Big 12 Insider: Bears seek statement victory while going ‘tarpless’ against OU

Posted Wednesday, Nov. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
A
More information Spotlight Texas Tech’s November woes No. 25 Texas Tech heads into Saturday’s game against Kansas State with a 1-8 mark in November games the past three seasons. Included is last week’s 52-34 loss to Oklahoma State that dropped the Red Raiders (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) out of realistic title contention in the Big 12. But Tech could make things interesting down the stretch with victories against the league’s only remaining unbeaten teams in league play: Nov. 16 against Baylor (7-0, 4-0) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and Nov. 28 at Texas (6-2, 5-0). Tech receiver Eric Ward, a senior who will play his final home game Saturday against K-State (4-4, 2-3), said the Red Raiders remain confident about their abilities to make this a November to remember in Lubbock. “We’re very resilient,” Ward said. “We’ve had two losses, but the ball doesn’t bounce your way all the time. We’re still the same team that went 7-0. We’re going to take it in stride and keep on grinding and getting better each week. We have to bounce back and keep moving forward.” Asked about the Red Raiders’ chances to sweep their remaining November opponents, Ward said: “As long as we handle our business, I don’t see why not.”

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Win or lose, the Baylor football program begins the tarpless era Thursday in Floyd Casey Stadium. Players and coaches embrace the elevated expectations that come with the transformation.

For No. 6 Baylor, the metamorphosis includes November control of the team’s destiny in the Big 12 title race for the first time in school history, as well as another milestone: an opportunity to reach the BCS National Championship Game if the Bears (7-0, 4-0 in Big 12) continue winning.

A season-defining task awaits at 6:30 p.m. against No. 10 Oklahoma (FS1). The Sooners (7-1, 4-1) have won 21 of 22 career meetings between the schools. But the opportunity to witness a role reversal spiked ticket demand to the point Baylor officials sold the 3,500 seats in the south end zone that have been buried beneath a green trap for most of the Big 12 era.

To Baylor players, that step is monumental in validating what they have accomplished thus far in a breakthrough season. And in motivating them to extend a school-record, 11-game winning streak that dates back to last season.

“The tarp kind of signifies everything that was negative with Baylor,” quarterback Bryce Petty said. “To take that tarp off is huge for us. It shows we’re going in a positive direction. The guys have taken note of that and are prepared for what that’s going to bring.

“We’re not where we want to be yet. But we’re getting there. This is part of it.”

To maximize their journey, the Bears must beat OU. They will enter as 14-point favorites, an unprecedented role for a Baylor team against the Sooners. Yet the Bears still envision themselves as underdogs seeking to prove a point to a doubting public by knocking off a Top 10 team that has won or shared eight of the last 13 Big 12 titles.

“Historically, this is the perfect Cinderella story,” said Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon, a Waco native who remembers his school’s struggles throughout most of the Big 12 era. “Everything is set up. All you’ve got to do now is just go out there and play ball … We know the significance of this game. We know that in order for us to be the team that gets that respect we think we deserve, we have to come out with this win.”

National respect, for Baylor, has been a hard-earned commodity this season because of the Bears’ soft nonconference schedule: Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe. Combine that with four consecutive victories over Big 12 schools with non-winning records (West Virginia, Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas) and critics have been quick to question the viability of Baylor’s eye-popping statistics.

The Bears lead the nation in 11 offensive categories, including scoring (63.9 points per game) and total offense (718.4 yards per game). Baylor also ranks among the NCAA’s top 11 defensive teams in eight categories. Included are red-zone defense (first, 55.0 percent conversion rate), scoring defense (sixth, 15.9 average) and total defense (11th, 316 yards per game).

Baylor also is plus-5 in turnover margin. Yet the doubts and “yeah, buts” persist when the Bears are measured against other elite teams. That is why Baylor remains behind No. 5 Stanford (7-1) in the BCS standings despite the Bears’ unblemished record.

“You can say, ‘Yeah, but’ all day. But look at the record. Look at the scores,” Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk said. “That’s all we can do. Everybody has an opinion. You can say all you want. But you’re probably some guy sitting on the coach, eating Cheetos, who doesn’t know what you’re talking about. We don’t pay any attention to that.”

Seastrunk and his teammates are convinced a victory over Oklahoma would quiet the critics. If it happens, Seastrunk called for a celebratory tarp burning as well as a storm-the-field charge from Baylor fans.

“I want everybody to rush the field,” Seastrunk said. “If we win, when the game’s over, I’m punting the ball into the stands. And I’m going to jump in the stands and celebrate.”

Although offensive guard Cyril Richardson admitted has been looking at the tarp for “too long” in his college career, a fifth-year senior from North Crowley does not advocate a post-game tarp torching.

“That’s funny,” Richardson said of Seastrunk’s suggestion. “But there’s no reason to burn it.”

Baylor coach Art Briles, who joked about the Bears “going tarpless” during Saturday’s cameo appearance on ESPN’s College GameDay show, embraces the progress shown by Thursday night’s tarp removal for the first matchup of Top 10 teams in Waco since the 1985 season. But he stressed the Bears should not be done making history after facing OU.

“If it is a historic situation, let’s do it. And then, let’s do it again later on,” Briles said.

If the Bears win Thursday’s battle between Top 10 teams, Briles probably will get his wish for a similar showdown with even higher stakes later this season. With no tarp involved, regardless of the venue.

Spotlight

Texas Tech’s November woes

No. 25 Texas Tech heads into Saturday’s game against Kansas State with a 1-8 mark in November contests the past three seasons. Included is last week’s 52-34 loss to Oklahoma State that dropped the Red Raiders (7-2, 4-2 in Big 12) out of realistic title contention in the Big 12.

