By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor
Coming off of a bye week, No. 16 Baylor football hosts the University of Texas at 11 a.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium for the last matchup of their three-game homestand. Although, head coach Dave Aranda said the team was happy to have a break.
“To have some time off, I think is well needed,” Aranda said. “Our staff and our players have really, really invested into all this and so it’s nice to have a bit of a breather.”
Aranda said the Bears (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) used the extra time to do some self-scouting to see where their weaknesses were and made plans to improve upon them. One thing Aranda focused on is the defense. While Baylor’s defense leads the Big 12 in passing defense efficiency with 118.5 yards and interceptions with eight, it has allowed only 198.9 passing yards per game, which is second in the Big 12. Aranda said they aren’t where they want to be on that side of the ball.
“I think we’re not where we can be, or where we want to be yet. I feel the improvement is real though, and I think it all comes back to doing our 1/11 and being you, but aligning with us,” Aranda said. “For everyone to do their job and for them to bring your own energy and your own style, I think is what makes us unique and special. But I think we have to play as a unit and everyone’s got to do their individual job and so that people can feel the trust across the board that they can do theirs. And I think that is growing, [but] not there yet.”
Senior linebacker Terrel Bernard said unity will be important this weekend as it will take all 11 guys to slow down the Longhorns’ (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) sophomore running back Bijan Robinson who ranks third in the nation in rushing yards per game, averaging 132. However, given their recent success in holding Brigham Young University’s sophomore running back Tyler Allgeier to just 33 yards rushing on 15 carries in their win, Bernard said the team has a growing confidence in their ability in that area.
“Anytime you start progressing in one area you feel more comfortable, more confident going into the next week, and that’s really how we feel about the run game right now,” Bernard said. “We know our jobs, we know what we’re doing and then just getting all 11 guys to play as hard as they can to get the ball down, I think that’s probably the main key factor in stopping the run game.”
Another point Aranda said the Bears need to be wary of is UT’s ability to stretch the defense with the deep ball, but Bernard said that all comes down to one-on-one matchups.
“They’re going to get us [in] heavy sets, trying to fit the run game up and then you know, try to isolate some of the guys in the outside,” Bernard said. “It comes down to just winning your one-on-ones at that spot.”
On the offensive side of the ball, junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon said big chunk plays will be hard to come by as UT likes to keep everything in front of them.
“They try to keep a lot of passes from getting behind them. They try to make you take things that they’re going to give you, take the short route,” Bohanon said. “They play hard, they play as a unit.”
Bohanon said in order for Baylor to have success offensively, they have to be patient and take their shots when they are available.
“You definitely got to be patient, you just got to take what they give you, whether it’s a short pass, a quick run or QB run,” Bohanon said. “When they do give you your shots for deep balls, you do not want to miss them. You want to take them because you’re not gonna get them again. So, got to take those explosives when you can.”
A point of emphasis for Aranda’s squad in this one is starting out fast as UT has shown throughout the season that they can put up points quick and early.
“One of the things that stands out about [Texas] is that they jump on you fast, and it’s big plays generally. And so there is a wave that you have to withstand,” Aranda said. “For us, early game [is about] starting fast, being on our P’s and Q’s, eyes where they need to be. Answering and finishing drives on offense, being aggressive on special teams and matching an intensity — all that from the get-go is going to be way important. I see aggressiveness when I put on the film and watch Texas. I hope they see that from us. It’ll make for an entertaining matchup.”