Friday, October 18, 2013
Baylor eyeing next step after first test
By Max Olson
Welcome to great expectations, Baylor. The national spotlight is now firmly affixed on the Bears, and with that comes a heightened level of scrutiny.
Like hand wringing over a 10-point road victory against the defending Big 12 champion and talk that Baylor needs to "bounce back" this weekend against Iowa State.
Bouncing back from wins. Yep, that's how far Baylor has come under coach Art Briles. Getting to 5-0 just isn't good enough.
As a head coach, Briles has to like a game like his team's 35-25 win over Kansas State in Manhattan last Saturday. The Bears had made things far too easy through four games. It's easier to demand improvement when the mistakes are more obvious.
Bryce Petty and Baylor weren't exactly dominant against Kansas State, but they did keep winning.
"We're focused on the game at hand, task at hand, and that's getting better each day and trying to get another Big 12 win," Briles said. "You've got to take care of business to be in those situations. If you're TCB -- which, back in the old days stood for Taking Care of Business -- we're just on the 'T' right now."
The K-State win came despite a rather un-Baylor-like performance on offense. The Bears had punted seven times all season but did so six times against KSU. Its run game produced two explosive plays -- a 13-yarder from Lache Seastrunk and a 21-yard run from Glasco Martin. Seastrunk rushed for a modest 59 yards.
Bryce Petty completed only four passes of 20-plus yards. Of course, those passes gained 250 yards. He did, however, cough up a fumble that let K-State go ahead 25-21. Still, that was one of the few blemishes on Petty's first career road start.
"I think it was just like we thought it would be," Briles said. "He's very calm. His demeanor fits that kind of environment extremely well."
Time of possession isn't a great measurement for much in these days of tempo offenses, but the Wildcats won that battle 39:24 to 20:36. Baylor's offense ran just eight plays in the third quarter. It's hard to get on a roll when a run-heavy opponent can limit those opportunities.
"We saw what we thought we'd get going in, which would be a really tough football game against a very motivated team," Briles said. "Our guys stuck together, fought to the end for each other, and we got out of there with a hard-fought win against a very good football team. That's all we can take away from it."
Again, this is all pointless nitpicking. The rest of the Big 12 teams are beating each other up, clearing a path for Baylor and potentially Texas Tech to roll through the league before they meet on Nov. 16 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
But first comes a home game against Iowa State, a team that put up 557 yards on a struggling BU defense in a 35-21 victory last season in Ames. Briles and his players aren't taking the Cyclones lightly.
"They're certainly capable of beating anyone in the league, just like we are," he said. "That's all that's involved, trying to win for 60 minutes on Saturday."
To say his Bears were humbled by Kansas State is a bit of a stretch. They finally had to play a four-quarter game. Eventually, somebody was going to have some answers for what Baylor does and force adjustments.
The final stats weren't as sexy as usual, but Baylor's defense shut out K-State in the fourth quarter. Isn't that, at this point, a more important development anyway?
The expectations won't change. This Iowa State team coming to Waco is 1-4, so Baylor better put up 70 again, right?
Briles just wants to see consistency. And, of course, a victory. Let everyone else do the talking.
"Every week it's just a war, and that's why it's so important that you've got to be at the top of your game every time you step on the field," Briles said. "That's something our players take a lot of pride in. We don't see that dropping off anytime soon."