It appeared nearly impossible until a week ago. Baylor’s offense had run roughshod over opponents through its first nine games, passing and rushing, seemingly at will.
Until the ninth-ranked Bears (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) were slowed at Oklahoma State last week — and slowed is a relative term because Baylor still finished with 453 total yards — it seemed unlikely any team would limit the Bears’ ultra-uptempo attack and track star receivers.
“They made plays. They were aggressive,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said of OSU. “To be honest with you, how you slow [Baylor] down is you keep the ball and score points. If you look at our game last year against Baylor, we were able to move the ball, hold the ball.”
The Bears couldn’t get much of a running game going at Oklahoma State and quarterback Bryce Petty was forced to throw a season-high 48 passes, 17 more than he did in Baylor’s thumping of Texas Tech two weeks ago. Despite throwing 17 fewer passes against the Red Raiders, Petty threw for only 24 fewer yards than he did in the loss at OSU.
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“[Oklahoma State] pressed the receivers on the outside and they were physical,” TCU cornerback Jason Verrett said. “And they pretty much hit them in the mouth to slow them down.
“They came out with a high level of intensity. They got that fumble and that first drive after the quarterback’s fumble at the 2-yard line, which really changed the game. They drove it down 99 yards and got a touchdown so they got the momentum early and kept it the whole game.”
A year ago, TCU beat Baylor 49-21 in Waco before the Bears found their rhythm and regrouped to win five of their last six games of the season. The Horned Frogs (4-7, 2-6) intercepted the Bears four times and held them to a season-low 106 yards rushing. Meanwhile, the TCU offense rushed for 248 yards and Trevone Boykin completed 22 of 30 passes in one of his best games at quarterback.
“We just tried to hit them in the mouth,” Verrett said. “The D-line got great pressure. We had a great scheme for them, pretty much like Oklahoma State did, so hopefully we can do the same thing this week.”
Baylor is known for spreading its four wideouts to either sideline, creating big gaps in the coverage area and forcing defensive backs into single coverage. Verrett will be covering Antwan Goodley, who leads the league with 1,193 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
Receiver Tevin Reese has missed the last three games with an injury and won’t play Saturday. Baylor coach Art Briles said he hopes running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, who haven’t played because of injury since Nov. 7, will be available against TCU.
“There’s a high competition level, especially between the fans, but there’s a high respect for the coaching staff and how they’ve done it and what’s going on at Baylor,” said Patterson, who noted Baylor’s much improved defense this season, which ranks second in the league allowing 350.1 yards per game.
“You have to be [impressed]. You’re looking very closely [at their success] just like people do. There’s a lot of people after the first year in the league of us leading the league last year in defense, they copy a lot of the things we do on defense.”
Like TCU’s respected defense, Baylor’s offense isn’t tricking opponents. Instead, the Bears use speed, ultra-fast speed, to score quick on long pass plays or big runs.
“They’re very fast, no-huddle offense,” Verrett said. “They just try to do basic things with their talent and they’re very fast.
“Oklahoma State found a way to slow them down, but other than that they’ve been on a roll. They’re going to spread it around. That’s just their game. They’ve been doing that for years. That’s just the way they run their offense and they’re good at it. They’re pretty much like track stars really. A lot of speed.”
The no-huddle aspect of Baylor’s offense was less effective playing from behind at OSU, once the Bears were forced to throw more passes because of their struggling running game.
“You better be able to stop the run,” Patterson said. “Oklahoma State, as a general rule, was able to stop the run, and then it turned into a throwing game. And then you can play the pass.
“The hardest part about Baylor is the play action. They’re just very good at it. You make a half-step wrong somewhere and they’re fast enough that — it’s not a 15-yard pass it’s a 75-yard pass — so you have to understand that’s going to go down and you need to play things.”