Baylor football looks to get back on track against West Virginia

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Baylor football celebrates after senior running back Abram Smith scores a touchdown against No. 12 Oklahoma State University. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor

Baylor football (4-1, 2-1) hosts West Virginia University at 11 a.m. Saturday for what will be the first of three-straight games at McLane Stadium for the Bears.

“We’re excited for the fans for this next one for sure,” head coach Dave Aranda said. “I know for our players to be able to play in front of the home crowd is something they look forward to.”

Baylor looks to come back from a disappointing 24-14 loss at the hands of No. 12 Oklahoma State University (5-0, 2-0) in a game in which the offense struggled to move the ball, garnering only 10 first downs.

“Being back and watching the tape, [it’s] very tough to look at,” Aranda said. “[There’s] a fair amount of film that is hard to digest, but all [are] opportunities for us to get better.”

The offense will have a chance to regroup against an attacking-styled WVU (2-3, 0-2) defense that Aranda said is similarly structured to OSU, which is different from what WVU showed last season.

“I thought last year there was probably more individual production at all three levels: D-line, linebackers and DBs,” Aranda said. “There’s more team defense with them now. I feel like they’re probably better coached there. There’s a lot of technique on film, a lot of discipline [and] gap controls on tape. Whereas I think last year, there was a lot of disruption.”

Penalties have continued to plague the Bears, seen as through five games, Baylor has committed 37 penalties for 334 yards. Aranda has continually stressed the need for his team to be able to play a clean game, yet the preparation hasn’t quite materialized on the field.

“It is frustrating for me when you want to win with character … winning is very important to me but how you win is more so,” Aranda said. “To make that a real central part of what we want to be about and what we want to display on and off the field, then to make that almost a daily point and to have that not reflect and have that not show up is frustrating … every game is going to be a back and forth. Every game is going to be a fight in this league, and rightfully so. We’re going to have our hands full playing one opponent and we’ve been playing two here for a while.”

Baylor’s defense, on the other hand, has consistently made life difficult for opposing offenses, leading the Big 12 in passing defense efficiency at 101.1 as well as in interceptions with seven. The Bears also allow only 155.6 passing yards per game, which ranks No. 11 nationally and second in the conference. However, Aranda said he feels there’s more steps the defense can take to put the team on another level, such as being at their best in the most stressful moments.

“We’ve got some guys on that side of the ball that have the ability to make big plays,” Aranda said. “A couple guys now consistently have done it throughout the year. I think the challenge there for us still is to play team defense and to really execute our 1/11 within a defensive call, within a package, within a situation.”

“You look at the last two weeks, the first drive of the game was probably, for the opponent, their easiest drive. Look at last Saturday for example, the drive before the half and then at the drive at the end of the game. So probably the most stressful and maybe most anxiety-filled three parts of the game were when we were at our worst. And so, to have the ability to play team defense from the start and when it matters most, I think is still something that we need to do and will really be able to put us at another level from where we’re at now.”

The Bears will try to take that next step against a quarterback different from the ones they’ve seen before. Up until now the quarterbacks Baylor has faced have all been mobile, whereas Aranda considers WVU redshirt senior quarterback Jarret Doege a “decisive pocket-passer.” Regardless, Baylor’s defense is looking forward to the challenge.

“West Virginia, they have a dynamic offense,” senior safety Jalen Pitre said. “They have a great running back, some good weapons on the outside [and] a quarterback that can stretch the defense so we’re looking forward to that challenge and going out there and flying to the ball on Saturday.”

“I know that there’s been some challenging games, but [West Virginia’s] got the pieces and they’re looking to get everything kind of clicking,” Aranda said. “We want them to wait another week for that to happen.”



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