From the Press Box: Baylor dominates future Big 12 opponent BYU

Photo by Dave Campbell's Texas Football

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WACO – Baylor dominated both lines of scrimmage in a 38-24 win over BYU in what will become a solid Big 12 rivalry when the Cougars join the conference in 2023. A sellout crowd that included a decent amount of BYU fans witnessed another step forward for the Baylor program in year two under head coach Dave Aranda. Baylor ammassed 303 rushing yards and held the Cougars to just 67 with 56 of those yards coming on one run in the third quarter. Linebacker Dillon Doyle ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown, and recorded a sack. 

Three things I know

The wide zone is art: Baylor couldn’t run the ball with any success in year one under Dave Aranda, so the head coach made a personnel change. Not on the roster, but in the coaching room. He hired offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes and offensive line coach Eric Matteos from BYU to fix the problem, and the duo has done just that through seven games in Waco. The Bears averaged 2.4 yards a carry in 2020. With largely the same roster, Baylor entered the BYU game averaging six yards a carry. That number will rise after the Bears rushed for 303 yards on 47 carries against the Cougars for an average of 6.4 yards a carry. 

Baylor is playing, and coaching, with confidence: It didn’t always work, but the aggressive play calling and decision making by Aranda and his staff show that this team is full of confidence. Baylor went for it on fourth down three times in the first half and successfully pulled off an onside kick with a 10-point lead in the second quarter. And even with the running game going, Baylor allowed quarterback Gerry Bohanon to push the ball deep to stay in rhythm for future games. It was a master class by the players and the coaches, and that type of dominance only occurs when a locker room is brimming with belief. 

Baylor can win the Big 12: This version of Baylor can beat any team remaining on the schedule. The Bears get Texas at home in two weeks following an open week for both squads. The biggest test remaining is Oklahoma, and Baylor hosts the Sooners on Nov. 13. The only road games remaining are at TCU on Nov. 6 and at Kansas State on Nov. 20. The Bears close out the regular season on Nov. 27 with a home game against Texas Tech. Baylor controls its own destiny and would make the Big 12 championship game by winning out. 

Three things I think I know

Jalen Pitre is the best linebacker in Texas: Call him a linebacker. Call him a safety. Whatever you call him, just call him great. Pitre is a stud, and he was a disruptive force for the Baylor defense throughout the win over BYU. It started early when Pitre set the tone with a sack and tackle for loss on BYU’s second offensive possession of the game. The senior finished with 10 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and a sack, to go along with a fumble recovery. 

Baylor’s secondary is the weak link: The Baylor run defense was amazing, allowing -1 yards rushing for BYU in the first half. Take away a 56-yard run by BYU quarterback Jaren Hall in the third quarter and the front seven played a tremendous game. The pass defense wasn’t as impressive, however. BYU’s offensive success came almost entirely against the Baylor secondary. BYU passed for 342 yards in the loss. 

Experience matters: Baylor plays with poise only earned through experience. Baylor left at least six points on the board in the first half and BYU cut the Bears’ lead to 17-14 with 12:18 left in the third quarter. Baylor never panicked. Instead, the Bears scored the next 14 points to take a 31-14 lead into the fourth quarter. That is what happens when 16 of the 22 starters are seniors, including a couple of players on both sides of the ball in their fifth years on campus. Eight starters on both sides of the ball are seniors and that gives the Bears a huge advantage over most teams. 

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