Bears face biggest challenge in No. 17 Iowa State

A trio of Baylor defenders chase after Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy during the Bears’ 23-21 victory Sept. 28, 2019 at McLane Stadium. Baylor will travel to Jack Trice stadium in Ames, Iowa, to take on the 17th-ranked Cyclones, who are currently tied for first in the Big 12 along with Kansas State. Lariat File Photo

By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer

Baylor football will look to snap its three-game losing streak this Saturday, as it takes on No. 17 Iowa State in Ames, Iowa.

The Bears struggled last Saturday against rival TCU, especially on offense, but Baylor head coach Dave Aranda said he was encouraged by the team’s ability to take ownership of their poor performance.

“We met offensively and defensively as groups and watched the game tape as full defense and offense together,” Aranda said. “I thought that was good. So the ability to kind of see what’s what and for there to be some ownership, both the coaches and players, I think is important.”

The schedule doesn’t get easier for the Bears, however, as Iowa State is projected to be the most talented team the Bears have faced so far this season.

The Cyclones, led by junior quarterback Brock Purdy, sit atop the Big 12 standings alongside Kansas State at 4-1 in conference play.

While Purdy may be the leader for the Iowa State team, Iowa State’s running game has been the catalyst for their success.

The Cyclones lead the Big 12, averaging over 200 yards rushing per game, with sophomore running back Breece Hall serving as a bright spot for the Iowa State offense. Hall has already exceeded his rushing yards and touchdown numbers from last year and has rushed for an astounding 901 yards and 11 touchdowns in just six games this season.

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell has even gone as far as to compare Hall to current NFL running backs Kareem Hunt and David Montgomery, both of whom Campbell coached.

“The biggest trait those two had — David and Kareem — that Breece has really shown, is not only in talent, but in preparation and detail,” Campbell said. “That’s the greatest growth Breece has made in going from a freshman to a sophomore — in how he prepares. How he prepares his body and how he practices.”

Aranda said he was struck by Iowa State’s offensive ability, as well as their explosiveness and physicality.

“They are impressive to look at,” Aranda said. “I’m impressed with their offense. I see the length on the perimeter. I see the physicality up front. I see a team that knows who they are.”

Aranda said he was also impressed by Iowa State’s defense, particularly their ability to confuse opposing players with clever defensive schemes.

“I have a lot of respect for the coaches on that side of the ball, and they’ve got really good players, too,” Aranda said. “And there’s a physicality and a team bonding there that you can just kind of see. It really screams off the tape. So it will be a challenge for us.”

To beat Iowa State, Baylor must start faster on offense, something they’ve struggled to do all season. Aranda said he takes responsibility for Baylor’s slow starts on offense and that it is something the coaching staff is addressing.

“I feel the faster start. I take accountability for that,” Aranda said. “I feel like that’s something I need to speak more into, I need to make a greater emphasis of. I think when we get to the stadium, and we’ve got guys in the locker room or out on the grass, I think I need to have a better plan there.”

Redshirt freshman running back Craig “Sqwirl” Williams may be the answer to Baylor’s recent offensive woes. Williams ran for a career-high 82 yards and a touchdown against TCU. Aranda said he was particularly impressed by Williams’ athleticism and versatility on the field.

“Sqwirl brings such an explosiveness and just a dynamic ability to make plays in space,” Aranda said.

Baylor will take on the Cyclones at 6 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised on FS1.