No time to rest: No. 16 Baylor football hosts ‘fast’ No. 9 Oklahoma State

Sixth-year senior linebacker Bryson Jackson (7) gets amped up with his teammates following a big play. Assoah Ndomo | Photographer

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

Fresh off a gritty road win, No. 16 Baylor football won’t get to catch its breath any time soon. The Bears play host to No. 9 Oklahoma State University this weekend — the first time the two programs have met since the 2021 Big 12 championship game.

Baylor (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) won that contest 21-16 by mere inches, but it’s a new year, and the Cowboys (3-0, 0-0 Big 12) are fresh off a bye week in hopes of getting revenge.

Head coach Dave Aranda looked back on the team’s 31-24 win over the Cyclones and said he was proud, but that the team still has more to prove.

“The challenge is always to keep the focus inward and to really get kids to really believe and trust and to reveal what’s inside,” Aranda said. “I thought there was a lot of that on Saturday for us, and we’re going to have to take another step.”

Regarding this weekend’s matchup, there are a lot of emotions in play, given the wild ending a year ago. Aranda said he wished his team wasn’t more amped up for this game in particular, but that realistically they will be.

He said it’s up to him and his staff to bring the squad together and focus on the task at hand.

“I see part of our job as coaches is to maybe bring it down a little bit … all that’s way hard to do,” Aranda said. “It gets louder, the outside gets more.”

Something that won’t be brought down is Oklahoma State’s offensive tempo. After watching film, Aranda said the Cowboys’ speed stands out to him. Earlier in the year, the third-year head coach mentioned that his group has had dozens of guys reach speeds of 20 mph or more.

He said that has been a big advantage in games this season, but that it may not be such a wide margin come Saturday.

“Their team speed really flashes on the tape,” Aranda said. “Up to this point we’ve probably been looked at as the fastest team of whoever we’ve played. That’s probably not the case in this one. Their ability to play fast and violent is really what makes this a real competitive game.”

Sophomore cornerback Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson said battling that fast-paced offense is a point of emphasis this week in practice, and that they are already preparing for how to deal with it.

“Practice with tempo,” Johnson said. “Make sure you can do what you can when you’re tired and do your job.”

Standout redshirt senior quarterback Spencer Sanders leads the way for the speedy Cowboys’ offense. Sanders has not had much success versus Baylor in recent matches, as the Bears forced seven interceptions from Sanders across two games in 2021.

In order to maintain similar success, senior defensive lineman TJ Franklin said it starts with starting quick, stopping the run and getting pressure on Sanders.

“Our focus this week will just be to match their intensity,” Franklin said. “Hopefully overcome it and then just do what we do, hold them to under 100 yards rushing and try to get to the quarterback as much as we can.”

The stout Baylor defensive line has yet to allow even 90 yards rushing from opposing offenses. Franklin said the group really prides itself on keeping a team under 100 and that they get irked for even allowing yardage close to the century-mark.

“It’s really gut wrenching for us and embarrassing for us whenever people even get close to 100,” Franklin said.

Saturday’s match will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on FOX from McLane Stadium, and fans are encouraged to wear gold as part of Baylor Athletics’ “Go Gold” campaign.

“I’m honestly very excited to see the crowd ‘Go Gold’ again,” junior tight end Drake Dabney said. “Our atmospheres can get pretty crazy. Definitely excited to get that feeling again, and use it to our advantage.”

Aranda said the squad is continuing to take strides toward playing the right way, which includes authenticity from each individual.

“We’ve got to reconnect and rebuild a trust, and we have to be able to have people come out and really perform in a way that they’re not trying to pretend anymore,” Aranda said. “I’m hopeful we’re on the right path.”