But Tech could make things interesting down the stretch with victories against the league’s only remaining unbeaten teams in league play: Nov. 16 against Baylor (7-0, 4-0) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and Nov. 28 at Texas (6-2, 5-0). Tech receiver Eric Ward, a senior who will play his final home game Saturday against K-State (4-4, 2-3), said the Red Raiders remain confident about their abilities to make this a November to remember in Lubbock.

“We’re very resilient,” Ward said. “We’ve had two losses, but the ball doesn’t bounce your way all the time. We’re still the same team that went 7-0. We’re going to take it in stride and keep on grinding and getting better each week. We have to bounce back and keep moving forward.”

Asked about the Red Raiders’ chances to sweep their remaining November opponents, Ward said: “As long as we handle our business, I don’t see why not.”

Storylines

Red (hot) Raider: Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro heads into Saturday’s game against Kansas State (11 a.m., Lubbock) with four consecutive 100-yard receiving performances, the most by a Tech player since 2007 (Michael Crabtree, seven straight). Amaro posted career highs for receptions (15) and receiving yards (174) in last week’s 52-34 loss to Oklahoma State.

Texas turnaround: Texas’ defense has held its last five opponents to an average of 3.5 yards per carry during the Longhorns’ five-game winning streak. In the two games before the streak started, Texas (6-2, 5-0 in Big 12) allowed 7.0 yards per carry in losses to Brigham Young and Ole Miss

Long-distance Cowboy: Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf’s 67-yard touchdown run in last week’s victory over Texas Tech marked the longest carry by an OSU signal caller since Brent Blackman went 72 yards in 1972. No. 14 OSU (7-1, 4-1) plays Saturday against Kansas (2-6, 0-5).

Burch’s picks

No. 6 Baylor 42, No. 10 Oklahoma 31 (Today, 6:30 p.m., FS1): Bears remain undefeated while going “tarpless” on national television.

TCU 28, Iowa State 23 (Saturday, 11 a.m., FSSW): Horned Frogs seize a hard-earned victory, cling to dwindling bowl hopes.

Texas 31, West Virginia 20 (Saturday, 6 p.m., KDFW/Ch. 4): Longhorns prevail in pivotal road game, remain undefeated in Big 12 title race.

No. 25 Texas Tech 41, Kansas State 38 (Saturday, 11 a.m., WFAA/Ch. 8): Red Raiders stop two-game skid, win their final home game of the season at Jones AT&T Stadium.

No. 14 Oklahoma State 52, Kansas 17 (Saturday, 3 p.m., Fox Sports 1): Cowboys collect their fifth consecutive victory, build momentum for Nov. 16 showdown at Texas.

Last week: 2-2

Season: 45-11

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?





Tuesday, September 16Full Scoreboard
Toronto2Bottom 7th | Box
Baltimore4@theBallpark | TV: SNET, MASN 2
Boston0Top 7th | Box
Pittsburgh3@theBallpark | TV: NESN, ROOT-PIT
Washington2Top 8th | Box
Atlanta0@theBallpark | TV: MASN, SPSO
Miami1Bottom 7th | Box
NY Mets7@theBallpark | TV: FSN-FL, SNY
NY Yankees1Bottom 6th | Box
Tampa Bay1@theBallpark | TV: MY9, Sun Sports
Cincinnati0Bottom 5th | Box
Chicago Cubs1@theBallpark | TV: FSN-OH, WGN
Cleveland1Top 4th | Box
Houston1@theBallpark | TV: STO, CSN-HOU
Chicago WSox2Bottom 3rd | Box
Kansas City3@theBallpark | TV: CSN-CHI, FSN-KC
Detroit0Top 5th | Box
Minnesota1@theBallpark | TV: FSN-DET, FSN-N
Milwaukee0Top 4th | Box
St. Louis2@theBallpark | TV: FSN-WI, FSN-MW, ESPN
Los Angeles0Top 3rd | Box
Colorado3@theBallpark | TV: SportsNet LA, ROOT-RM
San Francisco 9/16 9:40 PM ET
Arizona TV: CSN-BA, FSN-AZ
Seattle 9/16 10:05 PM ET
LA Angels TV: ROOT-NW, FSN-W
Texas 9/16 10:05 PM ET
Oakland TV: FSN-SW, CSN-CA
Philadelphia 9/16 10:10 PM ET
San Diego TV: CSN-PHI, FSN-SD
Full Scoreboard
Tuesday, September 16Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Week 3Full Scoreboard
Thursday
Tampa Bay 8:25 PM ET
Atlanta TV: CBS, NFL Network
Sunday
San Diego 1:00 PM ET
Buffalo TV: CBS
Tennessee 1:00 PM ET
Cincinnati TV: CBS
Baltimore 1:00 PM ET
Cleveland TV: CBS
Green Bay 1:00 PM ET
Detroit TV: FOX
Indianapolis 1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville TV: CBS
Oakland 1:00 PM ET
New England TV: CBS
Minnesota 1:00 PM ET
New Orleans TV: FOX
Houston 1:00 PM ET
NY Giants TV: CBS
Washington 1:00 PM ET
Philadelphia TV: FOX
Dallas 1:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: FOX
San Francisco 4:05 PM ET
Arizona TV: FOX
Kansas City 4:25 PM ET
Miami TV: CBS
Denver 4:25 PM ET
Seattle TV: CBS
Pittsburgh 8:30 PM ET
Carolina TV: NBC
Monday
Chicago 8:30 PM ET
NY Jets TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Tuesday, September 16Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard