By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Having just wrapped up Baylor Homecoming, the football team will reacquaint itself with many people it has celebrated those same traditions with over the last few years.
It will come when the Bears (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) meet the Texas Tech University Red Raiders (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) on Saturday. Baylor head coach Dave Aranda watched his former right-hand man, associate head coach Joey McGuire, take the helm at Texas Tech in November 2021.
Despite the intra-conference move, there is no bad blood between Aranda and McGuire. Aranda has always stayed firm to the notion that he wishes McGuire well at all times, except when the Bears face the Red Raiders.
“Well, I have a lot of respect for Joey and a lot of guys on the staff,” Aranda said. “I mean this wholeheartedly. I want them to win. I want them to have success, just not versus us.”
It will be a similar experience for the athletes as well, since McGuire started his tenure with the Bears in 2017. Sixth-year senior wide receiver Gavin Holmes has an even deeper connection with the Red Raiders, as he’s already been in touch with some friends on that squad.
“I have friends that go there that have been talking smack to me already,” Holmes said. “Of course, I got friends on that team, coaches on that team who I respect, who I had great relationships with while they were here.”
Lots of love and respect will be shown both before and after the game, but when the squads are between the lines, that all changes. Even with all the intensity that a football match entails, Saturday’s contest will be even more amped up.
Baylor will be in the presence of a sold-out Jones AT&T Stadium venue with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff time. It’s a “blackout” game in which Red Raiders fans are encouraged to wear black to match the athletes.
In addition to this, NFL superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be in attendance to be welcomed into Texas Tech’s Ring of Honor during halftime.
“It’s going to be [a] blackout,” junior safety Devin Neal said. “Patrick Mahomes is going to be there. Everybody’s going to be rowdy, hyped up. And we just have to stay locked in, stay focused.”
While the players aren’t oblivious to all the hype around this matchup, Holmes said the team needs to put its head down and do what it does best.
“But those are just distractions to us, essentially,” Holmes said. “So, we’re just going to go out there and play our game.”
The Bears hold a narrow 40-39-1 lead in the all-time series with the Red Raiders and have not won in Lubbock since 1990. This is partially due to the fact that the two teams played at a neutral site in Dallas-Fort Worth for a 10-year period, having returned to on-campus settings for the last three years.
Aranda is familiar with the Texas Tech environment and is glad to be in the presence of such an animated fanbase. He also made sure to note the well-known tortilla tradition Red Raiders fans have.
“They have passionate fans; it gets to be loud,” Aranda said. “I remember when I was there, the frozen tortillas. It’s a fun place to play. You get into college athletics to be in environments where it means something to people and you’re playing for something — something’s at stake and it all matters.”
The stadium will be rocking, and the Bears are well aware of this, having played in tough environments at BYU and Iowa State University this season alone. Neal said he’s ready to get back on the road and potentially hush the opposition once more.
He reflected on the game against the Cyclones and said he prefers quieting away crowds instead of igniting home fans at McLane Stadium.
“It was initially really loud at the beginning of the game,” Neal said. “You could feel the momentum; it was back and forth. And then you could see people leaving the game. You didn’t hear anything. It felt like practice. I’m like, ‘This is a Tuesday practice.’ That’s what we all said.”
This isn’t Baylor’s first rodeo on the road, and the team will use what it learned from those previous matches in order to propel it this week. Holmes said at the end of the day, when the Bears are under the lights in Lubbock with over 60,000 intense fans, all the green and gold has is each other.
“When we go out there, it’s only going to be us,” Holmes said. “Everybody else will be wanting to take our heads off. So we’re just preparing for that.”
Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. contest can be watched on ESPN2. Texas Tech is currently favored by two and a half points.
- Aranda said junior running back Taye McWilliams “is still a week or possibly more out.” McWilliams is still batting a head injury he suffered against BYU in week two. Due to McWilliams’ prolonged injury, Aranda said he and his staff will consider opening talks about redshirting McWilliams but that those conversations have not yet begun.
- Sophomore wide receiver Monaray Baldwin’s status won’t be known until later this week, according to Aranda. He isn’t going through regular practice this week, and Aranda said around Thursday, they will have a better idea of his availability. Baldwin’s actual injury is unknown.
- Junior running back Craig “Sqwirl” Williams is back at practice, per Aranda. Williams suffered a head injury in the third quarter against West Virginia University on Oct. 13. Aranda said “granted that all that goes good, there’s a good chance we’ll have him for Saturday.”