By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
It was a rough weekend for No. 17 Baylor football, as it lost 26-20 in double-overtime to No. 12 Brigham Young University this past Saturday. Following the loss, the formerly ninth-ranked Bears dropped eight spots to 17th in the AP Top 25.
On a more positive note, the Bears won’t have to combat over 60,000 opposing fans this Saturday when they welcome Texas State University to McLane Stadium for an 11 a.m. contest.
Head coach Dave Aranda said he noticed a sense of fear among the team early on against BYU in Provo, Utah. LaVell Edwards Stadium was sold out and jam-packed for the top-21 matchup.
“Early in the game, you could sense the big eyes,” Aranda said. “They could feel that crowd and that environment, and I think when you let outside stuff get in the inside, there’s things that you can’t control that are kind of pulling the levers and pushing the buttons. And it’s hard to kind of get control of that again.”
Baylor (1-1) has a roster that features several younger guys, and for many, this was the first road test of their career. This wasn’t the case for junior linebacker Matt Jones, but he said the nerves Aranda spoke about were noticeable and it can be attributed to the rough performance.
“We came out, tiptoed our way into it and [I] feel like the environment got the best of a lot of the young people,” Jones said. “You look on the sidelines, a lot of young people just … eyes big. [I] feel like it was something new to them.”
Regarding those tough road environments, Jones said although it was not the cleanest game last Saturday, the youngsters will “be able to handle it better” in the near future.
One way Aranda is instilling energy and execution into his group to clean up mistakes is through a quote from famous American rock artist Bruce Springsteen. It’s Aranda’s way to teach his group to have a “renewal” type of attitude regarding football.
“There was a quote that he had, about how he doesn’t see concerts as just a routine; he sees it as a renewal,” Aranda said. “He talks about how he’s playing ‘Born to Run’ however many times, but it ain’t like that. Each time, it’s a new time because there’s someone bringing somebody for the first time that listened to him. And it’s like, ‘They’re going to see The Boss dude.’ And it’s like, ‘You never know whose first time it is. You never know the impact that you make.’”
That mindset is already pouring into members of the team, as junior running back Craig “Sqwirl” Williams said his position group is taking that approach.
“Everybody in the [running back] room, they prepare like the starter,” Williams said. “I’m sure everybody in the room is ready to go out there, and if their number is called, they’re ready to go out there and play.”
The loss to BYU was compared to the Bears’ slip-up in Stillwater, Okla., last season. Baylor was defeated 24-14 after an undisciplined performance, paralleling the recent blunder. The Bears responded from that adversity a year ago, which makes junior safety Devin Neal believe they’ll do it again.
“In those situations, we just rebound,” Neal said. “We come together, everybody locks in, just humbles ourselves, knows what the focus is and we just come back together ready to work. I feel like we just have to work, put our heads down and do what we have to do and we’ll be straight.”
Baylor now awaits its last non-conference game, and the Bobcats (1-1) roll into Waco following a 42-12 victory over Florida International University. Aranda and the team are using the bitter loss to the Cougars as “a great learning experience” and will hope to get that “renewal” come Saturday.
“The review of the game was humbling, but at the same time it was a great learning experience,” Aranda said. “[There’s] a lot to be improved upon. We’re really looking at that as an opportunity to bring this team closer and to grow as a team.
Saturday’s game can be watch on FS1 or listened to on ESPN Central Texas 1660 AM radio.