Bears switch focus back on Jayhawk challenge

Kansas junior running back Pooka Williams Jr. attempts to break through the Oklahoma defense. The Jayhawks fell to the Sooners 45-20 Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Photo by Chance Parker | Courtesy of the University Daily Kansan

By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer

Baylor football, for the third time in as many weeks, will once again try to open its season this Saturday, this time against Kansas.

COVID-19 has caused the previous two games, against Louisiana Tech and Houston, to be postponed.

Despite this, head coach Dave Aranda feels good about Baylor’s chances to play this Saturday.

“I feel optimistic. I think that’s a good word,” Aranda said. “We talk about doing the right things and about taking the right steps to be as safe as we can, and we’re definitely looking forward to doing that and having the opportunity to play Saturday night.”

Kansas has already played its non-conference game, as the Jayhawks opened their season on Sept. 12 with a disappointing loss to Coastal Carolina.

Chosen to finish last in the Big 12 preseason football poll, Kansas may seem like the easiest opponent on Baylor’s remaining schedule, but the Jayhawks possess the necessary ability in several key skill positions to pull off an upset.

Notably, junior running back Pooka Williams Jr. returns for the Jayhawks. Williams has finished with two consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, running for the second-most yards in the Big 12 in 2019.

Aranda said that Kansas’ rushing scheme will test Baylor’s defensive line with its combination of speed and power.

“I think offensively, they test a 3-4 front with their run game, so a lot of beaters in there, and they attack you with angles and they really make you have to account for formations,” Aranda said. “And they’ve got a running back where, if you’re not where you’re supposed to be, it can be a long run.”

Senior wide receiver Andrew Parchment will lead the Jayhawks’ attack through the air against the Bears. Parchment led the team with 65 receptions and 831 receiving yards last season.

Kansas head coach Les Miles has spoken highly of Parchment ever since he transferred to Kansas from the JUCO level.

“If you throw a 50-50 ball, it’s really 60-40 Parchment,” Miles said in a press conference before the Coastal Carolina game. “He’s a talented guy.”

Defensively, Kansas has struggled since Miles has arrived. Last year the Jayhawks finished dead last in the Big 12 in total defense, scoring defense, takeaways, sacks and run defense.

Kansas defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said that the defense is just focusing on playing hard and refining the execution of their schemes.

“Sometimes we had a guy going right and he should have been going left,” Eliot said. “And so that’s the next step that we’re building on.”

Due to the defensive inexperience of Kansas, Baylor senior quarterback Charlie Brewer should have plenty of time to reacclimate to the speed of the Big 12, and senior running back duo John Lovett and Trestan Ebner should run wild.

Aranda also said that Baylor will have numerous players returning throughout the week, specifically in the offensive line, which will serve as a much-needed boost for the Bears.

Saturday’s matchup will also be a reunion for Aranda with Miles, who hired Aranda as defensive coordinator at LSU in 2016. Aranda said that he has great respect for Miles, not only as a coach but as a person.

“I have seen, and I have to imagine that you see, too, where sometimes coaches can just balloon into these caricatures of what they’re supposed to be or what people think they should be,” Aranda said. “And to see Les just be who he is, and to have a family that’s as close and as loving as his and be as real as they are, in today’s world it’s really pretty cool.”

Baylor will take on Miles’ Jayhawks at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at McLane Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPNU.