a 166.76 quarterback rating with over 2,100 yards, senior wide receiver Denzel Mims with 38 receptions for 618 yards and followed by sophomore Tyquan Thornton with 593 yards on 31 catches.

With the potential to sway closer toward a defensive battle, the team will depend on wearing down their opponents.

“I think we have a chance to beat everyone on our schedule, and I think every team has a chance to beat us. I think we are a team that isn’t going to overwhelm you early,” Rhule said. “We are not there yet. I would like to get there, but we are not where we can just roll the balls out there and be up 28-0. We are going to have to show grit and fight and try to wear you down. ”

The Bears travel to face TCU at 11 a.m. Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. The game will be broadcast on FS1.