By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor
Baylor football (1-0), coming off a tighter-than-expected 29-20 road win against Texas State University (0-1), will look to improve on some areas in their home opener against Texas Southern University (0-1) at 6 p.m. this Saturday at McLane Stadium. Head coach Dave Aranda isn’t only looking forward to improving, but also playing in front of a home crowd.
“An opportunity to play at home and to have people in the stands and have families of our players be at the game and have unofficial visitors, recruits to the game and just things that have not been in place really, and so [I’m] really looking forward to that,” Aranda said. “Most importantly, [I’m] looking forward to getting better.”
A major area the team looks to improve upon is their penalties, which Aranda said made the game against Texas State as close as it was.
“We have to improve with our penalties,” Aranda said. “We had 11 penalties. We had a lot of them at the end of the game, and I thought it tightened the game. I think there were some penalties that were careless and were not reflective of who we are and who we want to be.”
Another area of improvement for the Bears is completing their deep pass plays. In their last game, junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon struggled to connect with his receivers on “shot plays,” allowing Texas State to play man coverage and making it harder for the Bears to break big runs. Until Bohanon can air it out, Aranda said defenses will continue to play them the same way.
“I think until we can complete balls down the field, you’re asking defensively for a certain way people are gonna play you,” Aranda said. “So you have to stretch it out.”
Texas Southern’s defense is one that emphasizes man coverage, so being able to spread the offense will be a key to success on Saturday.
“Defensively there’s some edge rushers on either side,” Aranda said. “They’ve got some good skill at corners, and a fair amount of man coverage. And so we’ll see more man in this game than we collectively did in this last game, for sure. Now, I think we’ll see more pressure in this game than we saw in this last game. And so, I think defensively there’s some challenges that way.”
On the other side of the ball, Baylor’s defense will look to put together another dominant performance by forcing turnovers and getting pressure in the backfield.
“Offensively I think [Texas Southern’s] running back stable is pretty strong,” Aranda said. “Their quarterback has a lot of athleticism, got a strong arm. I think they’re looking for him to be real consistent in that role, and so we’re going to try our best to disrupt that.”
Overall, Aranda is excited about playing in front of a packed McLane Stadium for the first time, since last year’s fan attendance was limited due to COVID-19.
“We had a family dinner with the staff last night,” Aranda said. “We get to talk about the game and they get in there asking me ‘Dave, what is it like?’ I don’t know, we’re gonna find out. So I’m excited for that. I think we all are and we want to be able to see – really more feel – what it’s like, and I’m sure that our players are too.”
The players are also excited, as it’s been a while since they’ve been able to experience a real home setting.
“Nothing beats that home atmosphere,” senior running back Abram Smith said. “So going out there and just hearing the fans again, it’s gonna mean a lot to us.”